DURHAM, N.H. - Senior captain Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario) notched her team-leading 10th goal of the season, but the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team was defeated by the University of Vermont, 3-2, at the Whittemore Center on Saturday afternoon.
Vermont ups its record to 14-13-4 overall and 10-7-1 in Hockey East. UNH drops to 9-19-2, 4-12-2. The Wildcats outshot the Catamounts by a plus-14 margin of 47-31. Senior goaltender Roxanne Douville stopped 45 shots, improving to 10-9-3 on the season. Sophomore netminder Vilma Vaattovaara (Veikkola, Finland) made 28 saves, falling to 6-7-2.
The Catamounts generated the first scoring chance of the game. Vermont was able to dump the puck behind the UNH net. Junior center Delia McNally served a pass to senior defensemen Megan Dalbec in front of the crease but Vaattovaara was able to make the stick save to keep the game scoreless.
UNH's first scoring chance also came in the first period. Sophomore defensemen Alexis Crossley (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia) gained possession of the puck behind the opposing team's cage. She dished a pass to freshman forward Cassandra Vilgrain (Calgary, Alberta), but the rookie could not corral the pass in the middle of the offensive third.
Vermont struck the pipe in the waning moments of the opening stanza. Victoria Andreakos shot a wrister from the left faceoff circle. Despite the winger's effort, the bid ricocheted and was cleared by the Wildcat defense.
After a scoreless first period, sophomore center Heather Kashman (Edmonton, Alberta) notched the game's first goal for the Wildcats at 3:53 in the second frame. Kashman won the faceoff in the opposing zone. Junior forward Jenna Lascelle (Cornwall, Ontario) collected the puck behind the net and passed the puck to an open Kashman in front of the cage for the one-time goal.
New Hampshire doubled its goal tally with 10:21 to go in the second stanza. Senior winger Jessica Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) sent the puck down the left wall, finding Hannah Armstrong (Keswick, Ontario). The junior forward fended off a Catamount defender and dug out the puck for Gifford. The senior one-timed the shot and slipped the puck under the pads of Douville to give the Wildcats a 2-0 advantage.
Vermont cut the two-goal deficit in half just 58 seconds later. Junior forward Amanda Pelkey received a long pass from the Catamount zone and slipped behind the Wildcat defense. Pelkey was denied the breakaway chance by a glove save from Vaattovaara. However, the puck was deflected to the left corner, where Andreakos corralled the loose puck and backhanded a pass to Dalbec. The senior center sniped a shot between the glove and the pad of Vaattovaara to light the lamp.
Pelkey registered the game-tying goal at 13:51 in the second period. Sarah Campbell lifted the puck over the UNH defense, finding Pelkey in stride. The junior forward snapped a shot from the right faceoff circle that passed through the right side of Vaattovarra for the goal.
Freshman center Casey Leveillee tallied the go-ahead with 16:24 remaining in the third stanza. Leveillee carried the puck into the offensive zone, backhanding a pass to Andreakos. Vaattovaara stopped the initial shot from Andreakos. However, the rebound was swiftly collected by Leveillee, who knocked in the follow up bid into the open left side of the net.
New Hampshire opted to pull Vaattovaara at 18:32 of the third period and gained a two-skater advantage when UVM was whistled for interference 28 seconds later. Arielle O'Neill (St. Catherines, Ontario) had three shots on target from the high slot, but all three were stopped by Douville. On the ensuing faceoff, the Catamounts won the draw and Delia McNally cleared the zone on a diving effort. UNH dumped the puck into the offensive zone with 12 seconds left, but could not get a shot off as Vermont rallied from two goals down for the win.
The Wildcats conclude the weekend series against the Catamounts on Sunday, Feb. 16 (2 p.m.).