March 6, 2010
PROVIDENCE, R.I. - A three-goal first period propelled the fifth-seeded Connecticut Huskies (21-8-7) to a 3-2 win over top-seed Providence (15-11-9) in the Women's Hockey East Semifinals at Schneider Arena on Saturday afternoon. Freshman Kate Bacon (Chanhassen, Minn.) and junior Jean O'Neill (Strafford, Pa.) lit the lamp for the Friars, while sophomore goaltender Genevieve Lacasse (Scarborough, Ontario) stopped 20 shots in net.
"I couldn't be prouder of my team but you have to give credit to the University of Connecticut. They played extremely well today," said Providence Head Coach Bob Deraney. "They got out to a quick start and were able to hold off a furious comeback by us."
Sophomore Alexandra Garcia (Pointe-Claire, Quebec) withstood a barrage of shots in goal for Connecticut, turning aside 32 shots, including 28 in the final two periods, as the Huskies advanced to the Hockey East championship game for the second time in conference history.
Connecticut came out fast in the opening frame and built an advantage Providence could not ultimately overcome. Freshman Lisa Stathopulos (Toronto, Ontario) continued her offensive tear with the game's opening goal at 4:18 of the first period. Stathopulos, who recorded a goal and an assist vs. Northeastern in the quarterfinals, took a centering pass from junior Jennifer Chaisson (Cumberland, Ontario) and one-timed it into the cage for the early lead.
The senior duo of Michelle Binning (Oshawa, Ontario) and Amy Hollstein (Pembroke, Mass.) took over for UConn from there, feeding each other for a pair of goals in a four-minute stretch to conclude the first. Binning found Hollstein at 13:34 to make it 2-0, before Hollstein returned the favor at 17:30.
"I think at times we come out a bit slow," said PC junior Alyse Ruff. "It takes us a little bit just to find our footing. You can't come out slow initially, because it really hurts us."
The Friars turned the tide in the second period, outshooting UConn by a 19-2 margin. Garcia held Providence off the scoresheet until the waning moments of the stanza when Bacon buried her fourth of the season at 17:45. Following a shot by senior Arianna Rigano (Malden, Mass.), Bacon found the loose puck in front and shoveled a backhand over the outstretched glove of Garcia.
The Friars continued to pound the UConn net in the third in a desperate attempt to even the scoreline. Providence was presented a golden opportunity to cut into the deficit with a lengthy two-man advantage in the middle of the period, but the Huskies' penalty kill limited the Friars' opportunities. The Friars finally did break through for the second time at 14:07 as O'Neill (Strafford, Pa.) slotted a shot through the pads of Garcia. Sophomore Abby Gauthier (Lynn, Mass.) initiated the play with a centering pass from behind the net, which O'Neill one-timed along the ice to cut UConn's lead to 3-2.
Garcia and the Huskies' defense held the fort for the final six minutes, including a one-minute stretch with Lacasse out of the net in favor of an extra attacker. After outshooting Providence 15-4 in the first period, the Huskies were outshot by a 30-8 margin over the final two frames.
"As you saw, it was a great fight all the way to the end and we scored two goals," Ruff said. "I think that's a great accomplishment of us, even though we did eventually lose. It's a great thing that we were able to come back that far even though a win would have been nice. That's what we ultimately wanted."
UConn advances to its first Hockey East championship game since 2005 and will face the winner of the New Hampshire/Boston University semifinal game on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. at Schneider Arena. The NCAA Selection Show will be streamed live online on Sunday at 7:30 p.m., at which point the eight-team field for the 2010 Tournament will be revealed.
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