Black Bears top Wildcats in season opener

Bret Belden

Freshmen goaltender Hilary Cashin filed back onto the ice with 1:47 left in the third period with sheer disappointment. In her collegiate debut, the Wildcats’ goaltender recorded 17 saves, but needed help from her team.
The ‘Cats were unable to oblige their novice goalie.
“I thought we did not play the way we could’ve and were able to,” UNH head coach Hilary Witt said.
Instead, the ‘Cats surrendered a hat trick to Maine’s senior forward Audra Richards as UNH dropped two points to their rival Maine Black Bears with a decisive 4-0 loss on Friday night at the Whittemore Center.
As Richards solidified her three-point performance with an empty net goal at 18:13, the ‘Cats were pondering where their energy from the opening minutes of the first period had gone.
“I though in the first four minutes we outplayed them 100%,” Witt said. “Then we started to have some bad habits and not focus and not skate straight lines and we were circling and not supporting one another.”
Those habits led to turnovers, mismatches and, most importantly, Maine goals.
“I probably could’ve been a little happier with my performance tonight,” Cashin said. “Given some of the circumstances on the goals, I’m not too upset about them, but I think I made some good saves.”
Those circumstances proved problematic for the ‘Cat roughly halfway through the first when Richards took a hard wrist shot from the right circle that caromed off UNH defender Julia Fedeski and past Cashin. Maine’s Anna Wright infiltrated the ‘Cats zone sending a backhand pass cross-ice to the weak-side winger Richards.
The goal came against one of UNH’s most energetic forward pairings Friday night–Amy Boucher in the center, Cassandra Vilgrain flanking her left and Devan Taylor on the right. It was a paring that meshed well against the Black Bears with elusive speed, hard work on the forecheck, and an ability to make chances offensively.
“They had moments,” Witt said of Boucher’s line, “but we expect a lot more out of them.”
Discipline is also an area of improvement moving forward. The Wildcats were sent to the box four times on Friday, one of which resulted in a Richards goal at 17:33 in the first, as Taylor was called for checking at 16:21.
Maine sent out two defenders on the advantage. Defender Cassidy Herman worked the point along the blue line as Richards and defender Mikayla Rogers were stationed above the circles. Forwards Brooke Stacey and Maine captain Emilie Brigham worked down low in the slot. Rogers began the scoring sequence with an intended pass to Stacey, which caromed off a UNH defender onto the stick of Brigham, who dished a pass to the weak-side winger Richards. The puck snuck along the left post as Cashin attempted to make the sprawling save.
Stacey continued the scoring trend at 10:43 of the third when she stormed center ice with a shot that deflected off teammate Nicole Arnold, who was able to nudge the puck back to Stacey. Stacey sniped a shot inside the right post, giving Maine a 3-0 lead.
Albeit a lackluster team performance, coach Witt attested to the great play of her freshmen goaltender.
“I thought Hilary was great,” Witt said. “She made some big saves and the goals she let in, we didn’t really help her. We scored one on her and the other two; you can’t give kids pointblank opportunities from the slot and expect the goalie to stop them all. So I’m very proud of the way she played.”
The Wildcats return to action Oct. 9 against Lindenwood at the Whittemore Center at 5 p.m.