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‘Cats outmuscled at home

For the first period, the Wildcats appeared poised to register their first win of the season. They controlled possession, holding the puck in the offensive zone as they outshot and outskated Lindenwood.
Then came the second period.
It was the second stanza that saw the ‘Cats crumble, allowing three straight unanswered goals en route to a 4-2 loss Friday night at the Whittemore Center. Their defensive layers fell apart. They played defense on islands and allowed their opponent to have a two-goal lead at 19:12. A diving Sarah Jasper managed to muscle after the puck from her knees, deflecting off a Wildcat skate to the blade of Carla Goodwin.
All told, the Lady Lions scored four goals on 20 shots with UNH’s Vilma Vaattovaara in net. UNH outshot Lindenwood 2-to-1 on an evening that almost featured a comeback for the ‘Cats.
“They took advantage of our mistakes,” UNH head coach Hilary Witt said. “It’s a disappointment because I didn’t think we made as many as we let goals in.”
The Lady Lions were playing a brand of hockey that the ‘Cats simply could not. They were entering the zone with speed and numbers. They went after the net and stabbed at loose pucks as Jasper did at 15:23 of the second, going after the glove of Vaattovaara as she attempted to cover the puck.
“I thought we played better today than we played last weekend,” said Witt. “We’re definitely making progress. We had a lot more opportunities to score, we had a lot better shape, we had a lot better work ethic.”
It started out that way, with sophomore defensemen Julia Fedeski backhanding the puck past Nicole Hensley, who made 36 saves on 38 shots, at 5:23 of the first. Hensley’s outstanding performance in net for the Lady Lions held UNH to a lone first period goal.
“Give [Hensley] credit. She played fantastic,” said Witt.
Though UNH briefly rebounded with a scrappy goal down low in the crease by Jonna Curtis at 6:22 of the third, the defensive breakdowns caught up with the Wildcats.
A puck was redirected off Emily Gunderson’s stick at 18:13 of the second as she traveled untouched into the slot. Jasper sealed the victory with another scrappy goal in the crease at 14:53 of the third as she tucked the puck under Vaattovaara’s pads.
UNH followed Friday evening’s loss with a tilt against Syracuse on Saturday at the Whittemore Center.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats, Saturday’s result wasn’t much better than Friday’s. UNH dropped a 3-2 decision to the Orange, falling to 0-3 in the young season.
Syracuse’s Emily Costales found the back of the net at 4:20 of the first period, beating UNH goaltender Kyra Smith, who made her collegiate debut. Smith recorded 12 saves on 15 Syracuse shots in the loss.
At 10:26 of the second period, while on the power play, the Orange added another goal to their lead. Heather Schwarz took a pass from Nicole Ferrara, and fired it from inside the left post for the visiting team.
UNH would battle back from the two-goal deficit, as Haley Breedlove took a faceoff in the Syracuse end and passed it off to UNH captain Sara Carlson. Carlson moved the puck to Amy Schlagel, who sniped the top right corner for her first goal of the season. The goal came at 17:38 in the third period.
The joy didn’t last long, as Ferrara scooped up a loose puck in the Syracuse zone, raced up the right side, and shot the puck top-right, netting the eventual game-winning goal.
On their third power play of the game, the ‘Cats again drew within one. Schlagel’s shot from the right point was turned aside by an Orange defender. Amy Boucher, from her knees, lifted a shot to make the score 3-2 at the 13:15 mark of the third period.
With just over a minute left, UNH pulled its goalie, and applied consistent pressure for the final minute, but was unable to get another shot past Syracuse’s Jenn Gilligan. Syracuse was able to clear the puck and secure the victory.
UNH will resume play with a game against Hockey East newcomer Merrimack College, in North Andover, on Saturday, Oct. 17 at 3 p.m. At 2 p.m. on Sunday, they battle Boston College in Chestnut Hill.

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