STORRS, Conn.Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) scored the game’s only goal and Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) stopped all 17 shots she faced for her ninth shutout of the season to propel the second-ranked University of New Hampshire women’s ice hockey team to its third consecutive Women’s Hockey East Championship Tournament title with Sunday’s 1-0 victory against Providence College at the University of Connecticut’s Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.

UNH won its 12th consecutive game to extend its unbeaten streak to 18 games (17-0-1) and improve to 32-3-1 overall. With its third consecutive Hockey East tournament title, the Wildcats earned the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship; it was announced that UNH will play host to St. Lawrence University in a March 15 (1 p.m.) quarterfinal game.

PC, which provided the only blemish (a 1-1 tie) on the Wildcats’ otherwise perfect regular-season league record (20-0-1), ends the season at 16-16-4.

Faber earned the Tournament MVP award for her three-goal weekend. She and Herman were joined on the All-Tournament Team by Maggie Joyce (Hudson, Ohio) and Jenn Wakefield (Pickering, Ontario). Herman did not allow a goal in the tourney as she blanked Boston University with a 14-save effort in Saturday’s semifinal.

PC goalie Danielle Ciarletta stopped 21 shots.

“Before the game I told our squad that it would be a hard fought battle and Providence would push us to the limit," UNH head coach Brian McCloskey said. "That’s exactly what unfolded. Goals were hard to come by and when we scored the first goal I certainly didn’t think that it was going to be enough. We did some very good things defensively and when we didn’t Kayley Herman came up with a big save in a play-off atmosphere.”

UNH took a 1-0 lead – and an 11-4 shot advantage – into the first intermission on Faber’s third goal of the tournament and 25th goal of the season; it also proved to be her 13th game-winning tally. Joyce, who tallied two assists in Saturday’s semifinal, intercepted a PC pass at the blue line to keep the puck in the offensive zone and Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) gained possession at the left point. She slid the puck to Faber, who skated down the slot and tucked a shot between Ciarletta’s legpads.

The Wildcats generated three breakaway opportunities in the opening 6:30 of the game. In the third minute, Faber corralled a long outlet pass at the blue line, advanced through the slot and was denied the 5-hole by Ciarletta. With UNH shorthanded, Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.) broke up a play at the defensive blue line to send the puck through the neutral zone, and as she chased down the puck she lost her balance and pushed the puck wide left of the cage. On the same penalty kill, Faber won the puck along the left boards and lost the puck as she cut across the low slot.

With four minutes to play in the opening stanza, Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) wristed a shot from the right side of the slot that ricocheted off the right post and across the crease behind Ciarletta.

Physical play that characterized the first period continued, perhaps to a higher degree, in the scoreless second period. PC generated a strong scoring chance at 5:30 on a shorthanded rush by Sarah Feldman, who cut down the left side of the slot and was denied by Herman.

UNH began to build momentum midway through the stanza as the lines of Faber-Birchard-Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) and Craig-Wright-Ward-Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) effectively cycled the puck. The Friars were able to keep the ‘Cats on the perimeter, however, until Faber cut in on the right circle and one-timed a pass from Birchard that Ciarletta enveloped.

Providence had a 5x3 power play for 1:39 at 16:10 of the middle stanza but did not record a shot in that time. PC went on the power play again for the final 1:46 of the period, but Herman stopped the two Friars’ shots to preserved UNH’s one-goal advantage.

In the eighth minute of the final frame, PC’s Danielle Tangredi corralled a loose puck in the slot, drifted to the left and fired a shot that was stopped by Herman’s leg pad.

“Well she came around and I couldn’t really see," Herman said. "Then she waited and I was able to get my leg out in time and the puck hit my leg. It was a big adrenaline rush.”

UNH went on the power play moments later, but the best scoring opportunity in that two-minute span went to the Friars, as a UNH turnover in the defensive end yielded Rachel Crissy’s blast from the right circle (that was knocked aside by Herman).
“They were playing with no tomorrow and we knew that we had another game, but we still didn’t want to be back on our heels," Faber said. "At one point they did put us back there, but as we’ve said over and over, our goalie was there to save us.”

With 3:30 remaining, Hitchcock and Wright-Ward generated a 2-on-1 rush in which the former carried the puck down the left wing and centered a pass to the latter, who pulled the puck to the left but was stopped by Ciarletta’s extended right leg pad. Moments later, Hitchcock’s backhander from the slot sailed through traffice but was steered aside by the PC netminder.

PC called time out with 2:12 remaining and pulled Ciarletta in favor of an extra skater with 1:24 to play. The Wildcats were whistled for a penalty with 44 seconds on the clock to give the Friars a two-skater advantage. UNH’s penalty kill unit of Wright-Ward, Craig, Martine Garland (Toronto, Ontario) and Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) kept the Friars on the perimeter and without a shot the rest of the way.

UNH now has a 42-game unbeaten streak (39-0-3), including four postseason games, against Hockey East teams.

It was the 28th win of the season for Herman, and that total ties the school record shared by Melissa Bourdon (2006) and Alicia Robers (1998). In four games vs. the Friars this season, Herman went 3-0-1 with a 0.49 GAA, .975 save percentage and two shutouts.

Hitchcock skated in her 145th career game Sunday to tie the school benchmark established by Nicole Hekle (2004-07).

New Hampshire has a 69-38-12 lifetime record with an 11-game unbeaten streak (9-0-2) vs. Providence. This marked the fourth time in six years that these teams faced off in the Hockey East title game. The Wildcats were 3-1 victors last year at the Whittemore Center, whereas PC won in ’03 and ’04 at Northeastern University’s Matthews Arena.

UNH now has an 8-3 overall record in the Hockey East tourney with six wins by shutout.

The 32 victories ranks second on UNH’s list of single-season superlatives. The 2006 team finished with 33 wins.

All photos by Mike Silverwood.

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