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Friday, May 13, 2011

The 10 Best Women’s Hockey Games I Witnessed as a PC Student

Honorable mentions
November 16, 2008
– Providence 2, Connecticut 0: PC cashes in on the only seam at either end when Alyse Ruff deposits a 5-on-3 conversion from the porch for a 1-0 edge with 5:57 to go
January 24, 2009 – Providence 2, Boston University 0: Jean O’Neill’s plucky shot block sparks breakout that sets up Katy Beach’s clincher late in the third
November 27, 2009 – Providence 2, Wisconsin 2: Seesaw bout with Mark Johnson’s pupils decided by a trendy Nicole Anderson power play strike
March 6, 2010 – Connecticut 3, Providence 2: PC rallies from initial 3-0 hole, but Huskies hold fort to exorcise their postseason demons
February 6, 2010 – Boston College 4, Providence 2: Danielle Welch outscores Laura Veharanta, 3-2, and Melissa Bizzari tips in another Welch bid for the insurance

10. November 10, 2007: Providence 4, Vermont 2
This generation of Friars had a way of making “Cardiac Kids” the postgame refrain from head coach Bob Deraney. And one month into her career, Alyse Ruff set the tone for what would become her habit of performing CPR with a blade and a biscuit.

After the scrappy, stealthy Vermont Catamounts led 2-0 through 40 minutes, Ruff literally crashed goaltender Kristen Olychuck’s unscheduled party, cutting the lead to 2-1 17 seconds into the third whilst erroneously tumbling into the cage. Two minutes and two seconds later, she tipped in a power play conversion and prompted visiting coach Tim Bothwell to use his timeout.

It only took another five minutes for PC –which received at least one shot on goal from each of its 11 forwards- to complete its profile in persistence. Cherie Hendrickson, who led all forwards with seven SOG, converted a pass from Erin Normore (six shots) for the eventual clincher.

9. January 31, 2008: Providence 4, Boston University 3
In their third year as a varsity program, the pre-Poulin, pre-Wakefield, pre-pennant Terriers had a modest request for their first Hockey East playoff spot, though they showed it in flashy fashion. Holly Lorms and Sarah Appleton struck 52 seconds apart to give BU a 2-0 edge just before the halfway mark of an otherwise evenly matched first period. And it didn’t help the Friars cause to whiff on each of the game’s first two power plays, then went shorthanded themselves 54 ticks into the middle frame.

But 64 seconds after Kelli Doolin’s jailbreak, freshman Jean O’Neill sparked the turnaround, one-timing a centering feed from Mari Pehkonen. O’Neill, a regular Terrier tormentor as her career progressed, would later give PC a 3-2 lead at 1:29 of the third, though BU was holding fort as it continued to kill penalties and test Friars’ keeper Danielle Ciarletta as regularly as PC did Melissa Haber.

On only their second 5-on-4 chance of the night, the Terriers retied the game with 13:18 to spare in the third. But for the rest of the ride, the Friars ran up an edge in the shooting gallery (15-9 in the third) and would finalize the victory on Katy Beach’s end-to-end conversion with 5:51 remaining.

8. February 19, 2011: Providence 3, Vermont 2
When answering an interview in advance of the matchup, PC skipper Bob Deraney was genuinely energized to hear about the stakes in the penultimate game of the regular season. His Friars were one win away from clinching third place, the highest slot still available in the Hockey East playoff bracket. The opposing Catamounts were one loss away from missing the postseason.

“Great,” Deraney said. “The most dangerous people are the most desperate people.”

To start, though, only PC’s incentive was translating on the scoresheet. The Friars pestered celestial Vermont goalie Roxanne Douville with 16 first period shots and finally penetrated her for a 2-0 lead at 1:40 and 9:46 of the second. But Vermont and its veterans, besieged by perennial underachievement, bit back as expected. Junior Chelsea Rapin and seniors Celeste Doucet, Saleah Morrison, and Peggy Wakeham all brushed the scoresheet over two power play conversions to delete the deficit.

But the dramatist Catamounts, a little too late to perk up in their season and in the game, would pay their late fee in the final minute with the notice coming from Rebecca Morse. PC’s rookie blueliner, already with an assist on the day, spooned home the game winner from the slot with 37.8 seconds left.

7. November 21, 2008: Mercyhurst 3, Providence 0
Head coach Bob Deraney, rarely one to take a loss without at least a dollop of despondency, told this author of the almighty Lakers, “I don’t think they can play much better than they did tonight. Unfortunately, they were playing us.”

Even before the legacy of this contest reached hindsight, though, one could tell that by playing a complete game itself, Mercyhurst brought out the best in a rising PC stopper named Genevieve Lacasse. Staring down a strike force of otherworldly countrywomen and another Team Canada goaltending prospect in Hillary Pattenden, the Scarborough Save-ior turned in 51 saves, including 12 on Olympic gold medalist Meghan Agosta.

And for their part, the Skating Friars found the time, space, and energy to thrust 31shots at Pattenden and draw 10 penalties on the Lakers.

6. November 22, 2008: Providence 2, Niagara 2
The fiery Friars were scoreless on each of their first 64 shots in the first 115 minutes and 32 seconds of weekend action, their drought carrying over from a solace-stocked 3-0 loss to Mercyhurst the evening prior.

But once they perked up on a power play, and cut the Purple Eagles’ 2-0 lead on an Erin Normore conversion with 4:28 to spare, order was restored. Less than two minutes after Normore struck, PC drew another power play to end a 106-second shot-free, whistle-free segment. On the advantage, Laura Veharanta tested goaltender Jenni Bauer with a shot that prematurely sold the signal to the goal judge.

As it turned out, play continued even with the flickering light, until Alyse Ruff plunged at the rebound and swiped it into the near post for the equalizer with 1:43 left in regulation.

5. January 21, 2011: Providence 3, Boston College 1
No later than at the halfway mark of her college career was everyone convinced that Genevieve Lacasse would pour a full bottle of White-out all over PC’s goaltending record book and replace the contents with her own entries. But Boston College has all but singlehandedly hastened her pace.

Six weeks before she broke Jana Bugden’s all-time saves lead against these same Eagles in the Hockey East semifinals, Lacasse shook off Kelli Stack’s icebreaking shorthanded breakaway and proceeded to preserve a defiant 3-1 win at Schneider Arena. After PC usurped the lead on a power play strike late in the second and Rebecca Morse’s go-ahead goal 25 seconds into the third, it faced an inevitable reversal from the referee’s gale-forced whistle.

The Eagles, who had dealt with five unanswered penalties over the first 40 minutes, would be granted four unanswered power plays over the final 19:14 of regulation. In that span, they charged up an eye-rubbing 33 pelts on Lacasse, including 14 power play stabs, 11 of which fell between 9:05 and 12:54, when PC committed three infractions and was down two skaters for a full two minutes.

Yet nothing tuned the mesh. And after taking six of the game’s final seven shots, BC let Kate Bacon get away with a cathartic empty netter.

4. February 6, 2009: Providence 3, Northeastern 2 (OT)
The first installment of the Genevieve Lacasse-Florence Schelling rivalry could have gone exclusively to the Dogs. But the Friars, victims of a 1-0 Schelling shutout the preceding October, were just too dogged in their own right.

All but two of PC’s skaters recorded at least one stab at Schelling, amounting to a workload of 56. That’s 10 more than the Swiss Save-ior has dealt with in any other collegiate game, before or since.

And after the Huskies had scraped out a 2-0 lead –their goals sandwiching a washout of an alleged Friar goal that left would-be scorer Alyse Ruff and other PC personnel visibly piqued- the Friars finally cracked the Schelling code on Erin Normore’s power play tally with 9:21 gone in the second.

And before the fundamental details of that goal were ready for disclosure over the PA system, the season-high masses at Schneider Arena –complete with a rare visit from the pep band- exulted in Jean O’Neill’s equalizer at the 9:43 mark.

New game, sort of. Their oomph restored, the Friars continued to besiege Schelling, though she would stop each of the next 30 stabs, including 20 in a scoreless, penalty-free third period.

But in the bite-sized bonus round, one more international VIP, Finnish Flare Mari Pehkonen, seized her long-awaited chance to glow. With one minute left before a shootout, she accepted a feed from Abby Gauthier in the slot and spooned her game-leading eighth shot of the night through the roof to stamp the 3-2 Providence triumph.

3. October 29, 2010: Providence 2, Boston University 2
Providence was the first team to hold phenom Marie-Philip Poulin pointless in a Division I college game. Remember that.

But naturally, the upgraded, defending Hockey East champion Terriers had a few more prominent options to test the 6-2-0 Friars. In her first conference game with BU, New Hampshire transfer Jenn Wakefield treated the Friars no differently than when she was with the Enemy Epitome.

For her fourth and fifth career goals, and seventh and eighth points at PC’s expense she beat Genevieve Lacasse on a bullet from the far outer hash marks and later a chopper from the high slot to turn a 1-0 deficit into a 2-1 lead. And it’s worth noting that defender Catherine Ward, Poulin’s teammate at the Vancouver Olympics, etched an assist on both tallies.

Other than that, though, Lacasse had an answer for the Terriers’ other 40 tries, including all six of Poulin’s, which tied Wakefield for the game lead. Meanwhile the Friars, who took more than half of their 29 total shots (15) in the first period, managed to smuggle an equalizer past the laser-beamed BU defense and rookie stopper Kerrin Sperry. As it happened, it was top gun Kate Bacon inserting her eighth goal of the season, and only nine games in at that.

2. March 5, 2011: Boston College 3, Providence 2 (OT)
All right, the final outcome was less than memorable for Friartownies, but one has to admit it was an exemplary serving of postseason hockey. The blood and sweat of the matchup’s most otherworldly players turned to thick ink on the scoresheet and each team had its turn rebounding from a third period deficit.

PC stopper Genevieve Lacasse stamped a personal record 58 single-game saves, a Hockey East postseason record for most blocks in a tournament game, and surpassed Jana Bugden on PC’s all-time leaderboard for 2,556 upon repelling BC’s 32nd bid of the game. A whopping 10 of those saves held back U.S. Olympian Kelli Stack, who needed two of her understudies to bail her out in regulation.

In an otherwise expectable goaltending duel between the Scarborough Save-ior and BC’s Molly Schaus, another Olympic veteran, a seven-minute, 27-second scoring spree saw rookie Eagles Melissa Bizzari and Taylor Wasylk sandwich strikes by the Friars’ Jen Friedman and Abby Gauthier for first blood and the game’s second equalizer.

And fittingly, in the resultant overtime, the decisive play entailed a one-on-one confrontation between one of the decorated goalies and one of the defiant clutch scorers. On her 11th registered bid of the game, Stack laced the 19th game-winner of her college career through a mousehole and into Lacasse’s cage.

1. November 8, 2009: Providence 2, Northeastern 1 (SO)
Who but PC’s Scarborough Save-ior and Northeastern’s Swiss Save-ior?

The first of only two Women’s Hockey East shootouts at Schneider Arena before the experimental format was repealed last summer remains the longest in league history. Most naturally, it was an arm-wrestling bout between Genevieve Lacasse and Florence Schelling.

After drawing a 1-1 knot in 65 minutes of standard hockey action, the rival netminders pitched two complete shootout shutouts –i.e. six scoreless rounds apiece.

In the top of the seventh, NU’s Danielle Kerr, ironically one of six Huskies not to etch an SOG in regulation or overtime, beat Lacasse low. But PC’s Alyse Ruff retorted with a stroll down Broadway and a trickler that somehow went through Schelling’s narrowing five-hole.

Another six rounds ensued, elevating the likelihood of an unlikely hero ribbon being doled out at day’s end. As it happened, it went to the Friars’ stay-at-home sophomore defender, Christie Jensen, who lacked a regulation goal in 44 career games up to that point.

For her turn in the bottom of the 13th, Jensen took on a Normorean guise as she looped from center ice to the left, then cut back to the middle en route to Schelling’s porch, where she lobbed the game winner into the upper right hand shelf.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011

The 10 Best Men’s Hockey Games I Witnessed as a PC Student

10. October 20, 2007: Holy Cross 6, Providence 4
Each team converted three power plays. The Friars closed a 2-0 pothole and deleted three one-goal deficits all within a four-strike second period. And then, Crusaders’ goaltender Ian Dams thwarted PC’s threat to usurp the lead, regained on the strength of Dale Reinhardt’s goal at 2:52 of the third, protected despite a 12-3 shooting edge to Providence in the closing frame, and cemented by Peter Lorinser’s last-second empty netter.

9. February 19, 2011: Boston University 1, Providence 0
On the one hand, the Friars’ discipline was less than commendable, seeing as they drew eight penalties on themselves as opposed to two on the Terriers. On the other hand, Alex Beaudry turned in another trademark irreproachable effort, repelling 13 out of 14 power play shots and 31 out of 32 overall to keep the game competitive for the full length. And Providence equated BU’s output with 32 pelts on opposing stopper Kieran Millan, including three shorthanded tries. The only difference was Millan blinked one time fewer.

8. January 22, 2010: New Hampshire 3, Providence 2 (OT)
After Alex Beaudry withstood all but two of 41 regulation shots, and after his skating mates deleted a 2-0 deficit to force the bonus round, New Hampshire counterpart Brian Foster had his turn repelling a frenzied Friar storm. PC launched three unanswered, but unproductive overtime shots before starting center Phil DeSimone won it for the Wildcats on a fleeting rush to the other end.

7. January 31, 2009: Providence 5, Merrimack 3
It was the last hurrah in a calendar month that momentarily replenished some optimism for the 2008-09 edition of the Tim Army Corps. One evening after tying Boston College, 2-2, before an overflowing home crowd and a NESN television audience, PC issued a balanced attack and set an early tone on the power play to pace itself past the Warriors.

All 18 skaters, save rookie blueliner Danny New, contributed to a bushel of 34 shots. Although, New still had some tangible input with an assist on junior captain John Cavanagh’s goal that made it 2-0 and gave PC a 2-for-2 success rate on the power play.

But on top of that, towering senior pivot Nick Mazzolini and Cavanagh both had a 100 percent connectivity rate, scoring on both of their stabs to help sculpt a 4-0 lead by the time there was 5:44 to spare in the second. Although Merrimack regrouped to wither that difference to 4-3, Mazzolini –already with a goal-assist value pack to his credit- added insurance to his game clincher on a partial breakaway tally with 2:32 left in the third.

That effectively curtained a 4-2-2 January run for the Friars, though they proceeded to go winless for the remainder of the year.

6. December 3, 2010: Providence 3, Maine 3
A regular Chumbawmba theme night from a Providence perspective. They got knocked down, then up again, and ultimately couldn’t be kept down.

The Friars thrice went down by a goal –all owing heavily to the celestial Spencer Abbott, who nailed two and aided the other Black Bear strike. But PC thrice drew a knot, culminating in Chris Rooney’s shorthanded breakaway with 4:50 remaining in regulation.

In the bonus round, goaltender Alex Beaudry dealt with seven Black Bear bids and literally held fort long enough to bar Maine’s Tanner House from converting the walkoff strike. Initial exhilaration from the visiting sector was usurped by the Friar faithful when replays confirmed the buzzer had beaten the biscuit to the mouth.

5. November 17, 2007: New Hampshire 5, Providence 4 (OT)
This one featured three lead changes, double-digit shot counts on both sides in each regulation stanza, and five individual multipoint performances. The post-game three-star custom was not nearly enough to do justice to the sparkling efforts from each party. And, for Providence in particular, neither was Hockey East’s continued refusal to recognize overtime losses as regulation ties.

Ultimately, though, the Friars had the right to feel a little stung as they led a 1-0 edge devolve into a 3-1 deficit and then seized a 4-3 edge on two goals 11 seconds apart midway through the third, only to let it all slip. More than anybody, Pierce Norton had a right to feel gypped after he had given his team two leads.

But PC could not fault itself too much on this night, for a quartet of Wildcats were simply too stubborn to be pushed over the precipice. Visiting stopper Brian Foster did his part with 41 saves –all in regulation- and New Hampshire’s searing forward line of James van Riemsdyk, Thomas Fortney, and Paul Thompson combined for 12 of their team’s 14 points.

4. February 9, 2008: Providence 4, Vermont 3 (OT)
For what it’s worth, the reported attendance at Schneider Arena was 2,121. And as it happened, PC’s No. 21, senior captain Jon Rheault, was the unquestioned man of the night. A first period shorthanded strike to etch a 1-0 lead, followed by an assist on Greg Collins’ goal 62 ticks into the middle frame, pole-vaulted Rheault into the 100-career point club.

After the Catamounts, who had surmounted Rheault’s goal the evening prior en route to a 2-1 win, deleted a 3-1 deficit to force overtime, the captain salvaged his own special night with a delightfully-timed Dalmatian point. With 14 seconds remaining in the sudden-death stanza, he set up shop on the porch and tilted point patroller Matt Taormina’s low rider home for his second walk-off goal in as many months.

3. December 29, 2007: Providence 5, Michigan State 3
Until the 13:18 mark of the second period, the Friars had whiffed on a cumulative 64 shots and been outscored, 7-0, by Great Lakes Invitational staples Michigan and Michigan State in 93:18 of weekend play.

That finally changed when, on a two-on-one break, freshman Kyle MacKinnon let a wrist shot wipe off the cross bar like a skateboarder descending a staircase. The puck plopped into the crease and patiently waited for an incoming Jon Rheault to rake the rebound behind an unprepared Jeff Lerg.

From there, despite falling behind again, 2-1, early in the third, the Friars firestorm’ only accelerated. After a 50-save shutout at the hands of Michigan’s Billy Sauer the day prior, they tested the Spartans nine times in the first, 15 in the second, and a cyclonic 21 in the third. That, combined with a little fatigue from their semifinal game and a general lack of incentive that visibly steamed MSU head coach Rick Comley, was just enough to blow the defending NCAA champion Spartans off their pegs.

In a matter of eight minutes and five seconds, three unanswered goals via John Cavanagh, Rheault, and MacKinnon morphed a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead and paced PC to a 5-3 victory. Fittingly, the nascent MacKinnon tacked on the insurance in the final minute, capping off his second multi-goal game of the month, and second of what would be seven in his career.

2. January 30, 2009: Providence 2, Boston College 2
It would be the only sellout that the House That Lou Built has seen this collegiate generation –for obvious reasons beforehand and for a justified reason thereafter.

Knowing for months that this bout with the defending national champions would be regionally televised on NESN, faces seen everywhere on campus except for the ice house overstocked the student section seeking a morsel of coveted face time. And if they took enough time to look at what the cameras were looking at, they watched a gritty grudge match that saw each team enjoy a momentary lead –BC in the first, PC in the second- before dueling goaltenders Alex Beaudry and John Muse clamped down and drew the final 2-2 knot.

1. February 19, 2010: Providence 5, Boston University 4
Neither party in this card had any cause to sympathize with the other. The host Friars were as few as two losses away from whiffing on a Hockey East playoff spot for the second year in a row. The defending national champion Terriers, ranked No. 19 in the country going into the weekend, needed every invisible point they could scrape out to salvage their hopes for an at-large NCAA tournament bid.

Accordingly and appropriately, the concoction of those storylines produced a back-and-forth, lock-and-load bout. The Terriers struck twice to grab an assertive 2-0 upper hand by 8:45 of the first period, but the Friartownies’ spirits were percolated by the endless physicality that finally broke out in hives at the 9:00 mark. The previously unblemished penalty side of the scoresheet had five entries in the last 11 minutes of the opening frame, though PC failed to hit the board on three power play opportunities.

But starting at 2:14 of the middle frame, the special teams started holding sway. PC’s Kyle MacKinnon struck twice in separate 4-on-4 segments to saw two Terrier leads in half, and it was 3-2 with only 5:50 gone. Less than 14 minutes later, after the eye of the cyclone had passed through the Schneider pond, Matt Bergland gave the Friars their first conversion in seven power plays and a 3-3 tie to take into the final stanza.

The night had only begun. The third period alone saw an incomprehensible 17-16 edge in the shooting gallery for Providence, though BU bouncer Kevin Shattenkirk restored his team’s lead with a carry-over power play bullet just 97 seconds in. But on their eighth twirl, PC’s man-up brigade set up MacKinnon’s hat trick, drawing a 4-4 knot with 14:04 to spare.

From there, it only felt increasingly like the Skating Friars’ fun-sized answer to Game Six of Bruins-Canadiens 2008. The Friars’ nightlong persistence, combined with the Terriers’ incurable disciplinary ailment presaged a first-time and permanent lead for the scrappy home squad.

Lo and behold, during a 5-on-3 segment, with 5:25 to go, the MacKinnon machine fell inches short of the key conversion. He settled for an assist as Aaron Jamnick swooped in the extract the rebound and buried it through a screen of fallen columns, giving Schneider Arena its strongest dose of stimuli in at least two years.

PC was eliminated from playoff contention the following night at Agganis Arena, but it was a refreshing sendoff to the student rooters, who would miss the season’s final two home games due to spring break.

Al Daniel can be reached at hockeyscribe@hotmail.com