The UNH women’s ice hockey team has had struggles this season. There’s no secret to that. On a season that began with five straight losses all to Top-10 teams, more struggles would follow.
Tuesday night’s matchup against another team below .500 in Harvard Universitywas poised to be a competitive fight between two teams looking to cease losing streaks of its own.
During Tuesday night’s tilt at the Whittemore Center with the Crimson, UNH was in a familiar situation. With the Wildcats being outscored 15-3 in recent matchups, UNH was minutes away from suffering a similar fate, losing in a decisive third period.
That streak ended Tuesday night, with an overtime win led by senior captain Jonna Curtis, who finished with two goals, including the overtime game-winner, en route to a 3-2 win.
“I thought we came out ready to play,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “The kids played hard and it looked like the type of game the kids had fun playing.”
A detrimental hallmark of UNH’s game this year has been giving up early leads, which occurred again on Tuesday when UNH again found itselves in a 1-0 hole.
However, down 1-0, trailing in the second period, it was once again Curtis who came thorugh in a clutch moment for the Wildcats.
Curtis has been the most consistent offensive performer in key moments for the ‘Cats this season. On Tuesday, she did it again with a wrap-around goal on Harvard’s Molly Tissenbaum to knot things up at 1-1 in 13:55 in the second period.
“Can [Curtis] stick around for five more years?,” Witt quipped. “She’s like the little engine that could, and we really appreciate her efforts.”
The captain from Elk River, Minnesota has tallied 8 goals on the season and leads UNH in points, goals, assists, power-play goals, game-winning goals and shots.
With numbers as such, Curtis credits the team’s ability to create opportunities for her.
“The team is working hard,” said Curtis. “When they’re working hard, we get opportunities, and I guess I’m just there getting those opportunities.”
Hilary Cashin had been excellent all night. She made the key saves to keep the ‘Cats in the game entering the third. Midway through the third period, Cashin had one of her few miscues in the game leading to a Harvard lead.
Harvard’s Kat Hughes beat Cashin with a five-hole goal at 10:15 to put the Crimson up 2-1. It was a deflating goal to give up, with UNH having a 5-on-3 power play just moments prior.
UNH had an important response. It has been an area of struggle for the ‘Cats this season, especially in their most recent matchups.
Amy Schlagel may have solved that problem with one of the most important goals of the season for the Wildcats.
At 16:19, with the ‘Cats down 2-1 and nearly three minutes away from a four-game losing streak, Schlagel beat Tissenbaum with a snipe of a wrist shot from the slot that sailed glove-side high and tied the game at 2-2.
“I was thinking about when we were going to pull the goalie,” said Witt. “[Schlagel] made a great shot. I thought she had a good game, thought she gave herself opportunities so I was happy to see her get that goal.”
Schlagel’s heroics paved the way for Curtis to lift the ‘Cats in overtime with a power-play goal at 3:33 in the frame. With traffic surrounding the net, Curtis stabbed at loose puck near Tissenbaum’s right pad and snuck the puck through.
It was typical Curtis goal, one that put UNH on the right track while avoiding another punishing loss.
UNH will face another challenge with a home-and-home series with Providence starting on Saturday on the road and Sunday at the Whittemore Center, both starting at 2 p.m.
“Just keep playing how we’re playing,” Curtis said. “Working hard, doing all the little things. I think that’s what we need to keep focusing on.”