Storrs, Conn.- If only by a few ice chips, the Friars had outshone the Connecticut Huskies under every vital heading for the first forty minutes yesterday.
Shot count prior to the third: 17-15, advantage visitors. Disciplinary records: two minor infractions against UConn, only one on PC. On the dot: 24 face-off wins out of 39 tries for the Friars.
And in the office of the database dictator: 1-0, Providence.
The Huskies, indubitably unforgiving for the Friars’ act of popping their NCAA playoff bubble last year through a 5-1 decision in the Hockey East semifinals in this very building –never mind the mortifying upshot of the same score at Schneider Arena on Saturday- were merely one loose finger away from a rancid rerun. And the obsessive-defensive Friars were in a snug position to lock away a momentous sweep of the weekend, not to mention the 2008-09 Battle for Southern New England trilogy.
But in the climactic latter half of the closing frame, UConn rehashed its rep after a cumulative absence of about 110 minutes of playing time. Bolstered by a high-sticking penalty to Jean O’Neill with 10:11 left in regulation, acetylene twig-carrier Dominique Thibault (game-leading eight shots on net) deposited the equalizer.
From there, the Huskies mollified Friar freshman fortress Genevieve Lacasse with nine additional stabs (period total: 18), drew one more power play in the dusk of regulation (Mari Pehkonen, tripping, 18:41 mark), and delivered the dagger in overtime for a 2-1 biff right in PC’s lately glimmering helmet cages.
Fifty seconds into the bonus round, one utterance of “Mississippi” after the Finnish Flare was released to join the four-on-four contest, Nicole Tritter converted a feed from Monique Weber to appease the home masses of Freitas Ice Forum.
And so, while their western border rivals were swift to strike the chord on redemption songs and confirm their claim to the fifth of six available slots in the WHEA playoffs, Providence endured a stinging nudge backward after stocking up invaluable collateral in the form of a three-game winning streak and an irreproachable start to yesterday’s tussle.
For the third time in as many clashes, the Friars and Huskies arm-wrestled their way through a tantalizingly scoreless first period, PC owning a 9-8 edge in the shooting gallery and drawing an early, solitary power play, during which they were barred from pestering goaltender Brittany Wilson (24 saves).
The young stages of the middle frame duplicated the preceding stanza. Even with Jody Sydor caged for roughing at the 3:09 mark, the Friars couldn’t skate up any harrowing threats. Nothing like the fleeting, decisive three-goal gale they concocted 24 hours prior.
The air hockey-paced exchange of possession and negligible scoring chances lagged on until 3:40 remained in the period. For the second consecutive day, PC captain Brittany Simpson initiated the icebreaker, setting up top gun Laura Veharanta for her 15th strike of the season.
Within moments, the newly jumpy Friars pelted Wilson five more times –including a nonstop succession of three bids by Abby Gauthier, Katy Beach, and Colleen Martin. But the Huskies retorted with a similar mini-swarm in the final two minutes, though Lacasse withstood it all to retain the 1-0 upper hand.
Cristin Allen –who would ultimately recompense her tinkering tendencies with a pair of helpers- initially dropped Providence a written invitation to broaden the gap, absorbing a two-minute citation for body-checking with 6:47 gone in the third. Wilson, though, needed only to deal with a singular power play shot from Alyse Ruff while her praetorian guards guided Jennifer Friedman’s attempt wide.
Sixty-two seconds after Allen’s release, O’Neill took her team’s second penalty of the day. And the tables turned within moments.
Lacasse –whose game total of 34 saves equated her performance in Saturday’s win- pushed away the first three power play shots, but Allen left a soapy rebound for Thibault to grip and bury.
The unwavering stopper pushed away another three between Pehkonen’s infraction and the regulation buzzer. And she hauled in an unhesitant stab by Allen to start the overtime, gradually upping the odds of each team at least laying claim to a single point.
That was not to be. Tritter would polish off the rally sparked by her co-captain Thibault some ten minutes prior.
Al Daniel can be reached at email@example.com
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press