The University of New Hampshire (UNH) women’s hockey team (6-13-1) faced off against No. 3 Northeastern (15-1-1) on Saturday at the Whittemore Center. This was the first of two games between the Wildcats and Huskies over the weekend.
The Huskies struck first at the 2:38 mark off the stick of junior forward Alina Mueller. UNH struggled with penalties following the goal. Northeastern went on three power play opportunities in the first period leaving the Wildcats backed up against their own net.
Wildcats’ head coach Hilary Witt said the Huskies time of possession makes it tough for the ‘Cats to get opportunities in the offensive zone.
“Their offense is great, and they hold the puck really well,” explained Witt. “It forces us to spend more time clearing the puck rather than setting up the offense.”
Northeastern junior Chloe Aurard scored again for the Huskies at 12:41 pushing their lead to 2. They held a clear advantage in time of possession and had an 18-9 shot advantage over the Wildcats after one period.
The second period was an ugly one for both teams with a total of five penalties being called. The Huskies were able to convert one of their power play opportunities into a goal at the 6:18 mark off the stick of sophomore defender Megan Carter. The Huskies held a significant advantage in the second with a 12-6 shot advantage. Heading into the third period, the Wildcats faced a three-goal deficit.
The Wildcats answered in the third period with a goal from first-year forward Chavonne Truter off the assist by first-year forward Nicole Kelly. It wouldn’t be enough for the Wildcats to climb back into the game.
Northeastern was able to control the puck for most of the third period with UNH unable to generate goal scoring opportunities. The Huskies netted two empty net goals after UNH opted to pull junior Ava Boutilier from net. One goal came from Carter followed by another 39 seconds later off the stick of Aurard to pad the final score of 6-1. The Wildcats ended the game with six penalties called against them.
Coach Witt noted how the team needs to be better at staying out of the penalty box.
“The power play opportunities for them kill our momentum so we need to get better and our penalty kill needs to improve as well,” said Witt.
The Wildcats had to have a short memory heading into Sunday’s rematch against the Huskies on their home ice.
The first period of Sunday’s matchup between the two teams was less memorable than the previous game. The two teams traded possessions and power play opportunities with the Wildcats drawing two penalties in the opening frame. Northeastern had a 7-6 shot advantage after one period with the two teams remaining scoreless.
Boutilier was impressive in the first period stopping all six of the Huskies shots. Witt said the captain was exceptional all weekend despite the 6-1 loss on Saturday.
“It was really a 3-1 game on Saturday before we let it slip in the last ten minutes,” Witt explained. “We felt like we could come out and put up a good performance on Sunday. The loss didn’t affect our morale.”
Huskies senior defender Skylar Fontaine scored the first goal of the game for the Huskies at 4:49 on their second power play opportunity of the game. The Wildcats found themselves in another power play opportunity but Northeastern held the puck while shorthanded. Northeastern had a 16-6 shot advantage at the end of the second out shooting UNH for the fifth consecutive period.
The Huskies asserted their dominance in the third period showing why they’re the No. 3 team in the nation. They pulled away from the Wildcats with three goals in three minutes starting with one at 9:42 from senior forward Tessa Ward. Aurard netted another goal at 10:47 followed by a goal from junior forward Micaela Sindoris at the 12:28 mark.
UNH got their first goal of the game when first-year forward Avery Myers found the back of the net at 16:25. The game ended with a final score of 4-1 in favor of Northeastern. Despite the loss, Witt was confident the team can use this as a building block for success down the stretch.
“We’re still learning and as we head towards the end of the season, we’ll have to face more teams with top tier players.”
The Wildcats next opponent is yet to be announced following the cancellation of their series against the UConn Huskies scheduled for this weekend.
Photo courtesy of Jim Pierce.