Through 37 minutes of hockey Saturday afternoon, Providence College’s season was looking like it’d come to an unusual end.
Headed into the third period, the fifth seeded Friars were down 3-0 to the fourth seeded University of New Hampshire in the women’s Hockey East playoffs. If something didn’t change, Providence would miss the Hockey East semifinals for the first time since the league was established in 2002-03.
Senior center Nicole Anderson knew that too much history was on the line for the Friars to let the game get out of reach.
“(When we were down), we thought about the tradition here at Providence and how we wanted to keep that going,” said Anderson.
So Anderson and the Friars put their up-and-down regular season behind them and launched themselves towards an incredible comeback. First, defenseman Victoria Virtue scored just her second goal of the season to finally get Providence on the board with just over two minutes left in the second period.
Anderson, who had a second assist on Virtue’s power play goal, labeled her an unsung hero on the team.
“She’s always in a good spot on the ice, she’s where she needs to be,” Anderson said.
Four minutes into the third period, Molly Illikainen got hold of a Lexi Slattery pass, shooting it from the faceoff circle and scoring. The goal brought the Friars within one.
A Haley Frade (Marion, Mass.) checking call gave the Wildcats the man advantage, and in the waning seconds of the power play, Kristina Lavoie scored on a breakaway to re-establish New Hampshire’s two-goal lead.
Unlike other points in the season, the Friars did not let the setback demoralize them. Less than a minute after Lavoie’s go-ahead goal, Anderson answered, using her trademark physicality to stuff the puck past Wildcats goalie Jenn Gilligan.
Brooke Simpson (Boxboro, Mass.) scored a shot through traffic to even the game for the Friars with just under five minutes remaining. “When we tied it up with Brooke Simpson’s goal, we knew the game was in reach,” said Anderson.
After trading chances in overtime, Simpson made a key pass from behind the New Hampshire net to fellow sophomore Beth Hanrahan, who scored the winning goal to give the Friars a 5-4 win and a semifinal date against No. 1 seed Boston University on Saturday in Hyannis.
The win over New Hampshire gave the Friars some much needed confidence.
“Winning a game like that let our freshman realize that we can win those type of games,” said Anderson.
Though doubts and frustration can come from a season in which the Friars went 7-10-3 in Hockey East, the assistant captain has helped lead her team to a place where they can put any disappointment behind them.
“We have realized what has happened in the past, but we’re looking ahead,” said Anderson. “We use what we need from those games and then put them behind us.”
As the Friars prepare to play a league semifinal game for the eleventh straight year, Anderson knows that they are up for the challenge the Terriers will throw at them.
“Offensively, we can score goals, as you see from Saturday,” Anderson said. “We can turn it up when we need to.”
Player of the Week
Brittany Ott, senior goaltender, University of Maine
In a down year for Maine, Ott had the goaltending performance of a lifetime, stopping 72 – yes, 72 – saves in Maine’s extremely close overtime Hockey East quarterfinal game against Boston College last Friday. And before you scoff that overtime helped that stat, Ott made 71 of those saves in regulation. Ott has had some stellar performances over the years, but made tournament and school history with her final game in goal for the Black Bears.
DIII Note of the Week
The Division III tournament begins this Saturday, and three of the four first-round games feature teams either from New England or with strong New England ties.
One of those teams is Wisconsin’s St. Norbert’s (18-9-2), which will travel to Plattsburgh, N.Y. (a spot on the map separated from New England by only Lake Champlain) to face the nation’s No. 1 team, SUNY Plattsburgh (25-0-2). St. Norbert won the NCHA championship Saturday, edging University of Wisconsin-River Falls 3-2 in overtime. The Green Knights have now won 13 of their last 14 games.
St. Norbert’s assistant coach is well known to New England women’s college hockey fans - she’s former Boston University forward Jillian Kirchner. Kirchner believes her team is up for the challenge of playing a strong Plattsburgh team, and is preparing accordingly.
“We are preparing each day, working on the little things, angling, heavy puck passing,” explained Kirchner. “We are working on all the little things to help us be successful.”
Katie Conlon (Marshfield, Mass.) is one of St. Norbert’s most versatile and consistent contributors. The former Marshfield High captain chipped in the Green Knights’ first goal of their 2-1 semifinal win over St. Scholastica to help them move on to the championship game.
Game of the Week
Northeastern vs. Boston College, Saturday, 3:30pm
The second Hockey East semifinal will feature a Beanpot championship rematch, as second-seeded Boston College faces third-seeded Northeastern. The Eagles found themselves frustrated in their quarterfinal game against Maine, where they faced not only Brittany Ott in a career performance, but a strong Black Bear defense. They didn’t score until the third period, when Melissa Bizzari picked up her 17th goal of the season. The Huskies also took a little bit of time scoring in their quarterfinal game against the University of Vermont, letting the Catamounts open to a 1-0 lead before scoring three goals in the second period in the eventual 5-1 win.
Where Northeastern may hold an edge over Boston College is in how spread out their scoring has been of late. Kendall Coyne is scoring hat tricks and picking up points at a furious pace, but other forward lines have also been doing their fair share of the work. The Eagles play a tighter defense and has a more tested goaltender in Corrine Boyles. Northeastern needs this win to stay alive for a tournament bid, adding another layer of fuel to their fire this weekend. It should be an incredible matchup for a spot in the Hockey East championship game.
1.) Boston College (26-5-3 overall, 17-2-2 Hockey East) - Haley Skarupa earned Hockey East Rookie of the Week honors yet again after not just scoring the Eagles’ game-winning goal in overtime, but registering 16 shots on net in the 2-1 win.
2.) Boston University (24-5-3 overall, 18-2-1 Hockey East) - Kayla Tutino played an incredible game against UConn in their Hockey East quarterfinal matchup. The sophomore was all over the ice, blocking, defending and scoring the Terriers second goal in a 5-1 win.
3.) Harvard (23-5-3 overall, 17-3-2 ECAC) - The Crimson advanced to the ECAC Semifinals by shutting out Dartmouth 3-0 and 4-0 last Friday and Saturday in their quarterfinal series. Emerance Maschmeyer got the start in goal in both games, making a combined 39 saves. Third-seeded Harvard will now face second-seeded Clarkson in the league’s semifinals at Cornell at 4 p.m. on Saturday.
4.) Northeastern (22-10-2 overall, 13-7-1 Hockey East) - Kendall Coyne has not been held without a point since Jan. 9 against Boston College, and Casey Pickett (Wilmington, Mass.) hasn’t been left pointless since Feb. 2 against Boston University.
5.) Providence (15-15-5 overall, 8-10-3 Hockey East) - Despite the inconsistency the Friars have demonstrated this season, they are trying their best to stay positive on the bench through the stretch. “When things aren’t going our way, we stay positive,” said Nicole Anderson. “We’re telling everyone, ‘Don’t put your heads down, always stand up.’”