DURHAM, N.H. – Sophomore defenseman Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) scored a career-high two goals – both on the power play – to propel the second-ranked University of New Hampshire women’s ice hockey team to Friday night’s 5-0 non-conference victory against Niagara University in the season opener for both teams at the Whittemore Center.
Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario), who led the nation in scoring a year ago, finished with a goal and an assist, as did Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) in her collegiate debut.
UNH senior goaltender Melissa Bourdon (Ile Bizard, Quebec) recorded seven saves, including four in the third period, for her 22nd career shutout. UNH’s career shutout record of 26 is held by Jen Huggon (2000-03). Niagara counterpart Allison Rutledge finished with 40 saves.
The Wildcats dominated the game from the opening faceoff and generated a 19-2 shot advantage in the first period that produced a 1-0 lead. Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) scored in her collegiate debut with a power-play goal at 12:59 when Long, from behind the net, found Paton in the right circle.
New Hampshire recorded a 12-1 edge in shots in the middle frame to extend the advantage to 2-0. Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.), yet another UNH rookie, picked up a loose puck in the high slot and slid a pass to the right for Hitchcock, who buried her close-range shot with 30 seconds remaining in the second period.
UNH finally broke the game open early in the third period with three goals in a span of 4:05. Bellamy netted a power-play goal off a rebound – Rutledge stopped the initial shot from the high slot by Martine Garland (Toronto, Ontario) – at 3:12. Long extended the lead to 4-0 with a shorthanded tally at 5:25. Nicole Hekle (Winnipeg, Manitoba) won the puck off the boards in the offensive zone to Long, who maneuvered through the defense to the slot before firing a shot into the net.
Bellamy’s second power-play tally closed the scoring at 7:17 and prompted Niagara to call time out. From the high slot, Sadie Wright- Ward (Durham, N.H.) dumped the puck down low to Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.), who in turn threw the puck across the crease to a wide open Bellamy at the right post.
Bourdon wasn’t required to make a high number of saves but did make the quality saves when required, including back-to-back stops vs. Katie Gray and Jacqueline Spring with five minutes remaining in the first period to preserve UNH’s one-goal lead.
Dating back to last season, UNH is now unbeaten in 27 consecutive regular-season games with a 26-0-1 mark and the ‘Cats have won each of the last five games in that stretch by shutout.
UNH and Niagara conclude the two-game series Saturday night. Game time at the Whittemore Center is 7 p.m.