DURHAM, N.H. - Jenn Wakefield (Pickering, Ontario) recorded a goal and an assist and the second-ranked University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team fended off a third-period flurry to record a 3-1 Hockey East victory against Providence College on Sunday afternoon at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, presented with the Hockey East regular-season trophy prior to the game because the Wildcats clinched the title with Saturday's 3-0 win at Providence, extended its winning streak to eight and unbeaten streak to 14 (13-0-1) to improve to 28-3-1 overall and 18-0-1 in Hockey East. PC, which has provided the only blemish on UNH's league record with a 1-1 tie Jan. 19 at the Whittemore Center, is now 15-14-3, 10-7-2.
UNH goaltender Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) made eight of her 16 saves in the third period. In three games vs. the Friars this season, Herman is 2-0-1 with a 0.65 GAA and .968 save percentage. PC's Danielle Ciarletta made 24 saves.
Both teams started slowly - neither team recorded a shot in the opening five minutes of the game - but the Friars capitalized on a two-skater advantage midway through the stanza to take a 1-0 lead and end UNH's mark of 65 consecutive successful penalty kills and the shutout streak at 217:12. Immediately following the second penalty call, Sarah Feldman swept into the faceoff circle and moved the puck back to Kathleen Smith at the right point. Smith swung a pass across the slot to Erin Normore, who sent a return pass to Smith. She then blasted a screened shot into the net at 10:22.
UNH effectively killed off the remaining 1:51 of the power play, outshot the Friars 2-0 in that stretch and parlayed that momentum into a game-tying goal at 12:36 – just 23 seconds following the PK. Raylen Dziengelewski (Southwick, Mass.) gained possession in the neutral zone and drove through the left wing to the corner and end boards, where she feathered a pass to Wakefield in the low slot and the rookie forward jammed a low shot into the net for her 21st goal of the season.
Less than one minute later, Michaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) fired a shot from the right circle that caromed off the far post.
PC was whistled for a penalty early in the second period, but the Friars' penalty kill generated a dangerous scoring chance off a turnover in which Herman denied Smith in front and Kelli Doolin off the rebound. Moments after the Friars returned to full strength, Jean O'Neill was also turned away from point-blank range.
Ciarletta did her part to keep the game tied 1-1 with three quality saves during a UNH power play midway through the second stanza, but another Wildcats' flurry produced a 2-1 lead at 16:02. Wakefield gathered the puck in the slot, skated to the left corner along the end line behind the goal, then circled back out towards the left post. Her pass found Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.) in front and she lifted the puck into the upper-right corner for her second goal in as many days.
The Friars opened the third period on the penalty kill, and moments after that infraction expired Smith weaved down the slot and pulled the puck to the right post, but Herman shadowed her and blocked aside the shot.
PC generated a 2-on-1 rush in the ninth minute when Jennia Keilch carried the puck into the right circle and fired a shot that once again was stopped by Herman.
With 7:30 remaining, Feldman was left alone at the top of the crease but shy was stymied by Herman on a quick shot off a pass from behind the net. Herman once again stoned O’Neill moments later at the right doorstep.
PC called time out with 2:59 to play and pulled Ciarletta with 1:47 on the clock, which prompted the Wildcats to call a timeout.
UNH cleared the puck to the neutral zone with 1:30 remaining, but the Friars quickly reentered the offensive zone. They could not control possession, however, and with one minute to go they had to retreat to their defensive zone to collect the loose puck.
On a faceoff in the neutral zone with 10 seconds to play, Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.) won the draw to the left. Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) stepped in from that wing and fired a shot into the open net at 19:53 to secure the win.
The goal extended Hitchcock’s point-scoring streak to eight games and Wright-Ward extended her point streak to 12 games with the assist.
UNH’s home unbeaten streak is now 11 games (10-0-1) and the Wildcats are unbeaten in 38 games (35-0-3), including postseason, against Hockey East foes. This year's 28 victory total is tied for the third-highest single-season mark (established last season) in the program’s history.
The Wildcats now have a 68-38-12 lifetime record vs. Providence with a 10-game unbeaten streak of 8-0-2. The 'Cats are 13-0-4 at home vs. the Friars since Jan. 11, 1997, when PC was a 4-3 victor.
New Hampshire concludes the regular season next weekend with a home-and-home series against eighth-ranked University of Connecticut. UNH's Senior Day is March 1 (2 p.m.) and tickets are available online at www.unhwildcats.com or by calling 1-866-WILDCAT or at the Whittemore Center box office. The regular-season finale is March 2 (2 p.m.) at UConn.
UNH is the No. 1 seed in the upcoming 6th Annual Hockey East Championship Tournament, which will be held March 8-9 at UConn's Frietas Ice Forum. Tickets are available by calling (877) 288-2666.