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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Women's Hockey 3, Vermont 2

Friars sip from last straw
Last-minute strike spoils Catamount comeback


Both teams had already traded turns splashing their respective power play droughts. The visiting Vermont Catamounts had deleted a 2-0 deficit for the first time in all of their 32 regular season games. And after her team had run up an 8-4 lead in the third period shooting gallery, Vermont’s Celeste Doucet was going off for slashing with 5:37 left in regulation.

On the spot, PC head coach Bob Deraney, knowing a radiant break when he sees one, took his team’s one allotted break in the action.

“It was probably going to be the last power play of the game based on the way everything was coming down,” Deraney said. “I wanted to make sure we were rested and we went over what their tendencies are and what we could exploit.

“I thought we had some unbelievable looks on the power play. And, hey, we just have to capitalize. (Because of) the fact that we’re getting those looks more consistently, now we can take the next step and start cashing in on them.”

If nothing else, through their fourth power play onslaught of the day, the Friars repossessed that soapy slab of momentum that was changing sides just a little less often than Brett Favre changes heart. They took seven of the game’s final eight shots on goal, the very last of which found a home courtesy of Rebecca Morse with 37.8 ticks remaining.

Pinching into the high slot, the freshman blueliner absorbed a backhand feed from left winger Laura Veharanta and spooned it over a seated Catamount goaltender Roxanne Douville, spelling the difference in a 3-2 victory at Schneider Arena.

“I was on the boards and somehow we kept it in,” Morse said recalling the clinching play. “Laura took it to the net, she shot, and for some reason, I knew it was going to come at me. I didn’t get it up as high as I wanted to, but luckily it went in.”

As it happened, a little fortune was a prerequisite for both of yesterday’s contesting squads. Douville (33 saves) kept her career-long shutout streak against the Friars alive through a turbulent first period, which saw her repel each of 16 stabs and personally summon 10 out of 20 total whistles.

After killing a carry-over bodychecking penalty to Kate Bacon to commence the middle frame, Providence finally cracked the Catamount rookie’s code at the 1:40 mark. Defender Amber Yung sent Alyse Ruff a breakout feed up the far alley and upon entry into the Vermont zone, the co-captain dished a lateral pass to Nicole Anderson, whose long-range wrister dodged Douville’s trapper.

Eight minutes later, with Saleah Morrison off for her own checking infraction, Bacon deposited her team’s first 5-on-4 strike in 11 chances. Her initial shot dinged off the opposite post but magnetically returned to her twig. With Douville vulnerably lured out of her crease, the slick Bacon curled around the goalie and buried her 16th tally on the year.

Their playoff prospects dissolving before their desperate eyes, the Catamounts perked right up. In the two minutes following Bacon’s goal, they took three unanswered shot attempts and drew a tripping call on Jess Cohen at 11:47. Within 17 seconds, Cohen was joined by Ruff (interference) and Vermont’s Chelsea Rapin slugged home a 5-on-3 conversion at 12:38.

A post-goal scuffle with Friars’ defender Jen Friedman landed Middletown resident Kailey Nash in the bin for roughing, revoking what would have been another 86 seconds of power play time for the Cats. From there through intermission, it was on Douville to answer five unanswered bids.

Vermont would not receive another invitation to test Genevieve Lacasse (21 saves) until they framed the Friars yet again at 4:41 of the third. Two-way grinder Lauren Covell went off for interference and Catamount senior Peggy Wakeham took three successive stabs, the last of which she smuggled in unassisted for the equalizer with 14:28 to play.

“Penalties played into their momentum,” said Deraney. “And I’ve got to tell you, I’m proud of the way our kids played. You can’t control what happened out there regarding the momentum switch. It had nothing to do with us. It had everything to with the breaks of the game. I don’t think Vermont ever took any momentum in this game by themselves.”

But moments after Lacasse neutralized their last assertive swarm of the day, blocking four consecutive shots without any stoppage, the Catamounts –likely a tad drained considering they dressed 14 skaters- effectively spilled the last of their thrust by virtue of Doucet’s penalty.

After that, only Nash got another look at the Scarborough Save-ior while the Friars continued to whittle around Douville, culminating in Morse’s decider.

“(The penalties) played a big part in this game, which they do in every game, really,” said Vermont head coach Tim Bothwell. “I honestly didn’t see that last penalty against us. There was a lot of marginal stuff today. It’s a tough game to referee, but you’ve still got to kill the penalties and they definitely had an effect on the ebb and flow of the game.”

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com