STORRS, Conn. — It may be a clich that good things come in small packages, but that doesn’t make Providence coach Bob Deraney any less happy to see those words fulfilled.
5’1 freshman Kelli Doolin, the smallest player on a size-filled Providence squad, scored the eventual game-winner near the midpoint of the third period, lifting the No. 10 Friars to a 4-3 win over Connecticut at the Mark E. Freitas Arena on Saturday afternoon.
“We’ve been injured all year long, and we’ve really counted on our freshmen to make contributions for us,” Deraney said, as his team improved to 5-0-0 in Hockey East play (10-6-3 overall). “Today’s no different. To see Kelly Doolin score a goal, it’s just indicative of our team, in that everyone’s contributing right now, and if we’re going to be successful, we’re going to need that.”
“I thought we did pretty well, and hung with them today,” said Huskies coach Heather Linstad, whose team dropped to 5-8-4 (2-3-0 Hockey East) with the loss. “They’re not scoring beautiful goals, they’re just jumping on rebounds that we’re giving up, and I think that that’s where they outmuscle us, in front of our net. We just need to tighten up there, and I think we’re playing pretty even with them.
The goal, which gave the Friars a 4-2 lead, came on a scramble in front of UConn goaltender Kaitlyn Shain after a shot by Friar senior Rush Zimmerman.
“Rush was coming around the corner with the puck, and I was kind of laying back a little, to make sure it actually came out,” Doolin said of the goal, her fifth of the season, leading all Providence freshmen. “When I saw her bringing it around to stuff it, I just went right in towards the goalie. The puck was there, and I dragged it around the goalie and chipped it in.”
On her status as the team’s shortest player, Doolin said, “To me, I don’t think size really matters, as long as you compensate. You’ve got to find ways.”
The Friars found a way to score early, as sophomore Sonny Watrous received a pass from junior Karen Thatcher deep in the slot, and slammed it home for a 1-0 lead at the 2:21 mark. That lead would hold through the end of the period, as Providence’s Amy Thomas made 12 saves in the opening frame.
The Huskies equalized early in the second period, as Huskies tri-captain Shannon Connolly snuck the puck in on Thomas’s short side during a power-play. Then, with 7:08 to go in the period, the Huskies took the lead. Freshman defenseman Liz Gallinaro launched a rocket from the left faceoff circle that found the top left corner of the net.
The lead didn’t last long, though, as Providence freshman Jenna Keilch put in her own rebound to tie it up with 4:15 to go in the period.
The first five minutes of the third period were relatively uneventful, until senior Rush Zimmernan swooped in on a Watrous rebound to give the Friars a 3-2 lead. The Friars extended their lead shortly thereafter, when Doolin connected from point-blank range to put her team up by two.
Doolin spent much of the third period on a line with Zimmerman and Kim Vesling, a mid-game adjustment by Deraney to spread out the team’s scoring leaders.
“I was shocked that Coach was changing up the lines like that,” Zimmerman said, though she added that the Thatcher-Zimmerman-Watrous line is regularly broken up during practices. “This week was the first time we skated in practice together as a line. We get put everywhere for these opportunities where Coach decides to switch lines up and give a different look. So, once the initial shock that he was going to do it during the game subsided, I think we did a good job working together with together with the girls we generally don’t play with.”
The game wasn’t over yet as UConn freshman Jaclyn Hawkins brought her team within one with her team-best 11th goal of the year with 2:34 line.
“I’m not going to lie,” Hawkins said. “I was trying to put it across the crease to my teammate, and it got stopped by their defenseman, and the puck was just lying there, so I just smacked it and hoped for the best.”
With less than two minutes to go, Linstad pulled Shain for an extra skater, but it was to no avail, as the Friars held on for the win.
These two teams will face off again on Sunday, with game time set for 2 p.m. at the Friars’ Schneider Arena.
Elliot Olshansky is an assistant editor for CollegeSports.com.