Junior defenseman Jess Ryan scores two goals for Wildcats

Junior defenseman Jess Ryan scored two goals for the Wildcats

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. -- Jess Ryan (Cloquet, Minn.) scored two power-play goals - the first goals of her career - to lift the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to Sunday afternoon's 3-1 victory against Penn State University at Pegula Ice Arena.

UNH won its third consecutive game to extend its unbeaten streak to five games (4-0-1) and improve to 5-2-1 overall. PSU is now 2-5-1.

Freshman goaltender Ashley Wilkes (North Pole, Alaska) made her collegiate debut and earned the victory with a 17-save effort; she shut out the Nittany Lions in both the first and third periods with five and 10 saves, respectively. PSU goalie Celine Whitlinger recorded double-digit saves all three periods for a total of 32 (12-10-10).

For Ryan, the two points also marked a personal best. Arielle O'Neill (St Catharines, Ontario), who made the transition to defenseman for the two-game series at PSU, scored her third goal of the weekend to account for UNH's other goal.

PSU went on the first power play of the game at 4:34 of the first period. Wilkes kept the Nittany Lions off the scoreboard with two saves and her teammates blocked four other shot attempts by the home team.

Within a minute of the penalty kill, UNH generated a pair of scoring opportunities but both times Megan Armstrong (Edina, Minn.) was denied by Whitlinger. Midway through the period, Whitlinger kept the 'Cats scoreless on successive saves against Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario), Heather Kashman (Edmonton, Alberta) and Brittney Redlick (Biggar, Saskatchewan).

New Hampshire began its first power play at 11:11 and the Penn State goalie once again stymied the visitors by turning aside Gifford, Sara Carlson (Hutchinson, Minn.) and Caroline Broderick (Marblehead, Mass.).

Both goalies recorded three saves the last 6:49 of the first period to send the teams to the locker room tied 0-0.

PSU was whistled for tripping at 1:10 of the second stanza and UNH scored 16 seconds later to take a 1-0 lead. Ryan's power-play goal was set up by Cassandra Vilgrain (Calgary, Alberta), who extended her point-scoring streak to four games, and Carlson.

The Wildcats continued to pressure as Jessica Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) and Hannah Armstrong (Keswick, Ontario) fired shots on Whitlinger within a minute of taking the lead. Whitlinger kept PSU within one goal when she turned aside consecutive shots off the stick of Hannah Armstrong in the ninth minute.

Wilkes made her first save of the middle period when she stopped Jill Holdcroft in the 11th minute. Penn State went on its second power play at 10:53, but UNH's penalty kill did not allow a shot on goal during the skater advantage.

One minute later, UNH's Jenna Lascelle (Cornwall, Ontario) and Megan Armstrong tested Whitlinger, but the goalie made both saves. The 'Cats continued to pressure as Megan Armstrong's initial shot attempt went wide and Hitchcock's shot was stopped by Whitlinger. After another offensive zone faceoff, a shot by Kayla Mork (Victoria, Minn.) was blocked and the PSU goalie denied Redlick.

Penn State finally advanced the puck into its offensive zone but Wilkes preserved the Wildcats' 1-0 lead with a save against Jenna Welch.

UNH once again capitalized quickly on a power-play opportunity as Ryan's unassisted goal at 16:16 came just 32 seconds after the Nittany Lions were called for a hooking infraction.

New Hampshire was whistled for tripping penalties in a span of eight seconds to give PSU a two-skater advantage, and the home team cashed in with Taylor Gross' goal at 18:17 to trim the deficit to 2-1. The Nittany Lions did not record a shot the remaining 57 seconds of their power play.

Then at the other end of the ice, just 17 seconds after the penalty kill, O'Neill scored an unassisted goal to reestablish a two-goal lead, 3-1, at 19:31.

In the opening five minutes of the third period, UNH recorded a 4-3 shot advantage; the 'Cats attempted a total of 11 shots during that span in comparison to PSU's four. That trend continued the next six minutes with New Hampshire recording 10 shot attempts to the Nittany Lions' two; actual shots were 5-0 in favor of the visitors during that stretch.

Penn State began to build momentum with seven minutes remaining in the final frame but Wilkes kept them at bay with two saves against Shannon Yoxheimer. Just more than one minute later, the UNH rookie netminder also denied Holdcroft.

UNH was called for hooking at 17:39, which prompted PSU to call time out and pull Whitlinger in favor of an extra skater to give the home team a two-skater advantage. Within the next minute, Wilkes protected the two-goal advantage with stops of Jordin Pardoski and Gross.

Whitlinger reentered the game at 18:33, but went back to the bench at 19:05. Wilkes once again answered the challenge by denying both Sarah Wilkie and Amy Petersen. UNH returned to full strength with 21 seconds on the clock and did not allow a shot the rest of the way to secure the victory.

New Hampshire returns to action Nov. 1 (7 p.m.) at home against Boston University.