BURLINGTON, Vt. – Nicole Hekle (Winnipeg, Manitoba) and Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) both recorded a goal and an assist and Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.) had two assists to lead the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire women’s ice hockey team to Saturday afternoon’s 4-0 Hockey East victory against the University of Vermont at Gutterson Fieldhouse.
UNH extended its overall unbeaten streak to 10 games (8-0-2) and its Hockey East unbeaten mark to 16 games (14-0-2) to improve to 25-3-2 overall and 17-1-2 in the league. UVM lost its 12th consecutive game to fall to 3-26-2, 1-18-1.
UNH goaltender Brittany Busa (Concord, Mass.) recorded a season-high 12 saves for her sixth career shutout. UVM’s Jenilee Roy stopped 21 shots, including nine in the third period.
The Wildcats netted a pair of first-period goals to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.) opened the scoring at and Hekle extended the advantage to two goals at .
Wright-Ward passed the puck to Holmes in the slot, where her shot was turned aside by Roy. Jackie Wedster (Chicago, Ill.), near the left post, pushed the puck across to an unmarked Holmes, who lifted a shot into the open right side of the net for the 1-0 lead.
Hekle, with her fourth multiple-point effort in the last six games, scored on a shot from the low slot later after Hitchcock skated the puck deep on the left wing and centered the puck to her fellow captain. Diana Saly (Edina, Minn.) carried the puck into the zone at the left point and advanced the puck to Hitchcock to earn an assist.
New Hampshire netted a power-play goal in the middle stanza to increase the lead to 3-0 at the end of two periods. Vermont threatened in the opening 30 seconds of the frame when Busa turned aside a shot from the left circle then snared Karen Sentoff’s close-range wrist shot off the rebound.
The Wildcats regained control of the game with consecutive power plays. Wedster hit the left post on the first opportunity of the period, then was denied near the left post on Roy’s leg-pad save on the second chance. The UNH ‘Cats maintained pressure, however, to produce Hitchcock’s tally at . Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) moved the puck from the right circle to Hekle in the slot, who quickly moved the puck low to Hitchcock.
UNH struck again on the power play at of the third period to close the scoring. Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) carried the puck behind the net and passed it to Wright-Ward at the left post, who in turn threw the puck across the crease to Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.). Bellamy, from along the goal line on the right wing, beat Roy to the near post.
UNH’s second-period power-play goal ended a stretch of 15 consecutive scoreless power-play opportunities, which spanned four games and marked the team’s longest power-play drought of the season.
The 25 shots marked UNH’s second-lowest total of the season to the mark of 18 in a 6-5 overtime win at Minnesota (Oct. 7).
New Hampshire concludes the regular season Feb. 25 at Vermont. The Wildcats are the No. 1 seed in the upcoming Women’s Hockey East Championship, which will be held March 3-4 at UNH’s WhittemoreCenter. Tickets are available now at the box office arena, by calling 1-866-WILDCAT or online at www.unhwildcats.com