Chestnut Hill, Mass.- Fictitious 19th century Londoner Sydney Carton; fictitious present-day cartoon Colorado grade-schooler Kenny McCormick; and the sometimes unimaginably real Providence College women’s hockey team.
Common trait: last-minute resurrection when all scenery and spirits appear as good as dead.
The Friars spent the bulk of their February laying out a pile of melancholy slivers, letting the long-craved promise they had sculpted at the last calendar Zamboni’s shift wilt. Between a 3-2 overtime overhaul of Northeastern two long weeks ago and their day trip to Conte Forum yesterday, they had let a not-so-shabby 16-11-2 record morph into 16-15-2. They submitted an aggregate 15-6 scoring deficit in those four losses, their worst slump in recent memory. And on Friday, they had just spilled their shot at a first-round bye to the forthcoming Hockey East playoffs and barely had two fingers laced around a bid for home ice in next weekend’s preliminary round.
But yesterday, at a bare minimum, Providence replenished its long-held persona of dangerous doggedness, abolishing a 1-0 deficit in the second period, then hanging tough en route to their first-ever shootout win at the expense of the exponentially mighty Boston College Eagles.
Starting centerpiece Ashley Cottrell, her stick gone cold for the first six games this month, inserted the first and only conversion of the deciding one-on-one chain. Fellow frosh Genevieve Lacasse subsequently took charge, stoning none other than Allie Thunstrom, Kelli Stack, and Mary Restuccia –who a day prior collaboratively obliterated Lacasse and associate Danielle Ciarletta- to seal the extra point and subdue 290 Superfans.
Now all Friartownies need to do is submit to sacrilege and root for New Hampshire to repress Connecticut today, and there will be an extra home date at Schneider Arena sometime next week.
Come what may, PC has guzzled a timely swig of sweetness to enjoy while they look ahead to their yet-undetermined playoff opener. Freshly removed from exiting an uncomfortably sauna-like home locker after Friday’s 5-1 letdown, they made meticulous haste to attain redemption upon yesterday’s puck-drop.
After mustering no more than eight shots on net in any of its previous nine periods, the fettered strike force broke loose and pelted BC stopper Molly Schaus 13 times in the opening frame. In observant, opportunistic accordance with the Eagles’ characteristic unruliness –which got them into penalty trouble on four occasions- the Friars charged up eight of those shots on the power play.
But, of course, they were heaving everything at a recently pronounced Patty Kazmaier candidate who is also emboldening a fast-track to Hockey East’s top goaltender prize. Schaus –who came in leading the league in goals-against average, save percentage, and win percentage- broke in her pads for the day by pushing away five stabs all in the midst of a 77-second five-on-three segment that was over by the 5:50 mark.
In recent weeks, Mari Pehkonen’s determination has arguably eclipsed that of all of her peers –as is reflected in her comparatively jutting offensive output. But right on the heels of seeing her second bid of the day kicked out by Schaus, she watched helplessly as BC’s leading sizzler, Stack, deposited the icebreaker at 7:34 on a fleeting counter gush.
And in the sixteenth minute, Becky Zavisza paid her second trip to the bin on the day, granting Providence its third full-length power play. But Schaus coolly zapped resultant shots from Erin Normore, Laura Veharanta, and Brittany Simpson to freeze the 1-0 difference at intermission.
On the whole, the two-way puckslinging sugar rush tapered off for the second, during which the Friars enhanced their lead on the shot clock from 13-10 to 23-15. Lacasse initially held out on the Eagles as they dealt five unanswered swings –two of them on a carry-over power play while Simpson did time for holding- in the first half of the stanza.
But after Alyse Ruff tested Schaus around the halfway mark, PC went on a patient, uninterrupted cyclone around the Eagles’ estate, dropping off 10 consecutive tries and finally drawing a 1-1 knot at 17:20 courtesy Erin Normore –who would lead the team with six regulation shots.
As Team Black and Team White each asserted that they’re both buckled down for the post-season, Team Black-And-White followed suit in the third. By the 12:11 mark, only a minute and 53 seconds of full strength action was played as Providence spiked its PIM bushel from eight to 10, Boston from 10 to 24.
But amidst that sleety flurry of whistles, the contesting defenses grated each other’s ammo to grant Lacasse and Schaus a digestible seven shots apiece, prolonging the game to a bonus round. Only Thunstrom and Normore would take a whack at the full win in overtime before they each had their try in the shootout.
And there, not unlike every last engagement they shall conduct, it was a plain matter of tipping the scale first. Cottrell did it, and Lacasse stopped the long-elusive momentum in place.
Al Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press