In a season when the UNH women’s ice hockey team looked to build and succeed around star senior Jonna Curtis for the last time, they came just one game shy of moving to the semifinals of the Hockey East playoff tournament.
UNH fell to Boston University in Boston over a weekend in which the ‘Cats played close with the Terriers, but fell in the series 2-1.
“I thought our kids came ready to play,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “I thought we were confident.”
In game one, UNH found themselves playing its best hockey at the most opportune time.
Led by sophomore goaltender Hilary Cashin, who notched 29 saves in game one, the ‘Cats controlled nearly all phases of the game and played with quickness that had BU trailing.
“We came out and did great things,” said Witt. “We were able to get some pucks to the net. We just played an overall great game that day. Cashin played great.”
Amy Schlagel put UNH on the board at 3:53 of the second and again at 12:45 in the period to give the ‘Cats the advantage on the scoreboard in Boston.
Nicole Dunbar kept the momentum rolling for the ‘Cats at 5:20 of the third period. Dunbar put UNH up 3-0 as she flanked the net and pushed the puck behind the net.
UNH began to slip mid-way through the third period, as the ‘Cats defense began to falter in front of Cashin. It started with BU’s Mary Parker finding the back of the net to put BU on the board, 3-1.
27 seconds later after pulling their goaltender at 2:50 of the third, BU came within one to make it 3-2.
But Curtis became the difference.
Curtis secured the win with a goal at 19:19 by taking advantage of a loose puck in front of BU’s net. The goal gave UNH the two-goal lead at 4-2 and the win in game one.
Game two for UNH had its ups and certainly its downs as the ‘Cats ultimately fell, 4-3.
“It was kind of a weird game,” said Witt. “I thought we battled hard, and I thought Cashin played great.”
UNH had managed a 3-1 lead by the second period in game two, with Schlagel scoring a power-play goal at 3:45 of the second period to give the ‘Cats the third goal.
From there, it was downhill for UNH.
BU matched the pace and speed UNH had used to their advantage and put three unanswered goals on Cashin and decimated UNH’s hopes of leaving Boston Saturday for the semifinals.
“I thought she played so well. She gave us a chance to win. That’s all you can ask for from a goalie. She was solid for us,” Witt said.
On Sunday for game three, after one of the most contested battle all season for the ‘Cats, UNH came a goal short and the season came to a heartbreaking finish in the third and final game of the series.
“[Sunday] was probably the best game we played all year discipline-wise,” Witt said. “We needed to get some more pucks to the net. But the game could have gone either way. Unfortunately, we didn’t get on top, but I couldn’t be more proud of our kids.”
Marie-Jo Pelletier got UNH up early at 0:17 of the first period on an unassisted goal, but UNH wouldn’t hold the lead for long.
At 4:07 of the first, BU’s Samantha Sutherland beat Cashin, followed by another BU goal shortly after. Just 29 seconds later, Rebecca Leslie put another puck past Cashin, who was pulled and replaced with Kyra Smith after allowing the two quick goals.
Pelletier put UNH in reaching distance for the win with a second goal at 3:15 of the second to tie the game at 2-2.
But a BU goal at 13:13 of the third period would seal the win advance the Terriers to the next round while UNH heads home.
“I think for our program we took a step forward,” said Witt. “I’m proud of our kids and they played their hearts out.”