Monday, February 18, 2008

Women's Hockey 8, Northeastern 3: Persistent Friars Too Ruff For Huskies

Pretty in pink? The wall decorations and warm-up jerseys signifying the annual “Skating Strides” fundraiser sure were. Between the boards, especially from a Friars’ standpoint, that description took time to materialize.
The Northeastern Huskies’ productive grit, which went into hiding deep beneath the Matthews Arena ice in Saturday’s half of this home-and-home series –a 4-0 PC victory- resurfaced Sunday at Schneider Arena. After spotting the initial lead in the third minute of play, the Huskies offered up an aftershock late in the second, erasing a 3-1 deficit to send things into intermission knotted 3-3.
But in that closing period, the Friars’ starting line of Alyse Ruff, Mari Pehkonen, and Jean O’Neill spiked to a degree hotter than any hot pink, Husky red, or Friar white. Ruff –who earlier had endured two penalty calls and recompensed by drawing a power play that morphed into a second period goal- kindled a hat trick, the second of her young PC career, all within the final fifteen minutes.
When the ice chips had settled, Ruff had four points, O’Neill two, and Pehkonen five. And the Friars had stamped a sound 8-3 victory.
Much like Saturday’s visit to the Hub, Providence steadily sculpted a telling shot differential (final count 45-19), but needed a while before it mollified rookie goaltender Leah Sulyma. Sulyma’s skaters, meantime, cashed in on slivers of scoring opportunities to start up a back-and-forth game.
At 2:05 of the opening frame, defender Katy Applin spooned a long-range feed from her own end to forward Colleen Sanborn. Sanborn broke loose down the near alley and lobbed the Huskies’ first shot of the game top shelf.
Not long after came a stretch of mutually sluggish, hot potato exchanges of the puck and tireless whistle activity on referee Jim McKenna’s part. McKenna would issue three penalties to each side in the first period alone, wherein only 10:54 of playing time saw 5-on-5 action.
In the fourteenth minute, the PC bench was itching to wave a challenge flag when Ruff became entangled with Northeastern’s Lindsay Berman off a draw, yet was the only party with a ticket to the box. Nonetheless, the Friars converted their energy in a matter of twenty seconds, tying things up in a 4-on-4 sequence as Sarah Feldman dropped a slippery rebound on the porch for Katy Beach to bury home.
Only one power play was distributed in the middle frame when Erin Real slashed a puck-carrying Ruff in neutral ice.
By the 6:02 mark, Pehkonen had slithered a breakout feed from Brittany Simpson from end-to-end and nailed a backhander from the slot for a go-ahead conversion.
Later, with less than six minutes to spare, Danielle Tangredi picked off Northeastern’s Nikki Petrich behind her own cage and thrust a quick bid at Sulyma. Feldman, getting up from a freak collision with Beach, appeared at the opposite post to jam home the rebound for a 3-1 edge.
But the Huskies perked right back up, slicing that lead within 17 seconds on another nimble rush polished off by Ali Bielawski.
Four minutes later, a would-be Northeastern icing ran out of gas as it approached the Friar goal line. Kristi Kehoe pounced on it in the far corner and shipped it across to linemate Chelsey Jones, who swiped it into a gaping right frame of the cage.
Come the third period, though, it would be the Huskies losing stock in their tanks. Once again, they took an early penalty (tripping call on Petrich at 3:03), and once again the Friars utilized. In the dying seconds of their power play, Pehkonen assumed control of the biscuit and shuffled to the net out of the near corner. Ruff was there along the left post to tip in the eventual clincher and commence the definitive landslide.
At 8:12, the line of the hour was at it again, this time Ruff looping around the cage and offering a bid to defender Kathleen Smith. Smith went out of her way to Sulyma’s porch and clipped home an effective one-timer.
Between the 15:15 and 17:14 marks, Ruff sealed her icebreaking day on two nimble nailers. The first took only two seconds as she roofed a feed from O’Neill right off a draw in the near circle. Then, on a neutral zone face-off, her linemates toured the puck into attacking territory and set her up in the slot.
Enough? Maybe for the new fiery trinity. But in the final minute, fellow rookie Amber Yung solidified the 8-3 final, accepting a diagonal feed from Stephanie Morris and drilling a low rider in from the center point.
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press