DURHAM, N.H. – The University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey program gathered for its annual banquet last weekend to commemorate the accomplishments of the 2011 team and student-athletes.
Senior defenseman and captain Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) was announced as the recipient of the Karyn Bye Award, which distinguishes the team MVP. Birchard led all UNH defensemen in goals (eight) and points (15); overall, she ranked third in goals and tied for third in points. In other stats, Birchard led the team in shots and ranked second in plus/minus.
Beyond the stats, leadership and versatility were two other characteristics that helped make Birchard an MVP. The blueliner with the booming slapshot quarterbacked the power-play unit and anchored the defensive unit, including the penalty kill. Sporadically throughout the season, Birchard was transitioned from defenseman to forward, where she utilized her soft hands around the net. And at times, the captain was in the faceoff circle to take the draw.
Birchard's other 2011 accolades included Hockey East First Team All-Star.
Senior assistant captain Courtney Sheary (Melrose, Mass.) was honored with the Colleen Coyne Award as best defenseman. Sheary skated in all 32 games and tallied nine points on one goal and eight assists – both the assist and point totals marked personal single-season highs. Sheary led all UNH blueliners in assists and was second in points. She also played an instrumental role on both special teams units.
The Rookie of the Year was presented to Nicole Gifford (Peterborough, Ontario) and Arielle O'Neill (St. Catharines, Ontario), both of whom skated in 31 of 32 games in the 2011 season. Gifford also received the Tricia Dunn Award as the best defensive forward.
O'Neill led all Wildcats in goals (11) and ranked second in points (19) as well as tied for third in assists (eight). She led UNH rookies in all three statistics. O'Neill tied for second overall in plus/minus and ranked third in shots. Her season highlights included three-point performances against both Union College (2g, 1a) and Northeastern University (1g, 2a).
Gifford tallied seven points on five goals and two assists. Her season highlights included the game-winning goal against NCAA-tournament bound Dartmouth College when she broke a scoreless tie in overtime. Including that game, Gifford had a +3 plus/minus rating spanning the last 13 games of the season.
Raylen Dziengelewski (Southwick, Mass.), a senior defenseman, was given the Sue Merz Award as the 7th Player. The captain skated in all 32 games and tallied four points, all on assists, in her last year as a Wildcat. She had a +1 plus/minus rating spanning the last 16 games of the season (Dec. 4 to Feb. 20).
Junior forward Emma Clark (East Barre, Vt.) was the recipient of the Fan Favorite Award. She skated in 30 of 32 games and recorded six points, all on assists, and she had a team-best plus/minus rating of +6. She utilized her speed to generate a smothering forecheck, but rarely played out of control as evident by her team-low one penalty.
The Unsung Hero Award was presented to sophomore forward Kristine Horn (Utica, Mich.), who skated in all 32 games and tied for third on the team in points (15). She also ranked second in assists (10). She netted the game-winning goal at third-ranked Boston University and recorded multiple-point efforts (1g, 1a) against both St. Lawrence University and BU.
Senior goaltender Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) was the recipient of the A. Barr "Whoop" Snively Citizenship & Service Award for the second consecutive year. Herman, sidelined twice by injuries in the 2011 season, played 14 games – all starts – and went 6-6-2 with a 2.14 GAA and .928 save percentage. In her return to action Jan. 22 at Northeastern University, she made what was then a personal-best 40 saves to backbone the Wildcats to a 4-3 overtime victory against the ninth-ranked Huskies. Herman then made a school-record 52 saves, including 21 in the third period, to lead UNH to a 4-2 win at third-ranked BU on Feb. 3.
Sophomore defenseman Katie Brock (Marblehead, Mass.) was honored with the Academic Award for Excellence for recording the team's highest grade-point-average. Brock skated in all 32 games and tallied four points, all on assists, and she ranked fifth on the team in plus/minus.
Chelsea Risling, the team's equipment manager, was named recipient of the Norma O'Dowd Hartnett Award.
The senior class of Birchard, Dziengelewski, Herman, Sheary, Julie Allen (Brampton, Ontario) and Molly Morrison (Burlington, Vt.) was given special recognition. This sextet led UNH to back-to-back Hockey East regular-season and tournament titles (2008 & 2009) as well as three consecutive NCAA tournament appearances, including one trip to the Frozen Four.
Allen skated in 100 games during her three-year Wildcat career and she recorded 34 points on 18 goals and 16 assists. Birchard tallied 34 goals and 47 assists for 81 points in 117 career games. Dziengelewski skated in 130 games and finished with 34 points on two goals and 32 assists. Morrison, who was a UNH Wildcat for two years following a two-year stint at the University of Vermont, compiled totals of 14 goals and 19 assists for 33 points in 127 games. Sheary tallied 27 points on four goals and 23 assists in 130 games. Herman had a 57-19-11 record with a 1.72 GAA, .920 save percentage and 16 shutouts; on UNH's career leaderboard, she is third in shutouts and fourth in wins, GAA, minutes and saves as well as fifth in save percentage.
2011 UNH Women's Hockey Awards
Karyn Bye Award (MVP)- Courtney Birchard
Colleen Coyne Award (best defenseman)- Courtney Sheary
Tricia Dunn Award (best defensive forward)- Nicole Gifford
Rookie of the Year- Nicole Gifford, Arielle O'Neill
Sue Merz Award (7th Player)- Raylen Dziengelewski
Fan Favorite Award- Emma Clark
Unsung Hero Award- Kristine Horn
Academic Award for Excellence- Katie Brock
A. Barr "Whoop" Snively Citizenship & Service Award- Kayley Herman
Norma O'Dowd Hartnett Award (sportsmanship)- Chelsea Risling