No. 1 UNH women's hockey falls to No. 4 Minnesota, 5-4

Hitchcock records goal, two assists in loss

Jennifer Hitchcock

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. - Bobbi Ross scored four goals, including the game-winning tally with 1:51 remaining in regulation, to lift the fourth-ranked University of Minnesota women's ice hockey team to a 5-4 victory in Friday night's Women's Frozen Four semifinal game against No. 1-ranked and top-seeded University of New Hampshire at Mariucci Arena.

UNH, which entered the game with an NCAA single-season record 29-game unbeaten streak (28-0-1) and NCAA-record 17-game winning streak, ends the year at 33-3-1. UM, which won the national championship in 2004 and 2005, improved to 29-10-1.

UNH was led offensively by Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario), who finished with a goal and two assists. Goaltender Melissa Bourdon (Ile Bizard, Quebec) finished with 20 saves as this game marked the first time all season that the opposition recorded a shot advantage (25-23) against the 'Cats. UM goalie Brittony Chartier stopped 19 shots.

With the score tied 3-3 entering the third period, the Golden Gophers took a 4-3 lead when Becky Wacker struck at 2:27. Bourdon stopped Andrea Nichols' initial shot from the left circle but the rebound went to the slot, where Wacker charged and chipped the puck into the open net.

Nicole Hekle (Winnipeg, Manitoba) pulled New Hampshire even with a power-play goal at 12:11. Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) started the scoring sequence with a pass from the right circle to Amy McLaughlin (Berlin, Mass.) at the high slot. McLaughlin sent a pass wide of the right post that Hekle tipped inside the open right side of the net.

Bobbi Ross netted her fourth goal of the game to give the Golden Gophers their third lead of the night, 5-4, with 1:51 remaining. Whitney Graft skated the puck into the left circle and left a drop pass for Ross, who swooped in behind and wristed a shot into the net.

UNH pulled Bourdon in favor of an extra skater with 41 seconds remaining. UNH called time out with 33.1 seconds to play but could not sustain offensive pressure the rest of the way.

In the first period, Minnesota jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead when Ross' shot from the right doorstep went under the crossbar 46 seconds after the opening faceoff. It marked the first first-period goal allowed by UNH since Feb. 17 vs. UConn as well as the first time UNH trailed in a game since Feb. 1, a span of 685:04 and only the sixth time all season that the 'Cats fell behind 1-0. Ross increased the Golden Gophers' lead to 2-0 at 9:28 of the opening stanza when a New Hampshire turnover gave Andrea Nichols possession behind the net and her centering pass found Ross cutting alone down the slot. UNH had not allowed two first-period goals since Jan. 13 at Maine and had not surrendered as many as two goals in a game since Jan. 29 vs. Providence.

The Wildcats stormed back to tie the game on goals 2:17 apart by Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) and Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.). Hitchcock pulled the 'Cats within 2-1 with a power-play goal, her 30th tally of the season, at 15:17 when she redirected Martine Garland's (Toronto, Ontario) shot from the high slot. Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.), with the centering pass from the left circle, was also credited with an assist. Bellamy evened the score, 2-2, with a screened shot from the left point that sailed inside the near post at 17:34.

UNH took its first lead of the night, 3-2, at 6:15 of the second period on Nicole Goguen's (Truro, Nova Scotia) first goal of the season. Hitchcock set up the tally with a pass from behind the net to Goguen at the high slot.

A UM flurry midway through the middle stanza led to a pair of Wildcat penalties and a penalty shot for the Gophers. Ross completed her hat trick at 10:49 on the penalty shot by skating down the slot and shifting to the left to lift a backhander into the open net.

The loss brings to an end the collegiate careers of UNH seniors McLaughlin, Lindsay Hansen (Northport, N.Y.) and Becky Peters (Dover, N.H.). The Class of 2006 is the winningest in UNH history with 104 victories.

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