After an offseason of uncertainty, UNH hockey is back. There was much speculation if a season would ever have the chance to be played this year, but on Nov. 11 Hockey East released its tentative schedule for both the men and women. The women’s team have high hopes and will get the first chance to break in the ice at the Whittemore Center on Nov. 20.
The Wildcats are looking to build off their momentum from a season where they made an appearance in the Hockey East semifinals. The team was eliminated by UConn and finished with an 18-15-4 record. Head coach Hilary Witt expressed her confidence in the team and pointed to team captain, junior goaltender Ava Boutilier as an anchor for the team.
Witt applauded the effort of the university along with her team for the effort that’s been put forth ahead of the 2020-21 season.
“Everybody’s tried hard. The faculty along with student athletes have tried so hard to get a chance to play,” explained Witt. “Things are different everywhere, but this team is resilient and that’s what really shines through.”
This year’s team will rely on the experience they gained from a season ago. With 16 players returning from last year’s team, this squad has the pedigree to make another run in the Hockey East Tournament.
The team will play behind the leadership of Boutilier after a season in which she finished sixth in the nation in save percentage with .940 and sixth in shutouts. Along with this, she was ninth best in college hockey with 1.80 goals against average. She was named to the Hockey East All-Star Third Team.
Senior defenseman Maddie Truax was named as one of the team’s assistant captains and will be the leader of the Wildcat defense. She ranked second on the team in blocks last season and had a game winning goal against UConn in 2019-20.
Junior forward Lauren Martin was named the other assistant captain. She looks to build on her impressive 2019-20 season where she displayed versatility throughout her game. She led all UNH forwards with 31 blocks and was second on the team in faceoff wins with 311.
The athletes are slated to play a 24-game schedule after plenty of uncertainties at the start of the academic year. The schedule remain tentative as Hockey East continues to prioritize the health and safety of everybody involved.
“The student-athletes have done an incredible job. We’re all so grateful to get a chance to play and the players are definitely excited to get out there,” noted Witt.
The team will face off against Boston College on Friday, Nov. 20 in Durham. Puck drop will take place at 4:30 P.M. The game will be closed to spectators aside from essential staff. The matchup will be televised on NESN. After playing on Friday, they’ll have a quick turnaround before their rematch against the Eagles in Chestnut Hill.
UNH took two out of three in the season series against the Eagles a season ago.
The Wildcats will then head to Holy Cross for their game on Nov. 27.
Photo Courtesy of Dave O’Brien: junior goaltender Ava Boutilier