The University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team, currently ranked No. 2 in both national polls, enters the final weekend of the regular season with a 28-4-1 overall record that includes an 18-0-1 mark in Hockey East. The Wildcats, who have secured the top seed in the upcoming league tournament, face off against No. 8 University of Connecticut (22-5-5, 13-3-3) in a home-and-home series that begins March 1 (2 p.m.) at UNH’s Whittemore Center. The Huskies are the second seed at the Hockey East tourney.

UNH has a 23-3-3 lifetime record, including this season’s 8-2 win at the Whittemore Center on Nov. 10, against UConn. The Wildcats are 11-1-2 at home vs. the Huskies and are 7-0-1 in the last eight matchups overall; both of those marks include a 2-0 victory in last year’s Hockey East semifinal. UNH is 8-1-1 on the road in this series and have left the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum as victors after each of its last three games there.

In this year’s matchup, the Wildcats jumped out to a 3-0 lead with three goals in less than five minutes and led 3-1 at the first intermission. UNH netted the only two second-period goals to extend its advantage to four goals, then opened the third-period scoring with three consecutive tallies to extend the cushion to 8-1.

Sam Faber led the offense with a career-high five points (2g, 3a). Leah Craig, Jennifer Hitchcock, Sadie Wright-Ward and Kelly Paton each recorded a goal and two assists.

UNH generated a 44-11 shot advantage and went 3-for-6 on the power play as well as 1-for-1 on the penalty kill. Kayley Herman went the distance in net for the ‘Cats. Brittany Wilson was charged with the loss for surrendering eight goals in 49:59; she made 34 saves. Jennie Bellonio held UNH scoreless with two saves in 9:59 of action.

UNH’s Kacey Bellamy, Martine Garland and Jenn Wakefield missed that game due to the Four Nations Cup. Bellamy was skating on the U.S. team while Garland and Wakefield were competing for Canada.

    Martine Garland and Sam Faber were named 2008 Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top 10 Finalists by USA Hockey on Tuesday. Garland was also a Top 10 Finalist last season. New Hampshire is one of just two institutions with more than one Top 10 Finalist in 2008.

The Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award has been presented annually to the most outstanding Division I women’s ice hockey player since its inception in 1998, when UNH’s Brandy Fisher was the inaugural recipient.

Eight Wildcats have received a total of 10 Top 10 nominations. In addition to Garland, Carisa Zaban was a two-time nominee (1999 and 2000).
    Martine Garland and Jennifer Hitchcock were among 32 eastern players selected to participate in the 2008 Frozen Four Skills Challenge in Denver, Colorado at the Pepsi Center on Friday, April 11th.

The competitions will include puck control relay, fastest skater, hardest shot, rapid fire shooting, accuracy shooting and penalty shot. Each competitor will receive a complete set of equipment and a full uniform from Nike Bauer Hockey.

Tickets for the event are $10 and will go on sale March 1 at the Pepsi Center box office, all Ticketmaster outlets, Ticketmaster.com or by phone at 303/830-8497. The Frozen Four Skills Challenge will begin at 7 p.m. Mountain time and will be preceded by the Hobey Baker Memorial Award at 5:30 p.m. and the Hockey Humanitarian Award at 6:05 p.m. The Frozen Four Skills Challenge and the Hobey Baker Award will both be shown live on ESPNU.

    Kayley Herman received her first Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week award on Monday. Herman backboned UNH to a weekend sweep of Providence College (3-0 on the road; 3-1 at home) by stopping 43 of 44 shots for a 0.50 GAA and .977 save percentage. She made a career-high 27 saves to record her second consecutive shutout (sixth of the season) in the 3-0 win that clinched the Wildcats’ third straight outright Hockey East regular-season championship. The only goal Herman surrendered was during a PC 5x3 power play, and that tally ended her shutout streak at 157 minutes, 12 seconds.

    UNH hockey pulled off a double double in 2007 and 2008. The Wildcats became the first Hockey East school to win both the men’s and women’s regular-season championships in ‘07, and the Wildcats duplicated that feat in 2008 when both teams clinched the regular-season title on Feb. 23. The women secured their fifth straight title overall with a win at Providence College at 3 p.m. and the men’s team won their title later that night (9:30 p.m.) with a win against Boston College.

    New Hampshire enters the weekend series vs. UConn with a 28-3-1 overall record (18-0-1 Hockey East; 13-2-0 on the road; 15-1-1 at home). UNH’s current 13-game unbeaten streak (12-0-1) is the team’s longest of the season and third unbeaten streak of at least six games this season; the ‘Cats recorded previous streaks of eight games (8-0-0) and six games (6-0-0).

UNH has scored the most goals in the third period (55) despite recording the fewest shots (344) in that stanza; that make the final frame the one in which the Wildcats have the highest shooting percentage (.160; in comparison to .117 overall).

UNH is attempting to become the first team to finish the league regular season undefeated; the ‘Cats had just one loss in ‘04, ‘06 and ‘07; PC had one loss in ‘03. The Wildcats have a 38-game unbeaten streak (35-0-3), including postseason, vs. Hockey East teams.

A glance at the goal and shot totals portrays UNH’s league dominance. In 19 Hockey East games, the ‘Cats have surrendered a total of 14 goals; UNH has scored more than that in all three periods with 33 in the third period, 30 in the first and 24 in the second. New Hampshire has yielded a total of 263 shots; in comparison, UNH’s lowest shot total in a period is 242 (in the third); the ‘Cats have 249 in the second and 254 in the opening frame.

The ‘Cats have won 20+ games all six years under the guidance of head coach Brian McCloskey. Four of the top five seasons in terms of wins – including No. 1 (33 wins) in 2006 – have come in McCloskey’s tenure. This year’s 28 wins matches last year’s mark for third-highest; only the 2006 (33 wins) and 1998 (31) rank higher.

    The Class of 2008 has amassed more wins than any of its predecessors with an overall record of 110-18-13, which is an .826 winning percentage. Included in that is a 61-5-9 (.873) mark at the Whittemore Center and a 68-5-8 (.889) ledger in Hockey East. This class captured the Hockey East regular-season title all four years and won the league tournament title in both 2006 and 2007. They have made two NCAA tournament appearances and advanced to the 2006 Frozen Four.
    Leah Craig surpassed both the 50-goal and 100-point milestones this season and she enters today’s game with 123 points on 55 goals and 68 assists in 138 career games. Craig leads the 2008 Wildcats –and ranks 17th nationally – with a personal-best 24 assists. Her other career highlights include a four-goal game and a 20-goal season in which she ranked 18th nationally in goals. Craig’s accolades include two-time selection to the Hockey East All-Academic Team.
    Martine Garland is a two-time Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top 10 Finalist and one of the top defenseman scorers in UNH’s 31-year history. She became the fifth Wildcat blueliner to reach the 100-point milestone and the third-year captain currently has 103 points on 19 goals and 84 assists, which is a record for UNH defensemen and 11th overall. This season, Garland is ranked ninth nationally in defenseman scoring; she also ranked in the top 10 last season and led the nation in that statistic when she garnered All-America honors as a sophomore in 2006.
    Nicole Goguen has been a rock-solid defenseman throughout her four-year Wildcat career, and the assistant captain has also been an invaluable part of both the penalty kill and power play units. In 139 career games, Goguen has four goals, including one at the 2006 Frozen Four, and 21 assists for 25 points. Goguen has been named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team each of her first three years.
    Jennifer Hitchcock, a 2006 All-America selection, is one of the most prolific goal scorers and point producers in UNH history as the assistant captain enters today’s game ranked eighth in points (167) and ninth in goals (87). She is also 16th in assists with 79. Hitchcock is the national leader in power-play goals this season with 13; she led the nation in both power-play goals and points in ‘06. That year as a sophomore, she recorded the program’s seventh-best single-season goal mark (30) as well as No. 9 in assists (33) and No. 10 in points (66).
    Diana Saly has seen the majority of her playing time at defense, but she has also skated as a forward for the Wildcats. She brings a physical presence to the ice and has seen playing time on UNH’s penalty kill unit. Saly has tallied a total of 15 points, all on assists, in 121 career games and she has been named to the Hockey East All-Academic Team each of her first three seasons.
    Sadie Wright-Ward is another 2006 All-America selection among the most prolific scorers in UNH history. She enters today’s game ranked 10th in assists (85), tied for 14th in points (147) and tied for 16th in goals (62). This season, Wright-Ward is on the national leaderboard in points (18th), goals (21st) and assists (24th), and she leads the team with a .222 shooting percentage. As a sophomore, she was honored as Hockey East Player of the Year and was the league’s Scoring Champion; she ranked No. 4 in points, No. 6 in assists and No. 7 in goals that year.

    UNH has a 9-2-0 record against nationally-ranked teams this season, which includes 5-0-0 at home and 4-2-0 on the road. The Wildcats have not played a nationally-ranked team since defeating #1 Harvard, 4-1, on Dec. 14.

New Hampshire has outscored the opposition 39-19 with a 311-226 shot advantage. Kayley Herman is 9-1-0 with a 1.61 GAA and .921 save percentage. Sam Faber is the leading scorer with 10 goals and seven assists for 17 points. Sadie Wright-Ward (5-8-13), Kelly Paton (4-8-12), Jennifer Hitchcock (4-7-11) and Leah Craig (3-7-10) have also excelled in those 11 games.
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