University of New Hampshire (UNH) women’s hockey team (6-11-1) faced off against No. 10 Providence College (10-5-1) on Friday at The Whittemore Center. Coming off two straight wins against Merrimack College, the Wildcats kept their defensive intensity high.
The Wildcats generated an early advantage against the Friars with an 8-4 shot advantage in the first period. The Wildcats had an opportunity at the nine-minute mark when first-year forward Nicole Kelly put back-to-back shots on goal followed by a rebound by first-year defender Chari Kettyle. Senior goaltender Sandra Abstreiter made the save, keeping the game scoreless after the first period.
The Wildcats were able to draw a penalty at the 5:22 mark to go on the first power play of the game. The power play came to an end at 5:41 when UNH committed a tripping penalty turning the power play into a 4-on-4.
UNH had another goal opportunity with 5:30 remaining when sophomore forward Tamara Thierus sliced to the right of the net but left the puck short for Abstreiter to make the save. Providence had a 9-8 shot advantage in the second period, but the game remained scoreless.
Head coach Hilary Witt of UNH said the team’s defense has been trending upwards over the last few games.
“With the young core we have, we’ve had our downs in the early half of the season,” said Witt. “At this point in the season, we’re in more of a rhythm and our younger players have more experience.”
The third period began with offensive pressure from all angles for Providence. The Friars kept the puck in the Wildcats’ zone for much of the final frame. Senior forward Grace Middleton almost put the Wildcats on the board at the 10:31 mark but she was saved by Abstreiter.
The Wildcats got the goal they’d been looking for all game with 36.4 seconds remaining. Kettyle put the puck in the net for the Wildcats off a rebound. Providence pulled Abstreiter but the Wildcats were able to hold them off and get the win by a final of 1-0.
Coach Witt explained this was a great win for the team.
“We can play against anybody. Our record doesn’t show how good this team is.”
The Wildcats had held opponents scoreless in two straight games heading into their rematch Saturday with the Friars at Schneider Arena in Providence.
Saturday was a much different story for both the Wildcats and Friars. Providence got off to a hot start netting a goal less than two minutes into the game off the stick of First-year defender Brooke Becker. Wildcats Sophomore forward Jada Christian answered with an unassisted power play goal at the 10:11 mark. Christian stuffed the puck past Abstreiter to tie the game at one.
The Friars wasted no time answering with sophomore forward Isabelle Hardy scoring less than 30 seconds later to retake the lead for Providence. First-year UNH forward Avery Myers scored at the 17:40 mark with first-year forward Ciara Wall and senior defender Julia Scammell being credited with assists. The Friars had a 15-6 shot advantage in the first period but the score remained tied 2-2.
UNH Head coach Hilary Witt explained how the team is spreading out their goal scoring across the team this season.
“We haven’t had just one goal scorer this year. Everyone on the team can get to the net,” she explained.
Witt noted the leadership of juniors Lauren Martin and Emily Rickwood helping younger players find opportunities on the offensive end.
The Wildcats gained their first advantage of the game at the 13:59 mark in the second period when Myers punched in her second goal of the game. The goal came off a cross-ice pass from Kettyle. The goal put the Wildcats up 3-2. The Friars were unable to net any goals in the second period but had a 12-10 shot advantage.
Coach Witt noted that the Wildcats defense all starts with the goalie.
“Ava [Boutilier’s] been playing great, especially over the last few games,” said Witt. “If she’s stopping shots like she is, our defense is much more consistent. We play three freshman a lot and they’ve really stepped up.”
The Friars came out firing in the third period launching a barrage of shots at Boutilier. Senior forward Hayley Lunny scored at the 2:07 mark to tie the game. Providence regained the lead at the 5:03 mark when first-year forward Lindsay Bochna netted her first of two goals in the game. Bochna scored her second at 14:13 to put the Friars up 5-3.
Wildcats junior forward Lauren Martin scored an extra attacker goal at the 17:44 mark when Boutilier was pulled from the net. Down 5-4, the Wildcats pulled Boutilier once again in hopes to tie the game. UNH was instead called for a penalty and forced to put Boutilier back in goal. The Friars held UNH to no shots after the goal by Martin giving them the win by a final of 5-4.
Wildcats Head Coach Hilary Witt said the team needs to be better at holding the lead in the third period but she’s proud of their effort.
“This team never stops fighting if we’re down,” explained Witt. “The energy didn’t change when they took the lead down the stretch.”
Witt explained her current assessment of the team after the loss.
“I really like this team. We’re a bit underrated and that’s okay because you can strike when the iron’s hot and catch your opponent off guard.”
The Wildcats moved to 6-11-1 on the season and the Friars improved to 10-5-1. UNH will face-off against No. 3 Northeastern (13-1-1) in a home-and-home series this Saturday and Sunday.
Photo courtesy of Michelle Bronner