By GREG LAUDANI
Penn State defeated UNH 3-1 at the Whittemore Center. The loss drops the Wildcats’ to 7-17-1 overall this season.
After the Nittany Lions (13-10-3) raced out to a 1-0 lead, UNH’s Hannah Armstrong brought some momentum back to the Whitt, tying the game at 1-1 at 10:48 of the second period.
But Penn State grabbed the lead right back with 2:44 left in the second, as Emily Laurenzi drove a close range shot that trickled past Vaattovaara. Hannah Bramm added another goal at 3:00 of the third to extend the Nittany Lions’ lead to 3-1.
Vaattovaara finished with 16 saves, while Penn State goaltender Celine Whitlinger collected 32 saves on the night.
“We gave that one away,” Witt said. “That took the wind out of our sails a little bit but we didn’t bring it from the beginning.”
The Wildcats were unable to recover after Laurenzi’s goal. Despite outshooting Penn State, 33-19, UNH did not seem to generate many legit scoring chances. The Wildcats threw 10 shots on net, but they were not able to seriously threaten Penn State’s two-goal lead.
Although UNH put more shots on net than Penn State, Witt said she was not pleased with her team’s shot selection. She said that many of the shots were not “hard shots,” and were “not shots that you take to score.”
Armstrong said she is turning her focus to Maine after Saturday’s disappointing loss.
“We can’t dwell on it,” Armstrong said. “We need to figure out what we have to do to show up against Maine next weekend.”
UNH returns to action next weekend with home games against Maine at the Whittemore Center.
The games are scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 31 and Sunday, Feb. 1.
Witt said she is confident the Wildcats will get back on track against the Black Bears.
“This is the hardest working team that I’ve probably ever coached on a consistent basis,” Witt said. “But we were missing something this weekend, and I know that we’ll figure out and we’ll be ready to go against Maine.”
On Friday night, Nicoline Jensen scored her fourth goal of the season to propel the UNH women’s hockey team to a 2-0 win over Penn State. The victory was the third straight for the Wildcats, the squad’s longest winning-streak of the season.
Stellar performances by both goaltenders kept the game scoreless until Jensen broke through at 10:26 of the second. Jonna Curtis later added an empty-netter at 19:47 of the third to seal the game.
UNH goalie Vilma Vaattovaara dazzled on this night. The junior delivered especially acrobatic stops early in the first period, denying two breakaway opportunities within the game’s first four minutes. She finished the game with 20 saves. Penn State goaltender Hannah Ehresmann collected 32 saves in the loss.
“I think Vilma was the key,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “She played incredibly today. We outshot them but she had a lot of point-blank shots she had to take care of on breakaways and on the penalty kill.”
The Wildcats killed off seven penalties total, while Penn State fended off four. UNH was shorthanded four times in the first alone, including being faced with a 5-on-3 disadvantage after back-to-back tripping penalties by Jonna Curtis and Hannah Armstrong midway through the first period.
After the first period, Jensen and her teammates knew they had to provide Vaattovaara with more support.
“We knew that we weren’t playing well,” Jensen said. “We owe a lot to Vilma for being in that game. We all knew that we had to start skating because we can’t put everything on Vilma. We have to do something ourselves.”
The two teams were deadlocked at 10 shots each after the first. However, the Wildcats took over in the second and third periods, finishing with a 34-20 advantage in shots.