Senior Kelly Paton nets hat trick and assist for Wildcats

Kelly Paton had a hat trick and an assist for UNH

DURHAM, N.H. - Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) scored three goals and assisted on another to propel the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team past Rensselaer, 4-3, in Saturday evening's non-conference action at the Whittemore Center.

UNH, which netted the last three goals of the game to erase a 3-1 deficit, extended its unbeaten streak to seven games (4-0-3) to improve to 9-1-4 overall. RPI is now 4-7-4.

It marked the second career hat trick for Paton, who also matched her personal best of four points. Kristina Lavoie (Fonthill, Ontario) tallied career highs in both assists and points with her one-goal, two-assist effort. UNH goaltender Lindsey Minton (Richardson, Texas) finished with 18 saves, including eight in the second period.

Alisa Harrison (two goals) and Allison Wright (goal, assist) led the Engineers' offense, and goalie Sonja van der Bliek stopped 21 shots, including 12 in the middle stanza.

Trailing 3-1, the Wildcats began their surge at 15:05 of the second period when they scored on a delayed penalty call against RPI. Paton scored at the top of the crease off her own rebound with a high second shot. Lavoie, with a pass from the right point, and Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) were credited with assists.

UNH pulled even, 3-3, with its second-power play goal of the game at 7:49 of the third period. Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) slid a pass from the high slot to Paton at the right doorstep, and she quickly centered the puck down low to Lavoie, who one-timed a shot into the net.

The 'Cats struck again one minute, 48 seconds later to take a 4-3 lead at 9:37. With a faceoff to the right of van der Bliek, Paton won the puck towards the goal, eluded her counterpart on the draw and skated to the low slot, where she tucked a forehand into the cage.

Rensselaer pulled van der Bliek with 1:20 remaining, but UNH cleared the puck to the neutral zone just 10 seconds later. The Engineers reentered the offensive zone with one minute to play, but the Wildcats quickly gained possession and moved the puck to the neutral zone. Long meandered to the top of the right circle, and her lofted backhand shot was knocked down in the slot by Janessa Haller to keep the margin at one goal.

RPI advanced the puck to mid-ice but once again the Wildcats' defense intervened and the visitors had to retreat to the defensive zone to regain possession. The Engineers entered the offensive zone with seven seconds remaining, but Birchard quickly poke-checked the puck away, corralled the puck and skated behind the net to secure the victory.

New Hampshire took a 1-0 lead at 13:01 of the first period on Paton's power-play goal. From behind the net, Kristine Horn (Utica, Mich.) found Lavoie in the low slot. She quickly redirected the puck low towards the right post, and an unmarked Paton slid a shot into the open near side of the cage.

The Engineers responded with a shorthanded goal at 16:25 to pull even, 1-1. Whitney Naslund gained possession at center ice and advanced the puck to Wright, who skated down the slot and wristed a shot into the upper-right corner.

Rensselaer potted goals at 1:28 and 6:53 of the second period - both by Harrison - to build a 3-1 lead. With the assistance of Wright and Jill Vandegrift, Harrison scored at the right doorstep to give the Engineers a one-goal lead, and then she blasted a shot from the left circle into the upper-left corner to create a two-goal advantage. Kendra Dunlop and Amanda Castignetti set up Harrison's second tally.

Long extended her point-scoring streak to seven games in what was the first meeting between the UNH and RPI women's ice hockey programs.

New Hampshire returns to action Nov. 29 at Northeastern University. The Wildcats' next home game is Dec. 5 vs. Providence College. Both games begin at 2 p.m.

UNH's Whittemore Center will be the site of the Nov. 22 exhibition game between the 2009-10 U.S. Women's National Team and the Hockey East All-Stars. Current 'Cats Birchard, Long and Paton will skate against former teammate Kacey Bellamy (UNH '09). Game time is 1 p.m.

Kelly Paton opens the scoring with a backhand past RPI's Sonja van der Bliek.
Kelly Paton has an ice level view of her second of three goals against RPI.
Kristine Lavoie ties the game at three, beating RPI's Sonja van der Bliek stickside from her knees.