WOMEN'S HOCKEY BEGINS NCAA TOURNAMENT PLAY SATURDAY AT HOME
TICKETS | GAME NOTES | AUDIO | VIDEO | LIVE STATS

THE MATCHUP
    The University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team was awarded the third seed in the 2008 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship and will play host to St. Lawrence University in a March 15 (1 p.m.) quarterfinal game at the Whittemore Center.
     Be sure to join the 'Cats for a pre-game Pep Rally in the Whittemore Center Lobby from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. that will include light refreshments, poster-making materials and music. Tickets are available online, at the Whittemore Center box office or by calling 1-866-WILDCAT.

UNH, currently ranked No. 2 in both national polls, enters the NCAA tournament with a 32-3-1 overall record. The Wildcats became the first team to complete the Hockey East regular season undefeated (20-0-1) to win their fifth straight regular-season crown, then captured their third consecutive league tournament title to earn the league’s automatic berth into the NCAAs. St. Lawrence University (28-9-1 overall, 18-3-1 ECAC) finished as the league runner-up to Harvard University in both the regular season standings and tournament to garner an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament.

The game will be broadcast live on the UNH Sports Network and WUNH. Live video will be provided online by Pack Network.

UNH leads the overall series 25-10-3 with a 12-4-1 mark at home. In the first two games of the 2008 season, the teams split a pair of games in Canton, N.Y. The Wildcats prevailed 4-2 in the opener and SLU was a 3-0 winner the next day; that game marked the only time in the last three seasons (2006-08) that UNH has been shut out.

In head coach Brian McCloskey’s tenure (2003-present), the ‘Cats have a 3-5-3 record vs. the Saints and that includes last year’s 6-2 loss to SLU in an NCAA quarterfinal game at the Whittemore Center.

These teams have met four times, including last year’s NCAA matchup, in the postseason. The other three games were in the ECAC tournament: SLU prevailed 1-0 in a 2001 home quarterfinal; UNH won a 1995 neutral-site semifinal (5-1); UNH won a 1993 home quarterfinal (6-1).

In this year’s season opener, UNH netted third-period goals at 2:02 (Sam Faber), 10:36 (Steph Holmes) and 14:43 (Jenn Wakefield) to overcome a 2-1 deficit. The ‘Cats recorded a 9-3 shot advantage in that final frame and a 27-18 edge overall. New Hampshire took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission, then the Saints netted a pair of second-period power-play goals to take the lead. Rookie goalie Kayley Herman earned her first win in her collegiate debut.

In the Oct. 6 rematch, St. Lawrence ended UNH’s streak of scoring a goal at 81 consecutive games (dating back to Feb . 19, 2005) by shutting out the Wildcats. Following a scoreless first period, the Saints once again struck twice in the second period. Lucy Schoedel tied her career high of 21 saves in her first (and only) career loss.

In the two-game series, UNH went 0-for-10 on the power play and 12-for-15 on the penalty kill; one of SLU’s power-play goals was during a two-skater advantage.

SLU scored four second-period goals in the two-game series. In the 34 games since then, UNH has yielded a total of nine goals in the second period.

THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
    New Hampshire enters the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship with a 32-3-1 overall record (20-0-1 Hockey East; 16-1-1 at home; 5-2-0 vs. the ECAC). UNH has won 12 straight games and its current 18-game unbeaten streak (17-0-1) 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).

The Wildcats won their fifth consecutive Hockey East regular-season title as well as their third straight league tournament title this season. The ‘Cats became the first team to complete the Hockey East regular season unbeaten. UNH has a 42-game unbeaten streak (39-0-3), including four  postseason wins, vs. Hockey East teams.

During its 12-game win streak, the Wildcats have yielded a total of six goals with seven shutouts. In the last eight games, UNH has won six times by shutout with just two goals allowed.

New Hampshire has allowed more than one goal in just nine of 36 games this season with 12 shutouts – that means the ‘Cats yielded one goal 15 times. The opposition has scored more than two goals only two times: Dec. 7 at #6 Mercyhurst (4-3 loss) and Oct. 6 at #4 St. Lawrence (3-0 loss). In comparison, UNH has scored more than three goals 20 times (20-0-0 record).

UNH has scored the most goals in the third period (60) despite recording the fewest shots (392) in that stanza; that makes the final frame the one in which the Wildcats have the highest shooting percentage (.153; in comparison to .120 overall).

UNH has been unbeatable as a frontrunner. The ‘Cats are perfect when scoring first (25-0-0), leading at the first intermission (20-0-0) and leading after two periods (24-0-0).

The ‘Cats have won 20+ games all six years, including 30+ two of the last three 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 32 victories rank is second only to the ‘06 team; last year’s 28 total ranks fourth and 27 in ‘03 is fifth.

HOW WE GOT HERE
New Hampshire earned one of the three automatic berths to the NCAA tournament by winning the 6th Annual Women’s Hockey East Championship Tournament, which was held March 8-9 at the University of Connecticut’s Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.

UNH advanced out of the league semifinals with an 8-0 victory against Boston University in which the Wildcats broke the game open with five second-period goals. It was the team’s highest single-period goal output since tallying five third-period goals Feb. 2 at Maine.

Rookies Jenn Wakefield (2g, 1a) and Courtney Birchard (1g, 2a) led the attack with three points apiece. Micaela Long and Sam Faber also netted two goals while Kacey Bellamy, Steph Holmes and Maggie Joyce each  tallied two assists. Kayley Herman recorded 14 saves as UNH recorded a 36-14 shot advantage and went 2-for-4 on the power play.

In the title game, Faber scored what proved to be the game’s only goal at 16:43 of the first period and Herman stopped 17 shots to lead UNH to a 1-0 victory against Providence College.

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE
    The winner of Saturday’s NCAA quarterfinal game at the Whittemore Center advances to the 2008 Frozen Four in Duluth, Minn. (March 20 & 22). The next opponent would be the winner of the Minnesota-Duluth vs. Mercyhurst College quarterfinal game.

PLAYING THE FIELD
    UNH has a 6-2-0 record vs. the 2008 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship field. In addition to the road split against St. Lawrence, the Wildcats defeated top-seeded Harvard University, 4-1, Dec. 14 at the Whittemore Center.

The ‘Cats also swept a two-game home series – both games by a 2-1 score – against Wisconsin at the Whittemore Center on Nov. 17-18; the Badgers were ranked No. 1 in the polls at the time.

On the road, UNH upended Dartmouth College, 3-1, on Jan. 17 and split a series at Mercyhurst College with a 5-3 loss (Dec. 7) and 5-2 win (Dec. 8).

The only two 2008 NCAA tourney teams that UNH has not faced this season are Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. The Wildcats were 6-5 victors in overtime last season (Oct. 7, 2--6) at Minnesota. They have not faced off against Minnesota-Duluth since December 2000.
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