By MARK GARBINO
The Wildcats capped off a dramatic comeback with two late goals to defeat the Oakville Junior Hornets 4-3 in Saturday afternoon’s exhibition game at the Whittemore Center.
Trailing 3-2 late in the third period, the Wildcats applied consistent pressure in the offensive zone. They were rewarded with just over six minutes remaining when a scramble occurred in front of Oakville’s net, and the loose puck ended up on the stick of Cassandra Vilgrain, who fired it home.
“Julia Fedeski was right down there towards the crease in the slot area,” said head coach Hilary Witt. “We want to get that fourth attacker. We need to have more people involved.”
Following the tying goal, the Wildcats had momentum on their side and pushed for another goal. Just three minutes later, they found the back of the net again. Sophomore defenseman Amy Schlagel ripped a shot from just inside the blue line that made its way through traffic and beat the Oakville goalie over the blocker.
Coach Witt hopes to get more offensive production from her defensemen.
“We need to get more production out of the defense,” she said. “We want them to be aggressive and shoot that puck. We don’t want to be one-dimensional. We want to be able to score with five people on the ice.”
The Wildcats had a jump in their step off the opening faceoff, and controlled the majority of play for the first ten minutes. Their first high quality scoring chance came when Schlagel carried the puck around the defense down the left side of the Oakville zone. She faked the shot, pulling the goalie out of her net, and zipped around the back of the net, feeding a pass out front to give Taylor Wenczkowski a wide open net, but her shot was blocked wide.
Momentum swung in Oakville’s favor for the final five minutes of the period. UNH goalie Ashley Wilkes was continuously pressured as the Hornets began putting plays together in the Wildcats’ zone. She kicked away the first scoring threat she faced on a one-timer from the top of the crease.
The play remained in the Wildcats’ end, and in the final 3:10 of the period, Oakville struck twice. The first goal came after a breakout pass from Jonna Curtis was intercepted and shot on net from the point, generating a rebound off Wilkes’s right pad that was tapped in.
Former UNH hockey star and current Oakville assistant coach Courtney Birchard suited up for the game. She went on an individual rush along the left sideboards, blowing by the defense and roofed a shot short side over Wilkes. Her goal came just 43 seconds after the Hornets’ first goal, giving them a 2-0 lead through 20 minutes.
UNH looked more relaxed to begin the second period and were able to get on the board just under four minutes in. Freshman defenseman Marie-Jo Pelletier poke checked the puck to keep it in the offensive zone, and then centered a pass to an isolated Carlee Toews at the front of the net, who slid a shot five-hole.
Oakville once again gained a two-goal lead 13:30 into the second period as a Hornet’s trickling shot on a breakaway found its way past senior goalie Vilma Vaattovaara.
The Wildcats answered back and cut the deficit to 3-2. Amy Boucher brought the puck down the left side and completed a tape-to-tape pass to Vilgrain, whose one-timer snuck past the goalie’s glove.
Captain Sara Carlson was impressed with the freshmen, and has high hopes for them.
“Of course, they were super nervous, like all freshmen usually are, but they really held their own out there,” Carlson said. “They were doing really good and they’re only going to help our team.”
The season starts on Oct. 2 vs. Maine in Durham.
Late goals ease Hornets' sting
By MARK GARBINO