The UNH women’s hockey team (3-2-2, 2-1-1) played two road games this past weekend and went 0-1-1. First-year goaltender Nikki Hartnett made her first career appearance in a 3-3 tie at UVM, and sophomore goaltender Ava Boutilier made 45 saves in a 4-1 loss at Northeastern.
In Friday’s game at UVM, the Wildcats found themselves in a hole at the end of the first period as they were down 3-0. The first goal was off a breakaway after a neutral zone turnover by the Wildcats just 2:24 into the game. The Catamounts would add two powerplay goals to take a 3-0 lead into the first intermission. Hartnett came in for relief of Boutilier and stopped all 19 shots that came her way for the rest of the game. She was good enough to be named Rookie of the Week in the Hockey East conference, the third time already this season a UNH player was given an individual honor.
The Wildcats did not sit back or fall flat and they decided to fight back as they have in the past. The team’s efforts to tie it was rewarded by taking at least one point out of the game.
“We just took it one goal at a time,” said head coach Hillary Witt. They would get on the board 6:36 into the second period. Senior forward Meghara McManus caught a long breakout pass from senior forward Nicole Dunbar, and then entered the zone, made a quick forehand to backhand deke then slipped the puck past the goalie’s skate. Sophomore defensewoman Talli Warren picked up the secondary assist on the goal.
The Wildcats fought back hard in the third period and managed to tie the game up at three to force overtime. They scored the second goal on a powerplay just 1:18 into the period, and it came from the three senior captains. Senior defensewoman Tori Howran passed to senior forward Carlee Turner, who then sent it to senior forward Taylor Wenzcowski at the point. She waited a second to settle the puck then ripped a shot labeled for the top-right corner to bring the ‘Cats back to within one goal.
The tying goal was executed by three first-year players and came with about four and a half minutes left in the game. First-year forward Tamara Thierus started the breakout by passing to first-year forward Annie Berry who then centered a pass to the slot, just above the crease where first-year forward Jada Christian crashed the net and tipped the pass through the goalie’s legs. That goal would hold up to force an overtime that went scoreless.
“It was nice to see the scoring spread out,” coach Witt said. She was very happy that some of the younger players on the team were able to find a way to contribute on the score sheet and score a timely goal for the team.
Despite going down by three goals early on, the Wildcats fought back and forced a tie. Nine different players found their way onto the score sheet in this game, with plenty of help from secondary scoring.
Sunday’s game was against the number three ranked team in the country: Northeastern. After getting pulled last game, Boutilier responded by setting a new career high in saves for one game with 45. Although the first period was scoreless, UNH had to kill off a five-on-three for one minute to keep the score even.
Neither team gave up a powerplay goal, with both teams taking six penalties, but Northeastern broke the ice mere seconds after one of their power plays expired. Northeastern closed out the second period with a shorthanded goal, just eight seconds left on the clock. That goal just before the second intermission would hold up as the game winner. Boutilier saw 21 shots in that second period but turned 19 of them away to keep the game within reach.
Northeastern would score their third goal of the game at 7:10 into the third period, and it was sophomore forward Chloe Aurard’s second of the game and second consecutive goal. The Wildcats would not get on the scoreboard until there was exactly three minutes left on the clock, with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker. Turner sent a cross ice pass over to Wenczkowski on the left side, where she sent that pass right to Dunbar who was in front of the crease and tipped the puck past the goalie to break the shutout. The Wildcats tried to pull the goalie again, but Northeastern sealed the deal on an empty net goal with just about 1:15 left to play. It was the first loss to a Hockey East conference opponent this season.
The Wildcats play their next game on Friday, Oct. 25 at home against rival UMaine at 6 p.m.