After a long night defined by slow suffocation induced by the Mercyhurst Lakers –led by internationally ornate scoring beacon Megan Agosta, whose two goals and single assist had factored into a 3-0 difference- the Friars’ discipline detonated late in the third period, and their tempo accordingly puffed out its final breath.
Flags drawn on Pam McDevitt for tripping and Erin Normore for elbowing –during a shorthanded rush to the porch of the Lakers’ net, no less- allotted the visitors a leisurely, cool-down, 5-on-3 twirl in the Providence zone for the last 75 ticks of the game. In effect, they smoothly solidified the 3-0 final, cutting off the Friars’ 4-0-1 unbeaten streak.
Yet in that brief winding-down window, PC coach Bob Deraney could distinctly be heard offering unfussy praise to his PK trifecta for at least making a Superball of the puck and persisting to grind till the buzzer.
After a lengthier-than-usual, fairly hushed post-game lecture in the locker room, Deraney initially stalled to answer the media’s first inquiry, which was build exclusively around superficial data. Namely, the unfavorable imbalance in the shooting gallery (54-23) and 10 empty power plays.
Toss in the fact that the Friars, dislodged from their No. 9 perch in the preseason national leaderboard after opening weekend, are now 0-3-1 against ranked adversaries. So unless the pollsters don’t see past freshman goaltender Genevieve Lacasse, who swallowed 50 shots in the by far sweatiest outing of her young career, nothing was likely gained in the way of national recognition.
Yet when posed the question of a presumed tablespoon of vinegar, Deraney’s vocal cords went dead for about 15 seconds before he offered, “Hey, they’re a good team and that’s what I said to the players afterwards. That’s the best game they’ve played all year.
“Our kids gave it everything they had. And not having Mari (Pehkonen) or Marty (Colleen Martin) in the lineup, against a team like UConn, you can get by. But when you’re up against who I think is one of the best players in the world, Megan Agosta, it’s really difficult when our own world class player isn’t out there.”
Over the latter half of a scoreless first period, and spilling over to the second, the Friars were afforded six unanswered power plays, but spilled the full vat of breakthrough invitations. Unable to penetrate the Lakers’ laser-beamed PK square, they spent the better part of those segments in hasty regroup mode in the neutral zone or hustling to stifle a shorthanded onslaught.
In the meantime, Mercyhurst finally lured Lacasse to default and broke the ice at the 2:54 mark. Agosta imported a long-ranged breakout feed from Melissa Lacroix in neutral ice, cut straightaway through the center alley, and slipped the eventual clincher home through the mouse-sized five-hole.
And moments after they had disintegrated PC’s sixth power play, Mercyhurst drew its third opportunity of the night –and first since the fifth minute of the opening frame- with a mere 1:13 till intermission and accordingly pounced to enhance their edge.
Agosta, withholding the biscuit about the near outer hash marks in a fairly stuffy slot, offered a left-wing lateral to an unoccupied Vicki Bendus in the far circle. Bendus nimbly slugged the conversion under a sliding Lacasse with 34.7 seconds left in the period.
“It’s just one of those nights,” Deraney shrugged. “They’re a good team, they had a good game plan, and they were very well-coached. They were aggressive, we found the open player a couple of times, didn’t cash in, the (pass) hopped over (the intended recipient’s) stick.
“In a game like that, where momentum is such a funny, fickle thing, they score the first goal, we get a couple of opportunities to score and we don’t, the game changes its complexion.”
The complexion, though, was stiff concrete by the 7:11 mark of the third. Only three minutes after PC had twice more failed to exploit the blunderstruck Lakers –whose Bendus went off a mere 14 seconds in for interference and who took their second too many players citation of the night at 2:49- Agosta, who alone finished the night with a Cyclopean 14 shots on net, strolled into Friar territory along the far alley to snap her second strike of the night home low.
Within the final four minutes, first-line centerpiece Ashley Cottrell drew one last power play, owing to Cassea Schols’ illicitly shepherding her en route to the cage. But Mercyhurst stopper Hillary Pattenden finished her night’s work nine seconds later, assertively snatching Brittany Simpson’s high, heavy floating blast from the center point.
Mercyhurst proceeded to sprinkle eight more unanswered shots in the remaining three minutes.
“I don’t think they can play much better than they did tonight,” Deraney granted. “Unfortunately, they were playing us.”
Al Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press