Feeling Black and Blue

Traditional rivals in women’s college hockey are hard to come by, but the enmity between Providence College and New Hampshire goes back as far as any of them.

It predates the six-year existence of the Women’s Hockey East Association. And stretching, as it does, all the way back to 1977, it predates the births of any of those who played in its most recent — and one of its most bruising — chapters, Sunday’s WHEA championship game, a 1-0 victory by New Hampshire.

“There’s definitely a huge rivalry,” said Providence College senior Sarah Feldman. “I think they’re pretty much everyone’s rival. Everyone considers them their rival because they’re such a good team. You can tell by the score, 1-0, that it was a hard fought game.”

To recount all those Friar/Wildcat clashes, 119 of them now (UNH boast a 68-40-11 advantage) is to glimpse the Alpha and Omega of women’s hockey.

Olympians have faced off against each other on campus, then been joined together as Olympians in Nagano, Salt Lake City, and Torino.

The longest college hockey game ever (mens or womens) was staged between the two schools, in the 1996 ECAC final (UNH 3-2 in five overtimes).

So these games have always meant something.

“It’s the oldest rivalry in women’s ice hockey,” said PC coach Bob Deraney. “There have been some tremendous battles over the years. It’s a privilege to be part of the UNH/Providence rivalry. You just saw another classic today. No one’s going to back down. We’ll go to the center of the ring and duke it out. And in the end, when the dust settles, hey, we’ve won our share, they’ve won their share.”

The recent past is anything but dull either.

Two two schools own all six WHEA tournament titles, which with UNH’s latest win, now stands squared at three apiece.

It’s safe to say then, that this generation’s Kathy Bryants still bleed UNH blue, while today’s Cammi Granatos sport Friar black. And never (except in the case of PC alum and former Wildcat coach Karen Kay) do the twain intertwine.

“Oh, for sure,” said UNH junior Sam Faber. “[Both] teams gives it their all and try to win. And there is pride [shared] between both schools.”

Pride, of course, is one thing. Mutual esteem is yet another.New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey said that there is still an abundance of both.

“I think the Providence/UNH is still very much alive,” he said. “There’s a healthy respect for each other’s programs. I just know it brings out the best in both teams. With UNH and Providence, [even] if your program’s not on top, you’re still going to push each other to the max. They still bring out the best in each other. And that hasn‘t changed a bit. Whether we‘re both NCAA caliber teams in that given year or not. It doesn‘t matter.”

New Hampshire, currently ranked No. 2 in the Nation, would have had a perfect run through its Hockey East schedule, except for the 1-1 stalemate it pulled out against the Friars.

And like the first playoff meeting between the two back in 1984, this, and 10 other tilts like this one, had a championship on the line.

“We’re told,” said departing Providence senior Danielle Tangredi, “from the minute we step on campus in September that it’s UNH/Providence and it’s a tradition for us to make playoffs. We always meet up with one another. It always comes down to that, it seems, and they’re always close games. We weren’t surprised to meet up with them, and I’m sure they weren’t surprised to see us.”

No one was.