PC Hockey Teams Surge

For almost the entire season PC hockey fans have endured a severe goal draught. This past weekend the cork popped and the offense finally went into high gear. For the men only a poor defensive 3rd period cost them a sweep over the league's top team UNH. For the women it was even better, as they swept and therefore slipped past, Connecticut for third place.

For the women's team the weekend represented the end of their regular season. Saturday was the final home game for the team's four seniors. Before the game they and their families were recognized for their service during their time at PC. The seniors are Lauren Florio, who is a backup goalie who grew up down the street from PC. Also in this class is the team's top goalie Jana Bugden. Jana is a 5th year senior who was injured her junior year. In her first two seasons at PC she backboned the first two Hockey East championships. In those 4 playoff games she had 3 shutouts including shutouts of UNH in both championship games. New Mexico native Sonny Watrous is the lone graduating forward on the team. She too has sparkled in the playoffs as they won the second and third Hockey East championships. For her career, after this past weekend, she has scored 137 points. The final senior is Kristin Gigliotti one of the top offensive defensemen in the country, which helped earn her second team All American honors last season. She entered the senior day game with 96 career points.

During the course of the weekend it was the trio of Watrous, Bugden and Gigliotti who played a major role in the pair of PC victories. On Saturday Jana Bugden was named the game's second star as she saved 26 of 27 Connecticut shots, losing the shut out only when Connecticut scored a late second period when PC was playing two players short due to penalties. The number three star was Gigliotti who got the PC offense off to a quick start by scoring a power play goal on a blistering slap shot about 10 minutes into the game and who set up Mari Pekhonen's first goal. Pekhonen took Gigliotti's feeder and drove for the net and went top side with a quick wrist shot. Pekhonen stretched PC's lead later in the 2nd period when she was set up by Watrous. Again she flicked a quick wrister that seemed to deflect off the post.

The game was not as easy a win as the score indicates. When Jenna Keilch iced the game with the Friars fourth goal it marked an ironic end to the game. Connecticut had been called for only their 8th penalty of the game just as it was getting time for them to pull the goalie to make one final surge. Thus after having given Connecticut 15 power play chances throughout the game, the referee all but short circuited UConn's chances. Keilch pulled the plug when she fought off the Husky defenders, successfully putting the loose puck left at the crease by her initial shot.

When the teams reconvened for a rematch the next day in Storrs 3rd place was on the line. The Huskies held the upper hand as all they needed was a tie to clinch third, PC had to have a win. When all was said and done the Friars, the seniors in particular, had once again reached down and pulled out another must win.

The early going was a see saw affair with Connecticut always seeming to get the edge. Early in the first period UConn gained their first lead when they were able to bang home a loose puck from in front of the net. In response Gigliotti, set up by Watrous, knocked her second shot into the net. Before the period ended Connecticut took advantage of a break. PC tried to clear the puck, had it hit a slow moving linesman, bounce to a UConn player, who feed another Husky, who blasted a hard slap shot, which a third Husky tipped into the net. Not phased PC did not let the lead stand for long. Once again in a battle in front, a Friar held her ground and knocked home her second opportunity for the goal, this time by Freshman Colleen Martin.

With the stakes rising as the game clock ticked away, the second period began to more resemble playoff hockey. The Friars would hold a slight edge in play over the course of the period, but again it was UConn who struck first. This time with over 16 minutes gone a Husky defender made a rink length rush to slice through the PC defense and when cut off finally dish the puck to an open UConn player behind the net who simply skated in front and lifted a shot over Bugden. This time PC's response came with 7 seconds left in the period. Gigliotti got off another hard shot which was tipped on goal by Sarah Feldman, and ended up loose, allowing Mari Pekhonen to pounce for her 17th goal of the season.

The momentum was just the boost PC needed to get the final drive to take the game. Early in the final period the Friars struck for 2 quick goals. First Kristin Gigliotti notched her 17th goal when she let loose another blast from the point. Then about a minute later Jenna Kelich opened the lead to two when she used her height and strength to get around a pair of Husky defenders and still get off a strong shot which slipped past the Connecticut goalie. Since a tie was as good as a win for Connecticut they were willing to gamble to pull their goalie with over 2 minutes to go. At the point they had the chance to pull her PC was finishing a power play chance so PC was still in position to regain control. Once again Gigliotti found the puck and feed it to junior Erin Normore who scored into the open net.

For their effort this past weekend the team will travel to Durham N.H. for the Hockey East playoffs. By moving into third place the Friars will face off against Boston College. So far this season the Friars have dropped 2 games to the Eagles. They lost the recent pair of games 6-2 after winning the final first semester game at Schneider 3-2. BC has a young, but well balanced team. They are led by their freshman goalie, Molly Schaus, who has seemed to come up with all the big saves when called up to bail her team out. The Eagles however are best known as a quick team with a potent offense. They had 10 players score 10 or more points. Their standouts are another pair of freshmen, Kelli Stack, who score 50 points on the season and Allie Thunstrom who had among her 44 points 28 goals.

The Friars will once again count on their veterans to dig deep one last time. A big weekend will be needed from goalie Jana Bugden, who for her effort this past weekend was named Hockey East defensive player of the week. PC had 4 players score 10 or more goals including team leaders Mari Pekhonen and Kristin Gigliotti who have 17 each. Gigliotti also saw her career point total pass the century mark this past weekend when she scored 3 goals and 3 assists. That effort led her to be named Hockey East Player of the Week.

For the men opportunity slipped away Friday night. PC scored first when their most pleasant surprise of the season, Greg Collins opened the scoring. UNH tied the score when the puck went off Tyler Sim's skate into the net. The Cats gained the lead less then a minute later when Sims was unable to get back in position to stop a second UNH shot.

In the second period PC fought back and played their strongest period of the game. First Tony Zancanaro scored in close with a backhander to tie the game. UNH again grabbed the lead as Friar killer Jacob Micflikier collected the second of his hat trick goals. Again the Friars responded. Jon Rheault, who seems to be taking his game up a notch as playoff time approaches, brought the teams even again. Then on PC's third power play of the game, John Cavanagh, returning to action from an arm injury suffered against Wisconsin in late December, set up Cody Wild who had stormed the net to take the set up for his 5th goal of the year. The power play goal broke a streak of 62 consecutive chances without a goal..

Unfortunately for PC Micflikier struck again to tie the score before the 2nd period ended. Then despite continued pressure by PC in the final period, it was the Wildcats who made the most of their opportunities. UNH scored 2 goals to pull away and drop PC to a 6-4 loss.

At the opening face off on Saturday PC remained with its back against a wall. They still held the edge over Lowell by virtue of the tie breaker. Lowell was facing off against BC after dropping a Thursday contest to them. When the starting lineups were announced Coach Army pulled a stunner, changing his goalie to backup Chris Mannix. Mannix had two solid efforts against Northeastern last week, but this was his first career start.

UNH actually got the first real chances of the game, piling up a 10-2 edge in early shots. On one early chance PC had to take a penalty to prevent a clear break-in on Mannix. However it was PC who converted on another power play chance to grab an early lead. Jon Rheault took a Cavanagh pass, made the strong move to the net and slipped it past UNH netminder Kevin Regan as he got in close. As time was winding down on a UNH power play it was Rheault again turning on the afterburners and slipping down low to beat Regan again. The Friars closed out a strong first period when Colin McDonald rifled a shot from between the face off circles. The goal missed being a power play goal by 3 seconds.

The Friars got off to a quick start in the second period and essentially salted the game. Some nice passing work on the right wing side by John Cavanagh, Rheault and Chase Watson led to one power play goal. A succession of UNH penalties saw Providence score a second power play goal. This time Matt Taormina came off the point and was in position after the initial shot hit the post to score his 4th goal of the season. When UNH scored their first goal at 15:08 of the period and when PC took a penalty seconds later it gave the crowd pause to wonder what would happen next. This time PC rose to the occasion, successfully killed the penalty, blunting any momentum UNH had. Then PC put an exclamation point on the period when freshman defenseman Mark Fayne picked up a loose puck UNH was trying to get out of the zone and fired a shot from the point into the net.

PC closed out the scoring in the first minute of the final period when Nick Mazzolini scored on a set up from Greg Collins and Jon Rheault. For Collins it capped a 3 point weekend which saw him named to the Hockey East Honor Roll. Rheault's assist gave him a career high 5 points on the night and combined with 2 points on Friday gave him a 7 point weekend and league Player of the Week honors.

PC continued to press play but seemed more content to see time run off the clock as they sought to protect goalie Chris Mannix from any extended UNH pressure. PC was aided in that effort by having a man advantage for 5 minutes. The major and game disqualification was assessed to the previous night's star Jacob Mikflikier when he speared Tony Zancararo as he closed in on Zancanaro, who had slowed down to get a shot off. In the ensuing argument Wildcat captain Josh Ciocco was received a misconduct penalty, thus depriving UNH of two of their top scorers.

The win combined with the Sunday loss by Northeastern to UMass leaves open the possibility that PC could still finish as high as 7th place. Lowell ended up losing their Saturday contest to BC and now sits 2 points behind PC. PC has a home and home series with last place Merrimack. Despite their struggles Merrimack won the only meeting this year between the two teams and also won the final meeting last year. Lowell has a pair of games at Vermont. To clinch a playoff spot PC needs a combination of 2 points either from Lowell losing any of its 4 potential points or from PC's victories or ties. PC holds the tiebreaker with Lowell by virtue of a 2-1 series edge. The Friars also hold the second tie breaker against Northeastern which is why 7th place is still possible. Northeastern completes its season Wednesday night so by the time PC plays Friday they will know if that is still possible. The Huskies play Boston University, with the Terriers still fighting off a challenge from BC for 2nd place. If NU loses, PC must sweep Merrimack. The first tie breaker leaves the teams still tied as they split the season series 1-1-1. On the second tie breaker, most league wins, the Friars would edge out NU 9 wins to 8.

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