The Wildcats ended their season on a high note this past weekend with a big 5-1 win at home against the Boston College Eagles.
The seniors came up big on their senior night as six of the eight fourth-year skaters made their mark on the scoresheet, and three of them posted a multi-point game. The seniors were also strong on special teams as they registered three power play goals on six attempts, which garnered praise from head coach Hillary Witt.
UNH sophomore goalie Ava Boutilier stopped 30 out of 31 shots that came her way to help secure the win.
“We played good,” Witt said. “It was good to get the first couple goals there early on, so I think that gave us some confidence and we were able to finish…that helps.”
The action started just 3:01 into the game with Wildcat senior defense woman Abby Chapman breaking the ice with a shot off the post. It was her first goal of the season and it was a big one. The score was assisted by senior forward Meghara McManus and senior captain and defense woman Tori Howran.
“I think it really brought the energy on the bench, people were really excited for me and I think it kinda set the tone for the game,” Chapman said. “It was good to get that right off the bat, and get people’s minds focused on the game, get people excited and over that first hump.”
Witt also thought the first goal was instrumental to the win.
“It was a huge goal for the team, the fact that we scored it, the way that we scored it. It was really cool that it was a senior.”
The goal definitely sparked the team and just three minutes later, the Wildcats had a really good chance to extend the lead. Howran carried the puck along the wing and put a shot on net. The rebound rolled across the crease, but the Eagles did a good job stick checking the Wildcats and nobody was able to finish the play.
A minute later, the Wildcats had another high-quality chance as first-year forward Annie Berry went in on a two on one with senior forward Nicole Dunbar. Berry sent a pass cross ice and Dunbar deflected it on net, but was denied by the blocker of BC sophomore goalie Kelly Pickreign.
Just 11:10 into the first period, the Wildcats extended their lead with their first power play goal, as a shot from sophomore defensewoman Emily Rickwood deflected off the defense and in. It was her sixth goal of the season, assisted by senior captains, forward Carlee Turner and forward Taylor Wenczkowski.
The Eagles brought themselves back to within one goal late in the first period as a goal by sophomore forward Kelly Browne brought her team back into the game. The score was assisted by first-year forwards Caroline DiFiore and Hannah Bilka. The puck was right in front of the net and Browne took several whacks at the puck before finally slipping it past Boutilier.
“The first period was a little iffy, but I think we kind of picked it up as the game went on,” Chapman said. “We definitely had a lot of offensive zone chances and that’s something that the last few games we really haven’t had, so it was good we were trying to put some in and the defensive zone kind of came along with that.”
Just five minutes into the second period, the Wildcats regained their two-goal lead off a great goal from McManus. She caught an outlet pass in the neutral zone from Turner and raced in for a breakaway, made a quick forehand to backhand move and slipped the puck through the legs of Pickreign for her team-leading 17th goal of the year.
The Wildcats potted their second power play goal of the game just over halfway through the second period, as Dunbar caught a pass from first-year forward Tamara Thierus, took a step towards the net and ripped a shot off the iron for her sixth goal of the season. Howran collected her second assist of the game, as she was credited with the secondary assist.
The third period started to get chippy early on as Turner took a late hit after the whistle from sophomore defensewoman Jillian Fey. Wenczkowski came to Turner’s aid, shoving Fey and the rest of the players came together but Fey was dished out the only assessed penalty on the play. It set the tone for the period as six penalties were called in total. Three of them involved checking, one was for slashing and two for tripping.
The Wildcats made that penalty count as they tallied their third goal on the powerplay to make it 5-1. Sophomore forward Lauren Martin shipped a pass to Howran at the point and she took a shot that was deflected into the net by first-year forward Jada Christian for her ninth goal of the season.
Late in the third, Turner got involved in the physical side of the game again as she and BC sophomore forward Olivia Finocchiaro were given coincidental penalties. Turner was called for checking and Finocchiaro was called for hitting after the whistle. The Wildcats went down a player with one minute left as Howran got called for a trip, but they held the Eagles scoreless to finish out the game.
The Eagles had a big third period push as they outshot the Wildcats 12-6, but they were unable to solve Boutilier’s brilliance and the Wildcats closed out the season with a big win. Although they are going to the playoffs, they still have work to do according to Witt.
“We gotta clean up our (defensive) zone a little bit and you just got to keep plugging away. These kids are working really hard and playing with confidence so it’s fun to watch.”
With that win, the ‘Cats locked up sixth place in Hockey East and will travel to Providence to play the Friars in the first leg of a best of three series this Thursday, Feb. 27. The Wildcats lost the season series 2-1 to the Friars, but the one game in Providence was a 6-2 win for the Wildcats.