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Offense erupts in Hockey East victory over Vermont

Shooting with confidence has been a theme that head coach Hilary Witt has addressed in recent games for the UNH women’s hockey team. On Friday, Oct. 28, that’s exactly what she got.

The Wildcat offense exploded, tacking on four goals in the first period, to upend the University of Vermont Catamounts by a 4-2 final. Four different Wildcat skaters joined in the scoring effort, giving the Wildcats their second win of the season, and their second win against a Hockey East opponent. Amy Schlagel, Julia Fedeski and Jenna Rheault, three defensemen, aided in the offensive effort. Defensive scoring has been a gameplan implanted by  Witt during practices.

“We talked about how our [defense] needs to be a part of our offense, and they scored three of the four,” Witt said. “[Rheault, Schlagel and Fedeski] we need them to create some offense and they did it.”

The Wildcats took control as soon as the opening faceoff. A strong forecheck put the Catamounts on their heels and Rheault struck first at 2:59 in the first period. Off a feed from Devan Taylor, she crept into the slot and fired one past goaltender Melissa Black to open the scoring and give the Wildcats the lead that would never be relinquished.

Meghara McManus added another goal, at 8:04 in the first stanza when she roofed one on Black off a shot during the offensive rush to increase the Wildcat lead to two. Although Vermont’s Casey Leveillee cut the defecit to one at 8:34 only seconds after McManus’s goal, Schlagel and Fedeski showed off their offensive prowess with two tallies during power play chances to create a four-goal showing through 20 minutes of play.

From the second period through the end of the game, UNH goaltender Kyra Smith took over. Despite letting a second period goal through at the hands of Victoria Andreakos, she denied many chances for the Catamounts to start a rally. In the final two periods, Smith saved 27 shots making 33 total with only two making it past her. The two goals scored were hard fought goals in which Vermont crashed the net hard, providing some frustrating bounces for Smith, but she felt confident despite the tallies.

“You always want a shutout but you do what you can,” Smith said. “Even if they are bad goals you just gotta keep going, kind of forget them in the past [and] make the next save.”

The power play became an effective tool for the Wildcats in this bout. On five chances, UNH cashed in on two which improves its overall total to five powerplay goals on the season.

“I think they’re getting more confidence on [the power play], moving the puck a little bit better,” Witt said. “We had to make some adjustments, we’ve had some kids out, but they did a good job.”

In a four-goal effort vs. the Catamounts and a six-goal effort in a previous game vs. Merrimack, Witt said she believes that the team is starting to find confidence in their shots.

“All four goals were really nice, and that doesn’t always happen,” Witt said. “It’s just really good hockey, and stuff we’ve been working on which is great.”

The Wildcats are back in action this coming weekend as they head down to Providence, Rhode Island to take on the Providence College Friars on Nov. 5.

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