UNH women’s hockey: Young Wildcats show promise in weekend split with Vermont

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WILDCATS 5, CATAMOUNTS 2

WILDCATS 3, CATAMOUNTS 6

DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire (UNH) Wildcats (6-9-2, 4-8-1) seem to have finally found their groove and have been playing like the team they described themselves as before the season began.  

Senior goaltender Ava Boutilier said it herself prior to their first regular-season game back in October.  

“We’re just excited to get out there and prove people wrong and show them that if we can find that streak of consistency then we’ll be able to compete with the top dogs in the league,” said Boutilier. 

After starting the season winless through their first six games, the ‘Cats have begun to turn the tides winning six of their last 10. Throughout that span, UNH has racked up impressive wins like a 7-0 shutout over Union College (3-15-1, 0-10-1). 

The Wildcats continued their slow yet steady success this past weekend when they split a two-game series versus the Vermont Catamounts (8-7-2, 5-4-1).  

Friday’s matchup was controlled by UNH with help from sophomore forward Nicole Kelly and junior forward Jada Christian. Both recorded three points to help beat the Catamounts by a final score of 5-3.  

Not only did they help lead their team to a victory, but both forwards obtained career-highs in the game.  

Kelly had a career-high of two goals with an assist to top it off. Christian had a multiple-assist game for the first time in her career with three.  

UNH took a 12-7 shot advantage in the first 20 minutes of the game. Both teams got the puck in the net once to keep the score tied after one.  

The Catamounts took advantage of an early power-play when senior defenders Maude Poulin-Labelle and Sini Karjalainen assisted senior forward Theresa Schafzahl for her first of two goals on the day in the ninth minute. 

Kelly scored her first goal in the 18th minute to respond and erase the one-goal deficit with assists from Christian and sophomore defender Brianna Legros.  

The second period was action-packed and saw three more goals come across. Even though Vermont took a 9-7 shot advantage, UNH still managed to outscore them 2-1.  

The ‘Cats wasted little time to take their first lead of the game with a goal from junior forward Annie Berry in the fifth minute. Berry was assisted by the duo of Christian and Kelly.  

Just over four minutes later Schafzahl scored her second goal of the game to tie the score at two with help from Poulin-Labelle and graduate student Alyssa Holmes.  

The ‘Cats responded once again two minutes later when sophomore forward Brianna Brooks set up Kelly with a perfect pass to score her second goal of the game. This put them ahead of Vermont 3-2 to close out the second period.  

UNH only managed to get four shots on goal in the final 20 minutes of the game, two of which made their way past the Vermont goaltender. 

Junior forward Rae Breton and Brooks converted both goals to seal the win for the ‘Cats. Boutilier made 11 crucial saves in the third period as well to give her side a boost. 

The following night did not have the same result for UNH, but it showed great potential for two young players. 

First-year forward Kira Juodikis has repeatedly been showing why she will be a great asset for the Wildcats as she scored two of the three goals adding on to her team-leading total of nine.  

The other goal was scored by Kelly who is only a sophomore. She put on a show this past weekend with a total of four points in two games.   

UVM got the best of UNH, however, winning by a final score of 6-3. 

The first period consisted of one goal per team. Vermont once again began the scoring with a strike from graduate student Kristina Shanahan in the 13th minute. 

Less than five minutes later Juodikis responded off an assist from junior forward Tamara Thierus.  

A total of four goals were scored in the second period. Three from the Catamounts and one from the Wildcats.  

The next goal came off a collision with Boutilier that left the net wide open for Poulin-Labelle to gain the lead for Vermont. 

Not even 30 seconds later Juodikis scored her second goal of the day with another assist from Thierus and help from first-year defender Marina Alvarez.  

The score was tied at three for the next seven minutes until junior forward Lily Humphrey scored a breakaway goal in the 13th minute of the period and Poulin-Labelle assisted sophomore forward Maddy Skelton less than a minute later.  

Going into the third period the sense of urgency was present for UNH as they managed to kill a power-play for the third time on the day.  

Following the kill, Kelly scored off an assist by sophomore forward Charli Kettyle and Christian to slim the deficit to just one goal about midway through the period. 

This burst of desperation from the Wildcats was not enough as Vermont scored two more times to close out the game.  

UNH will once again host a two-game series, this time against the Penn State Nittany Lions (8-6-2, 4-2-0). The first meeting will be this Thursday, Dec. 9 at 6 p.m. from the Whittemore Center. 

Photo courtesy of Jess Speechley