What began as a close goaltender’s battle ended with another third period meltdown for the Wildcats, who fell to the No. 5 Boston College Eagles on Friday, 4-1.
However, on Saturday, UNH entered the game with poise and determination, and it was evident in the early goings. The ‘Cats controlled the pace on Saturday and hemmed Merrimack College with speed and consistent offensive pressure en route to a thumping 6-2 win at the Whittemore Center thanks impart to a four-goal effort from Jonna Curtis.
“We did all the little things,” Curtis said. “The whole team played great. I was just lucky enough to get all those lucky bounces. But it’s really a team effort.”
Curtis solidified her hat trick and more in UNH’s first win of the season with two empty net goals at 17:45 and 19:47.
“If we’re going to be successful, we’re going to need [Curtis] to do that,” said Witt. “It’s good to see her getting back to form.”
The Wildcats, who entered Friday’s matchup winless on the season, came with a goal in mind that was about limiting the No. 5 Eagles at the Whittemore Center in the scoring department, a challenge that ultimately could not be met.
“They just had a better effort in the third,” Taylor Wenczkowski said, who scored the lone goal for the ‘Cats. “I think we need to come out stronger.”
The Wildcats entered the game with four straight losses on the season, three of which were on the road. Prior to Friday night’s tilt, the crux of UNH’s issues were on offense, getting outscored 15-4 entering their matchup against the Eagles.That trend continued on Friday.
“Overall, I thought we opened up the game for ourselves,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “We had quality offensive chances, but you got to bury those… It’s certainly frustrating.”
Wenczkowski knotted up the game at 1-1 55 seconds into the second period. The ‘Cats entered the zone with numbers and Carlee Turner carried the puck in deep before sending it back to Wenczkowski, who flexed a wrist shot in the top left corner past Eagles goaltender Katie Burt.
Smith, along with the rest of her team, felt the early going jitters of the matchup.
The ‘Cats were on their heels as BC worked the puck on the power play from the point, where defensemen Megan Keller fired a slap shot from the point that sailed past Smith at 9:45 in the first period.
BC’s Kristyn Capizzando and Makenna Newkirk capitalized on net-front miscues. Capizzando at 4:22 and Newkirk at 10:02 propelled the Wildcats to a 3-1 lead with regulation time winding down.
Grace Bizal caped off the third-period thrash with an empty net goal at 18:53.
On Saturday, the Wildcats squared off with another Hockey East opponent in Merrimack College.
Merrimack was able to tie the game at 1-1 at 5:37 in the second period, but speed and determination allowed the ‘Cats to regain the lead in the second. Meghara McManus handed UNH the game-winning goal while beating two Merrimack defenders and sent a wrist shot from the right circle that beat Lea-Kristine Demers at 6:36
“We did a lot of good things offensively,” said Witt. “We were really responsible in our end. The beginning of the second, I thought we were a little flat. I was proud of us in the third.”
Curtis’ efforts were shown in the first period when dangled the puck through the slot with defenders poking at her. She corralled the puck on her stick with a Merrimack defender poking and wristed the puck glove-side high to put UNH up 1-0 at 9:44 in the first. She also scored a power play goal at 13:45 in the second to put UNH up 3-1.
Turner put the ‘Cats up 4-1 in the second with a grinding goal near the end boards past three defenders and flicked the puck shoulder-high on the right post at 16:25 in the third period to ice the game for the ‘Cats.
“The kids have been working so hard,” said Witt. “I’m happy for them. It’s nice to see them with big smiles on their faces.”
The Wildcats will play Clarkson Univeristy next On Saturday, Oct. 22 at the Whittemore Center.