The University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team hosted the University of Maine Black Bears for a two-game series over the weekend. The games were played at the Whittemore Center in Durham. The Wildcats entered the game with a 1-3 record after picking up a win against Boston University in their last matchup.
Sophomore goaltender Nikki Harnett saw her second start in net for UNH this season. Harnett kept the Wildcats net safe most of the afternoon recording 31 saves. The Wildcats had no shortage of shots on goal, recording 21, but were unable to capitalize as the Black Bears won 2-1.
The Black Bears didn’t waste any time scoring, as they got out to a 1-0 lead early in the first period. UMaine’s junior forward Liga Miljone scored the first goal at the 1:07 mark off an assist from sophomore defense woman Amalie Anderson.
The Wildcats got on the scoreboard at the 9:34 mark of the first period off the stick of sophomore forward Jada Christian, assisted by first-year defender Charli Kettyle. This was Kettyle’s first career point for the Wildcats as they tied the game 1-1. The Wildcats and Black Bears finished the period tied 1-1 after both teams had power play opportunities that they failed to convert.
At the start of the second period, UMaine tested Harnett immediately. Outshooting UNH 17-6 in the second period, the Black Bears were aggressive offensively getting shots on goal with ease. UMaine scored a power play goal from junior defender Ida Press at 4:01 left in the period. This goal turned out to be the game winner for the Black Bears as they held UNH scoreless the rest of the way.
Harnett was effective in the second period, holding the Black Bears to one goal on 17 shots. She continues her solid play in goal, but her teammates haven’t put up enough goals to get her a win.
Coach Hilary Witt noted, “Nikki has been playing great for us, both goalies have. We just need to convert more opportunities and get pucks in the net.”
Coach Witt also said having a goaltender like junior Ava Boutilier to mentor younger players is a huge benefit to her.
“Ava is a captain for a reason, she’s a leader and definitely helps the younger players,” Witt added.
Stopping pucks hasn’t been the issue for the Wildcats this season, but rather getting their own shots to go in the net. They’ve been in games all season where their defensive effort was solid, but their shots just can’t seem to find the back of the net. That was the case for the Wildcats in the third period, as they had three power play opportunities and did not convert. They went on to lose the game 2-1 despite the strong effort from Harnett.
“At some point the team needs to just see the puck go in. Our effort is there,” said Witt.
The Wildcats fell to 1-4 on the season with the loss Friday against UMaine. UNH didn’t have long to recover from their loss Friday as they had a rematch with the Black Bears on Saturday. The Wildcats looked great in the first period out-shooting UMaine 7-3. Both the Wildcats and Black Bears had a power play opportunity they failed to convert. The first period ended 0-0.
UNH took the lead at the 3:10 mark on a goal from sophomore Rae Breton off a pass from first-year forward Chavonne Truter, giving the Wildcats a 1-0 lead. The Wildcats kept the pressure on UMaine, almost scoring again on a power play opportunity. The Black Bears out-shot UNH 9-6 in the second but were unable to get the puck past Boutilier. The second period ended with the Wildcats up 1-0.
The third period started how the Wildcats hoped as they controlled the puck for much of the first ten minutes. They had a power play opportunity early in the period but were unable to score. UMaine scored at the 11:46 mark after a barrage of shots on goal. The goal was scored by junior forward Ali Beltz as she snuck it behind Boutilier to tie the game 1-1. UMaine went on to score the game winning goal when sophomore Ida Kuoppala found space behind the Wildcats defense and buried a shot to make the game 2-1.
The Wildcats were unable to rally and fell 2-1 again at the hands of the Black Bears, bringing the Wildcats record to 1-5. The games for UNH this season have been extremely close with three of their five losses being by one goal.
Coach Witt said that looking ahead to the rest of their games, they will need to be active offensively and capitalize on power play opportunities.
“At the end of the day, like any sport, it’s about what’s on the scoreboard. We need to put more shots in the net,” Witt explained
UNH’s next game is against the University of Vermont on Saturday, Dec. 19. That game will be held at the Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, VT and will be aired on CBS Sportslive.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Bronner