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Monday, January 10, 2011

Boston University 4, Women's Hockey 3

Full bench, empty pockets
Riley, PC women toil, but whiff again

Report based on Gametracker

BOSTON- For the first time in all of their 24 ventures, McGill exhibition series and all, the Friars doled out ice time to a maximum limit of 18 skaters yesterday. As fate would have it, they did so against a pack of Boston University Terriers who are inclined and perfectly equipped to chase after any 18-wheeler. Either that or maybe they are a bunch of race hounds who can dare a machine of any caliber to catch up with them.

Come what may, the host Terriers did chase PC goaltender Christina England to the bench after she answered all but two of 14 first period shots and found her mates facing a 2-1 deficit.

Freshman netminder Nina Riley validated her spontaneous insertion long enough, turning away 26 of the first 27 shots she faced, including 17 in the third period alone, while her skating mates repeatedly deleted one-goal deficits.

But the fourth time was a charm for the tireless Terriers, who escaped with a 4-3 victory at Walter Brown Arena on the strength of captain Holly Lorms’ second strike of the game with 55 seconds to spare in regulation.

For the second time in as many intercollegiate twirls, Riley was virtually abandoned in the final frame, kicked up a valiant struggle, but ultimately took an L-shaped albatross decided by one measly goal. BU owned the third period shooting gallery, 18-3, and pulled off a critical penalty kill moments before Lorms inserted her decider.

At the 14:25 mark, junior sizzler and longtime Friar-killer Jenn Wakefield was caged for bodychecking. The PC power play brigade mustered three shot attempts, only one on net, before a turnover allowed the Terriers to take three shorthanded hacks at Riley.

Riley withstood four more unanswered bids until Lorms raked in the winner from the deep slot. Thirty seconds thereafter, as she had done last Monday in Maine, Riley took a seat and watched a six-pack attack’s vain struggle to salvage at least one point, which the overall effort certainly warranted this time.

During England’s abbreviated shift, wherein she faced one more shot than she did in a full 60-minute tangle with Maine (13) last Sunday, the discipline detonated for both parties. But England and her four praetorian guards deterred the Terriers’ superior power play well enough, squelching an aggregate six SOG over four separate opportunities.

Furthermore, BU would not receive another numerical advantage at any point in the second or third period. The Terriers thus went scoreless on the power play for the first time in seven games.

But in the opening frame, clearing the zone in the aftermath of the penalty kill was another issue for Providence. At 12:47, within 28 seconds of Amber Yung’s release from a two-minute bodychecking sentence, the Friars were caught with too many skaters on the ice.

Emily Groth took the fall to the bin, and then came back into the equation after England repelled three power play shots. But the Terriers continued to churn long enough that, 14 seconds after things returned to 5-on-5, Wakefield converted a feed from Louise Warren at 15:01 for the 1-0 lead.

It was only the presage to a wintry mix of citations and scoring plays that closed out the final four minutes before intermission. During that span, two Terriers and two Friars were whistled, Jean O’Neill knotted things up on a power play strike with 16:11 gone, and Kathryn Miller restored the BU lead to 2-1 with a 4-on-4 conversion at 17:32.

The tempestuous air tapered off along with all the snow the Zamboni had swallowed for the middle frame. And with Riley on duty in the crease, the Friars kept BU within vaulting distance throughout a penalty-free period. Riley stopped each of the first six shots she faced in the first 10 minutes, after which the Friars went on a 9-1 sugar rush in the shooting gallery.

At 12:46, O’Neill drew a 2-2 knot, and though Lorms finally solved Riley with 1:22 left in the period, Ashley Cottrell instantaneously retorted in a matter of 49 seconds, nimbly depositing a turnover and forging a 3-3 knot at the break.

After Yung and Kate Bacon took successive stabs at Terrier goaltender Kerrin Sperry (21 saves) in the sixth minute of the third, Boston took 22 of the game’s final 27 shot attempts and all but one of the last 17 on net. But PC just wouldn’t break, until the last minute anyway.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Hockey Log

Original O’Neill re-emerges
Report based on Gametracker

BOSTON- In her third game removed from a lower body injury that had sidelined her for three months, senior forward Jean O’Neill was back among the PC women’s top six for yesterday’s visit to Walter Brown Arena. She was back on the wings of her co-captain and former Princeton Tiger Lilies’ U19 teammate Alyse Ruff. She was back in the mix on the power play.

And, albeit in a losing cause as the host Boston University extracted a painstaking 4-3 decision, O’Neill asserted her return to normalcy. She connected for her first of two goals on the Friars’ second power play opportunity, drawing a 1-1 knot with a spot-on snapper from the slot only 10 seconds after opposing defender Catherine Ward had sat down for roughing.

O’Neill set the tone for the second period, taking a punctual shot at BU goalie Kerrin Sperry on the first shift of the stanza. Later on, in the sixth minute, the plucky forward had blocked a shot from Terriers’ blueliner Kaleigh Fratkin, effectively keeping a 2-1 deficit from swelling. Some seven minutes later, O’Neill struck once more, parking herself on the porch and thrusting the biscuit through the roof, for a 2-2 tally.

With yesterday’s output, O’Neill once again bestowed BU the nominal honor of being her most frequently victimized opponent with six goals and seven points in nine encounters. It was her second career multi-goal game and third multi-point performance at the Terriers’ expense. She previously inserted two pucks in a 4-3 win at Schneider Arena on Jan. 31, 2008, and snagged a goal-assist value pack in a 5-3 road loss Nov. 14, 2009.

For what five games are worth, O’Neill is still on pace to belatedly build upon her hat trick and four-point dolphin show on opening night against Robert Morris, the eve of her Oct. 2 injury. She is now subsisting on a 5-2-7 transcript, including three power play points.

At her rate, there is little else she can still ask for, except maybe to score in a winning effort. The Friars are 0-2-0 this season when O’Neill tunes the mesh.

Five to the second power

Two Friars and three Terriers logged a multi-point game yesterday. PC junior defender Christie Jensen assisted on both of O’Neill’s goals, doubling her total to four helpers on the year. BU’s Marie-Philip Poulin and Louise Warren likewise charged up two helpers each while Terrier captain Holly Lorms beat Friars’ goalie Nina Riley twice.

Taking charge
During the only power play segment of either the second or third period, with Jenn Wakefield off for bodychecking, BU forward Jill Cardella took two shorthanded hacks at Riley with 4:46 remaining in the third. An overaggressive follow-through landed Cardella her own two-minute minor for charging the goalie. A possible five-on-three for Providence was promptly negated, though, when towering blueliner Jen Friedman bought herself a citation for hitting after the whistle.

Quick feeds: BU senior forward Jillian Kirchner led all puckslingers with eight shots on goal. Starting linemates Corinne Buie and Ashley Cottrell led the Friars with four apiece…Poulin won 19 out of her 25 face-offs, including nine against Cottrell and seven against Ruff…Ruff and freshman defender Rebecca Morse, putting in her first appearance since the December deceleration, both recorded an assist…Abby Gauthier and Nicole Anderson were the only PC skaters to log a positive rating (plus-1)…The Friars now look ahead to a home-and-home series with New Hampshire, beginning Friday night at the Whittemore Center and shuffling back to Schneider Arena Saturday night. The mighty-have-fallen Wildcats opened their 2011 slate yesterday with a 4-2 home loss to Northeastern and have now dropped eight consecutive Hockey East games.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Hockey Log

Test of their spirit
BU stands between PC women and trendy resilience


Rapid redress has been a jutting motif in the Friars’ 2010-11 season. But the trend faces its utmost threat today in Boston University, which will have the likes of Marie-Philip Poulin, Jenn Wakefield, Jillian Kircher, Holly Lorms, and Catherine Ward all raring to storm an unripe PC goaltender.

In each of five chances so far this season, PC has promptly followed a loss with a win. The last two times, they had at least three or four days to mull over the reasons for and then bury the memories of the previous effort. This time, they have had a full five days between last Monday’s 3-2 falter at Maine and today’s excursion to Walter Brown Arena.

A keen, long-suffering breed of hunger will be a doubtlessly precious additive to the Friars’ game plan. Whether it is Christina England or Nina Riley –both with one intercollegiate game’s worth of experience- trying her luck in the BU visitors’ Crease of Fright, it will be primarily on the strike force to pursue self-redemption. Monday was arguably their most thorough letdown yet, seeing as it was their first game out of 21 this season in which they never led and that they mustered a season-low 16 shots on goal.

BU is tops in the league on both sides of the puck –scoring 3.8 goals and allowing 1.75 on a nightly basis- and on both sides of the special teams’ spectrum –converting 22.1 percent of their power plays and boasting a 94.7 percent success rate on the penalty kill. And even with formidable juniors Jenelle Kohanchuk and Tara Watchorn still overseas at the MLP Cup, they still flaunt enviable depth with five five-plus goal-getters and five skaters in or beyond the 10-point range.

Further complicating the search for seams, the Terriers are riding a program-best seven-game winning streak that dates back to the weekend prior Thanksgiving, when they split a home-and-home set with Boston College. They have laid four goose-eggs and outscored the opposition by a cumulative count of 27-6 in that span.

If the Terriers are to sport any plausible weak spots that the Friars will not need to unveil all on their own, it would likely be either a surprise case of complacency or a frostbitten goalie in Kerrin Sperry. BU’s routine starter deferred to Alissa Fromkin for last week’s 4-0 road win plebeian over Brown, meaning she has not seen extramural action in 30 days, dating back to a 5-3 win over Harvard Dec. 10. Assuming the radiant rookie Sperry has today’s nod, getting re-acclimated right away could be hit-or-miss for her.

Regardless, PC projects to face a laborious dig as it tries to rinse out the vinegar from both its latest dud in Orono and a glowering missed opportunity in the Hub three months ago.

In their last encounter with the reigning Hockey East champions Nov. 6, the Friars spilled a radiant invitation to pinch two points, taking a 1-0 lead into the first intermission only to let it devolve into a 4-1 loss. More harrowingly, though, they were outshot in the latter 40 minutes, 41-14, after they had initially led the shooting gallery, 14-4.

Furthermore, the Terriers were lacking the goal-per-game connoisseurs Poulin and Wakefield, as well as Watchorn, as they all served Team Canada in the Four Nations Cup. And they had their backup goalie, Fromkin, on duty. Conversely, the Friars had their go-to goalie available in Genevieve Lacasse, unlike today.

Swede-tasting trip for Lacasse
Lacasse should be arriving back in North America today with her fellow Canadian U22ers on the heels of yesterday’s 6-0 win over Sweden that sealed the MLP Cup championship in Kreuzlingen, Switzerland. Lacasse withstood a 37-shot firestorm for the shutout, including 18 bids in the third, although her teammates dwarfed that by charging up 60 registered stabs at Swedish stoppers Sara Grahn and Valentina Lizana.

Lacasse, along with Vermont freshman Roxanne Douville, were perfect throughout the tournament, stopping a cumulative 79 shots over four tournament games. Lacasse took credit for 55 of those saves, having also repelled 18 Swiss shots in the opening contest on Tuesday.

Quick feeds: The Terriers are 9-0-0 when scoring first, making them one of two teams in the nation (Harvard is 3-0-0) to have neither lost nor tied after nabbing a 1-0 lead…The Friars have yet to go winless in a single season series against the Terriers. They are 0-1-1 this season heading into today’s finale…No foretelling today’s goaltending card, but a match between PC’s Riley and BU’s Sperry would mean pitting old U19 allies. Riley was Sperry’s backup last spring, when they partook in a USA Hockey national championship with Assabet Valley…Wakefield, the league’s most active puckslinger, is one shot on net away from cracking 100 on the year.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com