Senior forward Jessica Hitchcock scores two goals and assist for Wildcats

Senior Jessica Hitchcock scored two goals and an assist for the Wildcats

DURHAM, N.H. - Jessica Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) recorded two goals and an assist to lead the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to Friday night's 4-1 Hockey East victory against Providence College at the Whittemore Center.

UNH, which had not played a game since Dec. 10, defeated Providence for the second time this season to improve to 8-10-2 overall and 3-3-2 in Hockey East. The Friars, who lost 4-2 to UNH at the Whitt back in November, is now 8-14-0, 3-6-0.

Hitchcock matched her career highs in both goals and points (three) as she set up the game's first goal, broke a 1-1 tie at 2:50 of the third period and secured the victory with an empty-net goal at 19:28. Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario) finished with a goal and an assist. Jonna Curtis (Elk River, Minn.) scored UNH's other goal.

New Hampshire netminder Ashley Wilkes (North Pole, Alaska) made 12 of her 22 saves in the second period. PC goalie Sarah Bryant tallied 12 saves in the first period and 10 in the second as part of a 28-save effort.

Following a scoreless first period in which the 'Cats recorded a 12-4 shot advantage, both teams potted a goal in the second stanza. UNH took a 1-0 lead at 5:41 when Gifford's backhander from the low slot went between Bryant's legs. Hannah Armstrong (Keswick, Ontario), who won the battle for the puck in the left corner, and Hitchcock, who made the centering pass, set up the tally.

With 12:50 remaining in the second period, PC's Beth Hanrahan stole the puck behind the right post and attempted to jam the puck into the net, but Wilkes was in position to make the save.

The Friars tied the score, 1-1, at 15:18 when Rebecca Morse lifted a shot from the right doorstep into the upper-left corner. Janine Weber corralled a loose puck in the right circle and fired a shot toward net that was deflected in front by Haley Frade and blocked by a Wildcat defender. Morse quickly lifted the rebound into the cage.

New Hampshire regained the lead at 2:50 of the third period. Gifford gained possession in the neutral zone and entered the offensive zone into the left circle, where she saucered a centering pass to the slot. Hitchcock's initial shot was stopped by Bryant, but the rebound went back to Hitchcock's stick and she lifted the puck into the open left side of the net.

Wilkes preserved the 2-1 lead at 8:10 of the final frame when she denied Brittney Thunstrom's one-timer from the low slot.

Curtis scored her first goal of the season to extend the advantage to 3-1 at 13:02. Sarah Carlson (Hutchinson, Minn.) initiated the scoring sequence with a pass from the defensive zone to Curtis along the right dashers. Curtis rushed into the attack zone and threw the puck to the middle, where Cassandra Vilgrain (Calgary, Alberta) sent a shot on goal. The puck hit Bryant and sat next to the right post. Curtis, who had continued through the circle, lunged to poke the puck into the net.

PC called time out at 17:23 and pulled Bryant in favor of an extra skater. Wilkes denied Cassidy Carels twice and then UNH cleared the puck into the neutral zone. Jess Ryan (Cloquet, Minn.), from in front of the scorer's bench at mid-ice, sent a shot just wide left of the empty net. Curtis raced in on the right wing and lifted a shot across the goalmouth.

Caroline Broderick (Marblehead, Mass.) intercepted an entry pass along the boards and sent the puck the length of the ice. It caromed off the end boards to the left post, where a charging Hitchcock shoveled a shot into the empty net with 32 seconds remaining.

In the first period, the Wildcats created a dangerous scoring chance when Gifford snuck behind the defense down the slot and her wrister from 10 feet was gloved by Bryant.

UNH had a 5-on-3 advantage for 26 seconds at 7:58 and Alexis Crossley (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia) fired a wrister from the inner-left circle that Bryant snared with her glove.

New Hampshire and Providence conclude the weekend home-and-home series Jan. 11 (7 p.m.) at Schneider Arena. The Wildcats' next home game is Jan. 19 (2 p.m.) against the University of Connecticut.