DURHAM, N.H. - Lindsey Minton (Richardson, Texas) stopped all 24 shots she faced and Brittany Skudder (Plainview, N.Y.) tallied three points to lead the sixth-ranked University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to Sunday afternoon's 4-0 victory against the University of Vermont in Hockey East action at the Whittemore Center.
UNH won its third consecutive game to improve to 18-6-5 overall. The Wildcats climbed into a three-way tie for first place in the Hockey East standings by improving to 12-5-2-0 in the league; the 'Cats, UConn and Providence College all have 26 points with two games remaining.
Vermont is now 10-20-1, 5-13-1-0. UVM goaltender. Kristen Olychuck was credited with 20 saves, half of which came in the first period.
It was the second shutout of the season and third career shutout for Minton, who recorded 10 saves in the first period and 11 in the second. Skudder matched her career highs in both assists (two) and points (three) to lead the offense.
Minton was tested in the eighth minute of the game. In a faceoff to her left, UVM's Erin Barley-Maloney won the puck towards the net and fired a close-range shot that Minton enveloped.
The Wildcats took a 1-0 lead at 10:17 of the opening frame. Skudder won control of the puck in the left corner and skated along the end line. Before skating behind the net, Skudder threw the puck to the left doorstep and Julie Allen (Brampton, Ontario) fired a shot into the cage.
UVM went on a power play late in the first period and Kailey Nash's shot from the slot was slowed by Minton but the puck continued to trickled towards the goal line. Kelly Cahill (Farmington Hills, Mich.) was in position to sweep the puck out of the crease and into the neutral zone to preserve the 1-0 lead.
UNH generated a 2-on-1 rush in the closing minute of the opening stanza. Kristine Horn (Utica, Mich.) chipped the puck up the boards and charged down the right wing. Horn's centering pass found Kristina Lavoie (Fonthill, Ontario) cutting down the slot, but Olychuck denied Lavoie as well as Skudder off the rebound.
Vermont had an early power-play opportunity in the second period. As UNH returned to full strength, Cahill intercepted a pass at the attacking blue line and skated in alone on Olychuck. Cahill snapped a wrister from the slot that Olychuck knocked down and covered up.
In the sixth minute, UVM's Teddy Fortin had a breakaway opportunity along the right wing and her shot from the faceoff dot was snared by Minton's glove.
Less than two minutes later, Kailey Chappell (Pickering, Ontario) and Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) helped spring Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) on a breakaway. At the attacking blue line, Paton corralled Long's outlet pass, skated down the slot and wristed a shot wide left of the net.
The Wildcats scored goals 42 seconds apart late in the second period - at 18:47 and 19:29 - to quickly extend the advantage to 3-0. Skudder gave the 'Cats a 2-0 lead when she maneuvered across the slot and backhanded a shot past Olychuck. Molly Morrison (South Burlington, Vt.), a transfer from UVM, set up the tally.
UNH went on the power play at 19:01 and capitalized on that extra skater to build a three-goal lead. Raylen Dziegelewski (Southwick, Mass.) moved the puck from the right point to Long in the circle and the puck ricocheted to Paton in the slot. Paton's shot was stopped by Olychuck, but Long collected the rebound inside the right circle and fired a shot inside the near post.
In the opening minute of the third period, UVM's Melanie Greene blasted a slap shot from the right point that was redirected on goal by Erin Wente, but Minton shifted to the top of the crease to make the save.
New Hampshire netted its second power-play goal of the game at 9:09 to take a 4-0 lead. Courtney Sheary (Melrose, Mass.) moved the puck from the right point to Horn in the high slot. Horn sent a return pass and Sheary's shot sailed into the upper-right corner of the net. Skudder was also credited with an assist.
UVM's Hannah Westbrook nearly foiled Minton's shutout bid in the 14th minute, when she led a rush down the slot and lifted a shot that caromed off the left post.
New Hampshire concludes the regular season next weekend with a home-and-home series against Boston College. UNH's Senior Day at the Whittemore Center is Feb. 20 (2 p.m.) and the regular season finale is Feb. 21 (7 p.m.).