BY GREG LAUDANI
The UNH women’s hockey team honored its seniors Saturday afternoon before the team played its final home game of the season on Senior Day at the Whittemore Center.
Following its 5-1 loss to Northeastern, seniors Kayla Mork and Hannah Armstrong showed their love for the place the Wildcats call home.
“It was an honor to play here today and all the four years that we’ve had here,” Mork said. “I think it’s cool also to think about the tradition and the great players that have played here. And to be able to help this program grow is really an honor.”
Senior Day gave Armstrong time to reflect on her experiences inside the building that looks a lot like a spaceship. But when asked what stands out most to her about the Whitt, Armstrong’s first thought was about the rink’s dimensions giving her team an advantage.
The Whitt offers the only full Olympic-sized sheet of ice in Hockey East that many teams are not accustomed to. Armstrong said she is thankful for how the 200 feet by 100 ft. sheet of ice is capable of giving opponents fits.
“The ice is bigger than any other sheet of ice we play on,” Armstrong said. “When other teams come in, they are at a disadvantage because we are used to playing with more ice. Teams have to adjust when they come in here.”
Armstrong could not name a favorite memory she experienced at the Whitt. And that is not because there was a shortage of experiences during her four years at UNH. The senior said she has appreciated every second of her Wildcat career.
“To be honest, I don’t really have a specific game,” Armstrong said. “I’ve just enjoyed my time here, every season and every game no matter how it ended or what happened. It’s just sad its coming to an end.”
Mork, who hails from Victoria, Minnesota, said one of her favorite Whitt memories was when her hometown team came to Durham to play UNH during the 2012-13 season. She even mentioned what her Minnesota friends thought of New Hampshire’s hockey palace.
“It was fun when Minnesota came here to play,” Mork said. “It was cool to play against a lot of my friends, and they were really surprised at what a nice facility we had here.”
Head coach Hilary Witt raved about her team’s seniors and their ability to adapt to change, as both Witt and assistant coach Bill Bowes are new to the staff this season.
“They are a special group,” Witt said. “It is really difficult when you have a new coaching staff come in for your senior year. They’ve persevered and fought through a lot of changes.”
“They’ve been through a lot in their four years and you couldn’t as for a nicer group of kids. I couldn’t be happier to have these kids as my first seniors,” Witt said.
Mork said she was happy to play for UNH’s new staff during her final season with the Wildcats.
“With such a great group of girls and the new coaches this year, it has been an absolute honor to play for this team,” she said.
Now with the playoffs looming, Witt expressed confidence in her team’s chances to make some noise. She spoke about the Wildcats’ strong skating and puck-hunting abilities as critical factors in helping UNH succeed in the postseason.
“When we use our speed, we don’t give teams a lot of time with the puck,” Witt said. “We take away time and space, and I think that is frustrating for a lot of teams. We hunt the puck back after we take shots or lose it in the offensive zone, which can be incredibly frustrating when other teams are trying to start offensive rushes.”
“I would be afraid to play us,” Mork said. “I think we still have a lot of big games left and the team is really starting to come together.”