BOSTON — The opening game of the 2005 Hockey East Women’s Championship matched a tournament-tested, top-seeded Providence squad against a young Boston College squad playing its first Hockey East playoff game.
In the end, Providence made no doubt about it: experience won out.
The Friars, undefeated through the first two championships of the fledgling women’s league, played a near flawless game and buried Boston College, 9-1, to advance to Sunday’s championship game, which has an NCAA autobid at stake for the first time this season.
“I felt that today we proved how good we can be,” said Providence’s Rush
Zimmerman, who registered the first hat trick in the tournament’s three-year history, burying all three goals in the second period.
You wouldn’t have anticipated such an easy ride to the title game considering that BC dealt Providence its last defeat by a 4-1 margin. And truth be told, Saturday’s result was not as lopsided as the final score indicated.
The shots on goal were 30-29 in favor of Providence, but the bottom line was the Friars took advantage of almost every scoring chance while BC simply did not.
Particularly frustrating for Boston College was its inability to score on the power play. The Eagles went 1-for-8 with the man advantage.
“We are what we are, and we’ve lived and died by the power play,” said Boston College coach Tom Mutch, whose Eagles entered the game with the league’s best conversion rate on the man advantage. “Today, [PC] defended that well.”
For the two-time defending champ Friars, early in the game it appeared that experience is what paid dividends. Despite being outworked and outhustled in the early going, the Friars ability to remain composed not only kept them from falling behind, it translated into a hefty lead.
The Friars popped the games’ first two goals, with Hilary Greaves scoring on a rebound shot at 2:30 and Sonny Watrous netting her first of the game and 20th of the season at 8:45.
BC pulled within a goal after working some perfect tic-tac-toe passing on the power play at 13:07. Sarah Feldmen finished off the play with a deflection past Providence netminder Amy Thomas (28 saves) to pull within a goal at 2-1.
Providence, though, took advantage of BC defensive mistakes late in the period. Rachel Crissy was given ample room in the slot to fire a shot past BC netmider Alison Quandt (16 saves) at 17:14. And Watrous finished off a two-on-one with Kristin Gigliotti with just 23 seconds remaining to build a three-goal cushion heading into the locker room.
Watrous’ goal opened the floodgates in the second period. Providence opened up an 8-1 lead by exploding for four goals–one from Gigliotti and three from Zimmerman capped with an insult-to-injury tally with one second left in the period.
BC pulled Quandt in favor of Lisa Davis (five saves) in the third, but the Friars continued to pour it on with Gigliotti’s second goal of the game at 3:09 to account for the 9-1 final.
In the end, BC’s Mutch could only shake his head and hope his young Eagles squad could take the experience of tournament play as something to build upon.
“Once we got down, it was hard for our young kids to battle back,” Mutch said. “Maybe the experience of being here and how young we are – time will tell – but there’s no doubt that Boston College will be back here.”
For the Friars, they now stand one game away from the goal that they’ve hoped to achieve for years now, an NCAA appearance.
“We have three championships behind us and we want to win another one,” said Zimmerman. “When I was an underclassman we won the ECAC East tournament and it was sad that we weren’t able to advance [to the NCAA tournament] because we were playing such good hockey.
“Yes, the [NCAA] tournament is in the back of our minds, but we’re also focused on playing one game at a time. We took care of today’s opponent and hopefully we’ll take care of tomorrow’s opponent so we can advance.”
If experience again can have impact on that outcome, you have to believe that the Friars have a very good chance.