Senior defenseman Courtney Birchard scores game-winning goal for Wildcats

Senior defenseman Courtney Birchard scored the overtime goal for the Wildcats

DURHAM, N.H. - Senior defenseman and captain Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) scored at 4:08 of overtime to lift the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to a 1-0 victory against Niagara University in Friday night's non-conference action at the Whittemore Center.

UNH won its fifth consecutive game to improve to 6-2-0 overall and extend its unbeaten streak vs. Niagara to 17 games (16-0-1); the Wildcats also extended their home regular-season non-conference unbeaten streak to 19 games (17-0-2). The Purple Eagles are now 1-5-1 on the season.

UNH goaltender Lindsey Minton (Richardson, Texas) recorded a season-high 25 saves, including two in overtime, for her first shutout of the season and fourth of her career. Niagara counterpart Jenni Bauer stopped 27 shots, including two in the extra session and 10 in the third period.

Following 60 minutes of scoreless regulation - UNH also played Colgate University scoreless through regulation on Oct. 9 - Chippy Kaleigh was denied at the right doorstep by Minton and Kristina Lavoie (Fonthill, Ontario) was turned away by Bauer at the left doorstep in the opening minute of OT.

Niagara was whistled for a penalty at 1:21 to give New Hampshire a 4-on-3 power play, but the 'Cats did not record a shot before going to the penalty box 21 seconds later. Both teams returned a player from the box at 1:47 to make it 4-on-4. Neither team recorded a shot on goal at even strength, then Leah Whittaker's power-play shot from the right point was stopped by Minton.

Arielle O'Neill (St. Catharines, Ontario) won a faceoff to Bauer's right, but Niagara cleared the zone. The Wildcats quickly regained possession in the neutral zone and Lavoie carried the puck into the left circle. Her initial shot was blocked, but she corralled the puck and sent a pass back to the left point for Katie Brock (Marblehead, Mass.). Brock moved the puck across the blue line to Birchard, whose slap shot from the right point sailed into the net to end the game.

UNH recorded a 28-25 shot advantage. Both teams went scoreless on the power play; UNH had three opportunities (six shots) while NU had seven extra skater opportunities (10 shots).

Special teams were on the ice for half of the first period as New Hampshire was whistled for four penalties and the Purple Eagles went to the penalty box once.

In the third period, Birchard nearly broke the scoreless tie at 7:30 when her shot from the left point ricocheted off Bauer and the left post before sailing out of play.

New Hampshire and Niagara conclude the two-game series Oct. 30 (2 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center. There is a Halloween Costume Contest and post-game autograph session.