The UNH women’s hockey team went into the weekend 0-2 after a two-week hiatus following their losses against Boston College. Their games scheduled for Nov. 27 and Nov. 28 against Holy Cross were cancelled amidst the ongoing effort by the NCAA to keep athletes safe during the pandemic.
The Wildcats hosted the Terriers on Friday, Dec. 4 at the Whittemore Center. The Terriers had yet to play their first game this season until their matchup against the Wildcats.
Ranked No. 8 in the nation heading into Friday, the Terriers came into the game ready to get their season rolling. UNH head coach Hilary Witt said nothing has changed for the Wildcats following the cancelled games.
“We’re on a strict protocol and we’ve been able to practice. The players and I are just grateful to be able to play,” explained Witt.
The Terriers out-shot UNH by three shots in the first period and senior Jesse Compher scored a goal late in the frame to put BU up 1-0.
In the second period BU scored again at the 7:15 mark to give their side a 2-0 lead. The second goal came by way of sophomore forward Julia Nearis. The Wildcats stayed within two goals for the rest of the period as their defense was able to contain the BU attack.
Early in the third period the Wildcats rallied as sophomore forward Tamara Thierus scored with 17 minutes to play.
Making her first start, Wildcat sophomore goalie Nikki Harnett recorded 26 total saves holding BU to only two goals. Harnett was pulled with 47 seconds left as the Wildcats tried one last attack. BU was able to run the time out and beat the Wildcats by a final of 2-1.
This loss dropped the Wildcats to 0-3. Coach Witt said despite the loss, her team’s physicality and grit gave her a reason to see promise.
The Wildcats and Terriers faced off the following day at the Whittemore Center in a rematch of Friday’s game. The Wildcats started slow allowing BU to jump out to a 1-0 lead in the first period off the stick of first year forward Clare O’Leary.
Compher netted a goal with a minute left in the first period giving BU a 2-0 lead over the Wildcats.
The Wildcats came out on fire in the second period with Thierus scoring a goal at the 1:35 mark to cut the lead to one. Thierus showed off her nose for the puck as she scored once again at 8:32 to tie the game.
The Wildcats continued their impressive defensive effort with junior goaltender Ava Boutilier recording 28 saves. Sophomore forward Jada Christian scored at the 17:10 mark to put the Wildcats up 3-2 – their first lead of the game.
The third period was a battle for shots as BU netted a goal at 6:43 tying the game 3-3. The goal came on a power play in which the Wildcats failed to stop BU’s Julia Nearis from sneaking in a shot.
UNH battled back defensively holding BU out of the zone. At the 7:15 mark, junior Lauren Martin answered the call. She scored the go-ahead goal for the Wildcats off a rebound and put the Wildcats up 4-3.
UNH held their ground and kept BU out of Boutilier’s face to hold on to the win. This game snapped a three-game losing streak against BU and was the first win for the Wildcats this season. Coach Witt said she was proud of how her team played.
“We’re passing really well and playing great defense,” explained Witt. “We’ve been physical and gritty, and it paid off in that one.”
Witt said a win like this feels good for the team and their morale is high. Thierus has been a bright spot for the Wildcats this season. She’s scored at least one goal in each of the last three games and recorded a point in every game this season. As for the rest of the season, Coach Witt said it’s all about patience and trusting what they’re doing.
“We’ve just got to keep plugging away and enjoy the opportunity we have to play,” she explained.
The Wildcats are now 1-3 on the season as they look forward to their matchup with the University of Maine. The Wildcats host the Black Bears in Durham on Friday, Dec. 11.
Photo Courtesy of Jack Bouchard: Number 18, Tamara Thierus