If the Friars –ahead of the contesting Connecticut Huskies- can lash out no fewer than one extra token of resolve in Saturday’s playoff opener, the ominous, electro-databased 180-spin on 2008 shall halt right here.
The 2007-08 Huskies were prompt to initially dilute the Battle of Southern New England’s pungency, winning the first two meetings at Freitas Ice Forum by a cumulative 8-0 score.
But, less than 24 hours removed from an embittering 3-0 crash-and-burn, the Friars resiliently retorted with a 5-3 triumph at Schneider Arena. Little did they know, though, that they would pay a spontaneous visit back to Storrs in another 27 days to lock twigs with the Huskies once more.
But with a pair of power play strikes courtesy Mari Pehkonen –the first a 5-on-3 conversion in only the sixth minute- PC sledgehammered the formerly binding UConn ice en route to a 5-1 final.
Plenty of evidence there to verify head coach Bob Deraney’s smudgy CD record of “The past doesn’t matter.” And, by all counts, he’d be happy to labor under the same old notion for this weekend’s matinee engagement at Schneider Arena.
The 2008-09 Friars hosted the first two installments of the regular season series and, subsisting on a few timely, productive sugar rushes to the opposing cage, wrested away two wins by an aggregate final of 7-1.
But, less than 24 hours removed from a 5-1 falter on January 31, the resolute Huskies merely reran their persistent 60-minute grind at Freitas the next day, ultimately nailing a come-from-behind 2-1 victory in overtime.
And if not for a sweeping schooling at the hands of regal New Hampshire this past weekend, that rally on February 1 may have paid extraordinary long term dividends to UConn. One more point in their bushel, and they would have been hosting the forthcoming semifinal qualifier.
Instead, they’ll settle for the prospect of dishing out eye-for-eye justice in the form of a party-spoiler at PC’s first home hockey playoff game since the men’s program hosted Boston University in 2003.
If they so please, they’ll have a buffet of red meat to bolster their incentive. Beyond last year’s letdown, handfuls of the Huskies may recall when their bid for a playoff passport was mathematically zapped in the climax of the regular season in 2007.
The culprits: the Friars, who had swept a home-and-home by 4-1 and 6-3 decisions that weekend.
And then, head coach Heather Linstad, for one, will recall the 2005 conference championship, a 3-1 upshot to round out PC’s four-year dynasty. That, and the 2003 semis –a 7-0 Providence cookout.
“They’re going to be just as hungry as (Boston College) was last Friday –we ended their season last year too,” said Deraney. “I expect them to give us their best effort as they always do.
“The past doesn’t matter. It’s who shows up on Saturday at 1:00, and who wants it more than the other, who’s willing to focus to the end and make the plays necessary to emerge victorious.”
Psychologically replenished through last Saturday’s 2-1 shootout overhaul of the Eagles –which simultaneously salvaged their home ice viability- the Friars can enter this do-or-die engagement all the more learned. The day prior, a vengeful BC team wasted no time ambushing a still-fraught PC squad and stamping a 5-1 decision. As an immediate consequence, the sorely craved first-round bye was out of the question for Deraney and Co., which also dropped to 1-5 in a calendar month that had begun with the aforementioned OT falter at Freitas.
Until the technical tie at Conte Forum (it is officially scored a 1-1 upshot), the Friars had spilled four consecutive games by an unfavorable 15-6 scoring aggregate. Hardly the set of fresh facts they wanted sifting in their dressing room as they tune up for the second season.
“I didn’t realize how poor we were in February until I went back and looked at it, because you wouldn’t think we played that way,” Deraney mused. “But I think it was very important for us to gain some confidence back. Confidence is such a big thing in every sport at every level.
“But when you talk about confidence…it wasn’t mysterious. That’s how we’re capable of playing. We just have to bring that type of effort every night.”
Quick Feeds: Deraney on his unadulterated neutrality over Sunday’s UNH win over the Huskies that in effect granted the Friars home ice this coming weekend: “No matter where we go, it comes down to how well we’re playing. That’s all we ever focus on. It’s an opportunity to get better every time. And when it’s out of your hands, it’s out of your control. So wherever they told us to go, we were going to go there and bring our best effort.”…Team captain Brittany Simpson had a Jumbotron spot at last night’s men’s basketball game, delivering a pre-taped promo of the upcoming game during a TV timeout midway through the second half.
Al Daniel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
This article originally appeared in the Friartown Free Press