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Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Hockey Log

Reactions couldn’t go the distance

Monday afternoon was hardly a savory sequel to “Birthday Bash on Ice” for PC women’s co-captain Alyse Ruff.

Last season, on the day she turned 21, Ruff inserted both goals in a vital 2-0 arrest of St. Cloud State, a triumph that ignited a seven-game winning streak for the Friars and catapulted them to an unlikely first place finish in Hockey East.

On the day she turned 22, Ruff –the only Friar to log at least three shots on goal Monday- watched from the sin bin as she served a two-minute slashing sentence that indirectly buoyed the host Maine Black Bears to a game-winning strike with 12:57 to spare in the third period.

Instead of pulling out harmless celebratory candles, Ruff and Co. spent most of Monday’s 3-2 loss juggling with torches and sustained the scars that practice so often invites. The Friars conceded their first 2-0 deficit of the season and, for the first time since they were dislodged from the 2010 Hockey East playoffs, went through an entire contest without ever holding a lead.

But moving forward into a vital week of preparation for this Sunday’s excursion to almighty Boston University, PC can at least refer back to their efforts to amend the damages during Monday’s debacle. And they might consider applying that same kind of resolve in a proactive, as opposed to reactive, context; first move rather than first response.

Ruff herself was in on two key plays that fell as quickly as within one play, and never more than two minutes, of the Black Bears beating Friars’ goaltender Nina Riley. At 9:09 of the first period, Maine’s Kayla Kaluzny drew first blood on her team’s sixth SOG of the game. Off the subsequent draw, Ruff –who also logged her team’s first attempted shot when her power play bid went wide in the fourth minute- gave Black Bears’ stopper Brittany Ott her first test of the day.

Similarly, one face-off after Maine scoring leader Brittany Dougherty augmented the margin to 2-0 at 13:36, PC’s Amber Yung and Ashley Cottrell each pelted Ott in succession. After Ott summoned a whistle, the Friars continued to churn off the next draw and ultimately duped Melissa Gagnon into a tripping penalty 74 seconds after Dougherty’s tally.

In the closing frame, it only took the Friars 12 seconds after Jennie Gallo made it 3-1 to send another Black Bear, Jenny Kistner, to the box. On the subsequent power play, with the umbrella unit deployed, Ruff and lone point patroller Jen Friedman collaborated to set up Corinne Buie’s refreshing strike, the team’s first 5-on-4 conversion in 14 tries on the weekend.

If that type of emotional spark were in commission for longer stretches, particularly when the game was still scoreless, Providence may have padded on a point or two in the Hockey East standings.

Quick Feeds: Buie was named the WHEA’s Rookie of the Month for December yesterday. The first-line winger totaled a goal and four assists in the Friars’ lone two December games, most notably a playmaker hat trick in a 4-2 win over New Hampshire Dec. 4. She has since extended her carry-over point streak to four games with a goal in each installment of the Maine series…Freshman defender Rebecca Morse, who missed the Maine series with a mild illness, should be back in game shape well in advance of the forthcoming BU bout…When Emily Groth served the team’s second bench minor during Monday’s second period, it was the sophomore center’s first college shift in the sin bin. In 30 career games, Groth still has yet to receive a penalty in her own right…The Friars, now 14-6-1 overall, ascended from No. 9 to No. 8 in the latest USA Today/USA Hockey poll, revised yesterday for the first time out of a three-week freeze…Goaltender Genevieve Lacasse pitched an 18-save, 5-0 shutout over host Switzerland in Day One of the MLP Cup. Unless Canada coach Jim Fetter believes in sticking with the hot hand, even in a transitory tournament like this, Lacasse will likely give way to Vermont rookie Roxanne Douville for tomorrow’s showdown with Germany.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On Hockey

Problems started way out of the goal

It was most fitting that, with 1:49 to spare in the third period and again when there were 70 seconds to work with, PC women’s head coach Bob Deraney offered goaltender Nina Riley a breather and tasked a six-pack attack with trying to delete a 3-2 deficit against Maine.

The Friars, who ultimately whiffed on that elusive equalizer, had strained their freshman backstop more than enough already. They had subjected Riley to a flurry of six unanswered shots to start yesterday’s loss at Alfond Arena. In the latter half of the second period, they let the Black Bears take nine unanswered attempts, seven on net. Riley repelled all 15 stabs she faced in that middle frame, but only after the opposition had sculpted itself a 2-0 lead, the first such deficit Providence has endured all season.

What’s more, by the time Maine clicked first at 9:09 of the first period, giving it a 1-0 edge on the board and a 6-0 advantage in the shooting gallery, the game’s only power play had been granted to the Friars. But in that particular segment, between the 3:31 and 5:31 mark, PC’s lone shot was a wide attempt courtesy of Alyse Ruff. Meanwhile, the Mainers mustered two shorthanded pelts at Riley.

Riley’s classmate, Corinne Buie, put a belated splash on the team’s weekend-old power play drought when she converted and sawed a 3-1 deficit in half with 8:55 gone in the third. By then, spanning Sunday night’s 2-1 triumph and yesterday’s downturn, the Friars had spent a grand total of 22 minutes and 21 seconds with at least one extra body at their disposal. They failed to pounce on each of their first 13 opportunities and went completely shotless on four of them.

Late in yesterday’s second period, one of the rare moments when momentum was not a mirage, PC terminated its fifth power play 40 seconds prematurely with its second bench minor in less than three minutes. All that coming 38 seconds after Maine had killed a 42-second 5-on-3 disadvantage.

Maine remains the decisively least disciplined team in Hockey East with 14 penalty minutes per game, but is capable of luring its opposition to the bin just as regularly. Both trends carried over into the New Year, and in their two-night stay in Orono, the Friars took a cumulative 14 penalties, the Black Bears 15. PC went 1-for-14 on the power play, Maine 2-for-12.

Yesterday, Maine only had four extra-player opportunities over an aggregate 4:57 of clock time. In that limited window, they slipped five registered stabs at Riley, including three on one continuous buzz in the seventh minute of the second period. Riley answered all three of those, but not the one Maine senior Jennie Gallo dished out at 7:03 of the third while Ruff was serving a two-minute sentence for slashing.

Gallo’s upfront strike augmented a 2-1 edge to 3-1 and ultimately held up as the game-winner. But by all counts, the Friars could have put themselves on much thicker ice ahead of time.

Admittedly, this author forecasted a split in this series as soon as minute-munching mainstay Genevieve Lacasse was accepted onto Canada’s MLP Cup roster, precluding her presence on the Orono excursion and forcing two unripe stoppers in Riley and Christina England with a combined 4:48 minutes of prior experience to go on duty. That projection never wavered, mostly by virtue of the Black Bears’ steady improvement under first-year coach Maria Lewis.

After the fact, however, it is plain that Providence could have easily wrested away the better half of the wishbone. Everyone in black played uncharacteristically yesterday –Riley for the better, what with a 27-save performance in her NCAA debut, and her skating mates for worse with a season-low 16 shots on goal.

This strike force has compiled bigger bushels than that in single periods. Try, for instance, the last 20 minutes of Sunday night’s contest, when they heaved 19 pucks at Maine’s Brittany Ott. Although her valiance wasn’t enough to muster a rally, Ott did stop everything, raising questions about quality on the Friars’ part.

Roughly 19 hours thereafter, the issue morphed quickly to quantity. While leaving Riley to deal with 30 of the Black Bears’ 40 shot attempts, PC took 27 hacks, four of which were blocked while another seven went wide.

All that, and they still lost by only one. Imagine if the puckslingers had remembered to set their alarms earlier?

Better just take those wonders and apply them to the final chapter of “Surviving without the Scarborough Save-ior,” which will be Sunday’s venture to the chemically reactive Boston University.

The way it’s looking right now, PC’s best bet to take any BU booty is if Riley or England makes like Alissa Fromkin in the last meeting. Recall that, back on Nov. 6, Fromkin stood in for sparkling starter Kerrin Sperry and withstood the better part of a 14-shot, first period salvo en route to a 4-1 Terrier triumph.

Either that, or the Terrier strike force –which will still have Marie-Philip Poulin and Jenn Wakefield- could take an off night, much like the Friars did yesterday.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com