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Saturday, January 22, 2011

On Hockey

Preparation powered the PK
PC women weather third period blizzard for win


Around the halfway mark of the third period last night, goaltender Genevieve Lacasse watched with little surprise and controlled angst as the population of the Friars’ compact penalty box grew to a near overflow.

“I kind of felt the penalties were going to come because we hadn’t taken any yet,” she said. “We were ready for them.”

That they were. With Jess Cohen flagged for hooking at 9:05, Jessie Vella whistled for hitting from behind at 9:50, and Amber Yung cited for holding at 10:54, the Friars were ultimately forced to play shorthanded for a succession of three minutes and 49 seconds. It was a 5-on-3 deficit for each of those first two minutes and 29 seconds.

And all while they were safeguarding a precious 2-1 lead against the formidable Boston College Eagles.

But upon Yung’s jailbreak with 7:06 to spare, the difference on the scoreboard was the same –and it eventually morphed into a 3-1 victory for Providence. Lacasse repelled all 11 power play shots during the protracted PK segment and all 33 (no typo) stabs thrust at her in the closing 20-minute stanza, swelling her league-best save percentage to .944.

BC would continue to control the shooting gallery, 10-2, in the final 7:06 of action. But already, by virtue of revoking their guests’ written invitation to turn the tide, the Friars were as good as the victors.

“That’s the ballgame,” PC head coach Bob Deraney said of the Triple Crown kill. “Whoever emerges there, either with a bigger deficit or a closer deficit, if Boston College had tied the score at that point, they would have had a lot of momentum, and it’s a lot tougher.”

Deraney admitted to anticipating some sort of whistling gale coming in the direction of his bench. After all, the Friars had been blessed with each of the game’s first five power plays within the first two periods. Whenever bestowed with such fortune, any seasoned participant in the game of hockey is bound to wait for the other skate to drop.

“It’s inevitable,” the skipper said. “I think the referees called the penalties that were out there. They did their job and we just had to be aware of it and we were able to overcome it.

“At the end of the day, I’ve never seen a game where the (penalty calls) were lopsided one-to-one, so you’ve got to make sure to play extra clean and we didn’t. We took penalties that we shouldn’t have taken but we were able to weather the storm.”

As it happened, the four unanswered penalties in the third period –beginning with Yung’s tripping infraction just 46 seconds in, and only 21 ticks after Rebecca Morse slugged home the eventual game-clinching goal- arrived for the same reason that PC was physically and psychologically braced for them.

The Eagles committed the only infraction in the opening frame and in the second, they were penalized four times within precisely nine-and-a-half minutes. Thus, beginning at the 6:35 mark and ending when PC’s Abby Gauthier tipped in a power play strike at 18:02, or in a total span of 11:27, they were shorthanded for seven minutes and 57 seconds.

“In the first two periods we were on the penalty kill a lot and that takes a lot out of your team,” said BC head coach Katie King. “I think when you’re best players have to kill penalties, then it makes it tough.

“But (in the third) we had opportunities on that power play and we just didn’t score. Lacasse played great, she made the saves she needed to make, and we couldn’t put any of those rebounds in. I think they kept us away.”

Surprise, surprise, the otherworldly Kelli Stack –who scored shorthanded at 12:24 of the middle frame- was the nucleus of the Eagles’ power play brigade, taking five of their 11 SOG. At 10:00, she won a face-off against Ashley Cottrell and took two successive hacks at Lacasse. A subsequent frenzy in the dirty-nose area culminated in Yung going to the bin with still 12 ticks left on Cohen’s sentence and 57 on Vella’s.

King utilized her timeout at that point and one draw later, Stack reached deftly around Alyse Ruff to usurp control of the puck and BC pelted Lacasse five times in nine seconds, the last two shots both coming from Stack.

The Friars stalled the Eagles for the rest of the 5-on-3 and Vella, 15 seconds removed from the bin, assertively cleared the zone up the near wall with 7:55 left in the game. BC regrouped and mustered one more 5-on-4 rush, but it ended with Lacasse booting Stack’s long-distance low-rider of a shot right when Yung’s penalty expired.

“I was really disheartened that it came down to that, that we had to kill 5-on-3 penalties,” said Deraney. “But I don’t have any fault on our kids at all. I thought they did a terrific job. No matter what comes our way, we’ve got to deal with adversity and persevere, and that’s what we did.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com