PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Providence junior Karen Thatcher once believed her weakness was playing around the net, but you wouldn’t have known it from watching Saturday’s 5-1 Friar win over St. Lawrence. A testament to her offseason training, she netted three power play goals to match her season total of 10 as a sophomore in just eight games. All five Friar goals came within inches of the crease on the power play.
“Coach [Bob Deraney] always told me I have the skills but I don’t necessarily use them to get the best production,” Thatcher said. “In the offseason, he worked a lot with me to keep my feet moving going to the net, shoot when I have the shot, pass when I have the pass, just to use my brain and not just force it straight up.”
With Providence (4-2-2) nursing a 1-0 lead over the Saints (6-1-1) in the second period, Thatcher broke the game open with two power play goals. Her first goal came when she backhanded a loose puck inside the far post at the crease, and her second goal was a product of her skating abilities as she circled around in front her the finish at the top of the crease. Thatcher’s third goal came late in the third period and made the score 5-0 Providence.
“She benefits from her teammates and the way we’re playing the game,” said Providence coach Bob Deraney. “I think it’s the combination of her natural ability to really play, not only with her physical gifts, but also understanding the game and getting a feeling for where the puck’s going to be before it gets there, instead of reacting.”
Providence led off the scoring when junior Katelynn Laffin tipped in a pass from the point by Kristin Gigliotti at 10:58 of the first period. Gigliotti did the same favor to Rush Zimmerman for Providence’s fourth goal at 11:51 of the third period. Both Deraney and St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan agreed the Friars totally outworked their opposition, all the more impressive considering the injuries Providence has suffered.
“Today everyone stepped up,” Deraney said. “It had been three of four players up to this point. Today it was really a team effort.”
Flanagan told Deraney after the game he almost wished that Providence had beaten Clarkson yesterday, because the Friars came out with renewed focus. The Friars got outworked in a 3-3 tie against the Golden Knights yesterday and did not let that happen again today.
“Today we beat a top ten team, easily,” Thatcher said. “It showed us that we can be a team that beats top 10 teams and we can be a great team if we play the way we played today. This is the first game we’ve put together a full 60 minutes, and we’ve just got to keep doing it every game.”
The defeat sent St. Lawrence back to the drawing board on special teams, which were entirely ineffective. The Saints’ power play went 0-for-10, while the Friars finished 5-for-11. The power play struggles were even more disappointing for the Saints since the Friars’ penalty kill system was comparable to their own.
As for preventing power play goals, the Saints’ best medicine would be to avoid taking the penalties in the first place. The first five penalties, which led to two Friar goals, were all on Saint defensemen. Flanagan said the penalties had nothing to do with new officiating emphasis, they were unquestionably bad penalties.
“We’ve got to be smart when you try to take the puck from somebody, not just bump somebody,” Flanagan said. “Some of the penalties we got caught flat-footed. Yesterday we kind of had our way with Northeastern, a younger and more inexperienced team, and you get out there today and all of a sudden you need to keep your feet moving. [The Friars] came at us and didn’t stop from start to finish.”
St. Lawrence’s 6-0-1 start prior to today involved plenty of timely scoring and never a deficit of more than one goal. Faced with that situation today, the Saints did not respond.
On the other end, the Friars had the right focus. They feel prepared for Wednesday night’s showdown against No. 3 Harvard, a team Providence has not beaten since the seniors were freshmen.
“Winning today’s game is going to help us a lot with our momentum and confidence going into Harvard,” Thatcher said. “That’s another huge game for us, and we always have trouble with them, but I think we’ve got a little confidence that we can do it.”