Nicole Hekle scores twice for Wildcats

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Melissa Bourdon (Ile Bizard, Quebec) recorded her second shutout in as many days with a 22-save effort to lead the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire women’s ice hockey team to Sunday afternoon’s 7-0 Hockey East victory against Providence College at Schneider Arena.

UNH strengthened its hold on first place in the Hockey East standings by improving to 14-1-1 (29 points) with a game in-hand to second-place University of Connecticut (12-4-1; 25 points). The Wildcats extended their unbeaten streak to six games (5-0-1) to improve to 22-3-4 overall. PC is 13-13-4 overall and in fourth place in the league at 10-4-3 (23 points).

Six Wildcats recorded multiple points led by Martine Garland (Toronto, Ontario) with three assists, which matched her personal best, and Nicole Hekle (Winnipeg, Manitoba) with two goals. Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) and Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.) both recorded a goal and an assist while Lindsey Caleo (Clinton Township, Mich.) and Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) each had two assists.

The Wildcats controlled play early in the opening period and broke through to build a 2-0 lead before the first intermission. The captain combination of Hitchcock and Hekle gave the ‘Cats a 1-0 lead at 12:45. Hitchcock won possession of the puck in the left corner and backhanded a centering pass to Hekle, who lifted her shot from the slot inside the right post.

The rookie duo of Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) and Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) extended the Wildcats’ advantage to 2-0 at 16:04. Paton, from behind the net, found Long cutting from the right circle to the slot. Long continued across the slot and swept a low shot back inside the right post.

PC generated its first good scoring opportunity with a scrum in front of the net with 2:30 to play in the first period, but Bourdon denied Mari Pehkonen and the shot off the rebound sailed wide of the right post.

New Hampshire netted the only goal in the middle stanza to increase the cushion to three goals, 3-0, at 8:07 when Caleo’s shot from the left circle caromed off Holmes in the low slot into the net.

Whereas Garland hit the right post in the opening minutes of the game, UNH was twice denied by the left post in the latter half of the second period. Maggie Joyce (Norfolk, Mass.) fired a shot from the left point that caromed off the pipe, then Hitchcock, off a nice pass sequence from Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) and Hekle, wristed a shot from the left circle off the near post.

Bourdon preserved the three-goal advantage with four minutes to play in the middle stanza when she denied Jenna Keilch from the left circle in a 2-on-1 breakaway.

The shots were even, 17-17, through 40 minutes but PC’s total was deceiving because a majority of those shots were dump-ins from the neutral zone.

The Friars were whistled for seven penalties in the third period, and the ‘Cats capitalized to score a pair of 5-on-3 goals as part of a four-goal outburst. Hitchcock netted her team-leading 23rd goal of the season – and her 14th on the power play – when she redirected Garland’s shot from the high slot at 2:29.. Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.), with the pass from the left circle to Garland, was also credited with an assist.

Hekle also scored a two-skater advantage power-play goal at 7:26 to give the ‘Cats a 5-0 lead. Garland, from the high slot, initiated the sequence by moving the puck to the left circle, where Bellamy sent a crossing pass to Hekle and she scored on a shot inside the right post.

The Wildcats netted their third power-play goal of the period when Bellamy’s shot from the right circle ricocheted off Craig into the net at 8:43. Garland, with the pass to Bellamy from the high slot, was credited with an assist.

Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.) struck just 48 seconds later (at 9:31) to end a UNH flurry of three goals in 2:05. Wright-Ward, with the assistance of Holmes and Caleo, scored from the low slot to give the Wildcats a 7-0 lead.

PC called time out at that point and pulled goaltender Danielle Ciarletta (26 saves) for Lauren Florio, who held the ‘Cats scoreless in the last 10:29 with eight saves.

New Hampshire returns to action next weekend with a home-and-home series vs. UConn. The teams face off Feb. 16 (7 p.m.) at UConn and Feb. 18 (2 p.m.) at UNH’s Whittemore Center for the Wildcats’ Senior Day.

The Women’s Hockey East Championships will be held at the Whittemore Center on March 3 (12/3 p.m.) and March 4 (12:30 p.m.). Tickets are available now by calling 1-866-WILDCATS or going online at