GAME NOTES: Women's Hockey Plays Host to RIT (Oct. 4), Syracuse (Oct. 5)


The Matchups

    The University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team carries a 1-1-0 overall record into the weekend games against CHA representatives RIT (Oct. 4, 7 p.m.) and Syracuse (Oct. 5, 2 p.m.). Saturday's game vs. Syracuse will be televised live on the Live Well Network.
    UNH has a 12-0-0 lifetime record against RIT, but these programs have not met since Dec. 3, 1994, when the Wildcats prevailed 9-2 on the road. UNH has won all eight home games vs. the Tigers, but all of those games were played at Snively Arena.
    New Hampshire has a 2-2-0 lifetime record against Syracuse – three of the four meetings have been decided by one goal (the other was a two-goal margin). Last year, the Wildcats were 4-3 victors in the season opener at SU. The last time these teams faced off in the Whittemore Center (Oct. 8, 2011), the Orange left Durham with a 2-1 victory.

Hockey East Bestows UNH Three Awards
    Sophomore goaltender Vilma Vaattovaara was named co-Player of the Week and freshman forward Cassandra Vilgrain was honored as Rookie of the Week by Women's Hockey East on Monday (Sept. 30). The league also announced the UNH Wildcats as the Hockey East Team of the Week.
    Vaattovaara had a 1-0-0 record last week with a 1.00 GAA and .976 save percentage as she recorded a career-high 41 saves to backbone UNH to a 2-1 victory at St. Lawrence (Sept. 28). She tallied double-digit saves all three periods, including a personal-best, single-period 16 in the first period.
    Vilgrain recorded one point with an assist in the two-game series at SLU. She set up the game-winning goal Sept. 28 by tallying the primary assist on UNH's goal that produced a 2-0 lead early in the third period. Vilgrain had a +1 plus/minus rating in that game and the series.

The State of New Hampshire
    New Hampshire opened the 2013-14 season last weekend with a two-game series split at St. Lawrence University. The Wildcats were upended 4-2 on Friday (Sept. 27) but responded with a 2-1 victory Saturday (Sept. 28).
    UNH returns 18 letterwinners from last year's team that went 14-16-4 overall and finished fourth in the Hockey East standings with a 10-8-3 league record. UNH also has three newcomers (all freshmen) for a 21-player roster consisting of 12 forwards, five defensemen and four goaltenders.
    Brian McCloskey enters his 12th season as UNH women's ice hockey head coach. He has compiled a 247-105-38 overall record, which calculates to a .683 win percentage.
    The top two point-producing forwards were lost to graduation, but five double-digit performers are back in 2013-14. They are junior assistant captain Hannah Armstrong (11-8-19), senior Jessica Hitchcock (9-9-18), senior Arielle O'Neill (8-7-15), sophomore Sara Carlson (7-7-14) and senior captain Nicole Gifford (3-10-13).
    Two juniors – Caroline Broderick, Jess Ryan – and two sophomores – Megan Armstrong, assistant captain Alexis Crossley – return to patrol the blue line. Crossley led all 'Cats in assists (17) and ranked second overall in points (24) en route to being named a Hockey East Second Team All-Star and All-Rookie Team honoree. Armstrong was second among UNH defensemen in goals (four) and points (13).
    In goal, junior Jenn Gilligan started 20 of the last 24 games of the 2012-13 season and was a Hockey East Honorable Mention selection. Sophomores Vilma Vaattovaara (12 gp) and Marie-Eve Jean (4 gp) also return between the pipes.

Grand Opening
    New Hampshire has a 28-6-2 lifetime record in home openers, including  13-3-2 at the Whittemore Center since the venue opened in fall 1995. Last year, the Wildcats lost 4-3 to the University of Vermont and that ended a 10-year unbeaten streak (8-0-2) in home-opening games.
    UNH has never faced off against RIT in a home opener.

'Cat Nips
    Sophomore forward Sara Carlson is the only Wildcat skater who recorded a point in both games last weekend at St. Lawrence and is the only 'Cat with multiple points. She tallied an assist in the opener, then scored the game-winning goal the next day when her third-period goal gave UNH a 2-0 lead.
    UNH had four different goal scorers last weekend. In addition to Carlson, Nicole Gifford, Jenna Lascelle and Caroline Broderick each potted a goal.
    Five different Wildcats tallied an assist. In addition to Carlson, Jessica Hitchcock, Heather Kashman, Kayla Mork and Cassandra Vilgrain tallied helpers. It was the first career point for the rookie Vilgrain.

50 On the Horizon
    Senior forward Nicole Gifford is on the verge of recording her 50th career point. She enters the weekend with 48 points (19g, 29a) in 102 games.
    Classmate and fellow forward Arielle O'Neill is also approaching the 50-point milestone. She enters Friday's game with 45 points (22g, 23a) in 102 career games.

Countdown to 250
    Head coach Brian McCloskey enters the weekend with 247 victories. Now in his 12th season at the UNH helm, McCloskey has compiled an overall record of 247-105-38 that includes 150-52-21-1 in Hockey East.

What Just Happened
    New Hampshire opened the 2013-14 season with a two-game series at St. Lawrence University. SLU won 4-2 last Friday but UNH responded with a 2-1 victory Saturday.
    SLU recorded the shot advantage both games (31-21; 42-21). On special teams, the Wildcats went 1-for-8 on the power play while SLU was 3 of 16.
    In the Sept. 27 opener, the Saints netted goals 17 seconds apart midway through the first period to quickly take a 2-0 lead. Nicole Gifford's power-play goal 57 seconds into the second stanza lifted the Wildcats within 2-1, but SLU potted power-play goals at 7:33 and 14:44 to establish a 4-1 advantage. Jenna Lascelle struck with 2:38 remaining in the second period to trim the deficit to 4-2, but the 'Cats would get no closer the rest of the way. Marie-Eve Jean, who was pulled favor of an extra skater for the final 83 seconds of the game, was credited with 27 saves.
    One day later, Vilma Vaattovaara stopped 16 shots in the first period en route to a career-high 41 saves in UNH's 2-1 victory. Following two scoreless periods, Caroline Broderick struck at 1:20 and Sara Carlson scored 79 seconds later (at 2:39) to give the Wildcats a 2-0 lead. SLU pulled its goaltender the final 5:48 of the game and, while on the power play, pulled within one goal with 83 seconds to play.

What Happens Next
    UNH plays host to interstate rival Maine for White Out the Whitt just once in the 2013-14 season, and it happens Oct. 13 (2 p.m.).

Captain of the 'Cats
    Senior forward Nicole Gifford is captain of the 2013-14 Wildcats. Gifford ranked fifth on the team in assists (10) and also scored three goals – all on the power play – for a total of 13 points last year. She has 48 points (19g, 29a) in 102 career games.
    Junior forward Hannah Armstrong and sophomore defenseman Alexis Crossley are the assistant captains.
    Armstrong rebounded from an injury-plagued 2011-12 season to skate in all 34 games a year ago. She ranked fourth overall – and is the leader among returning forwards – with 19 points on 11 goals and eight assists; she was second in goals.
    Crossley was a highly decorated freshman in 2012-13 with Hockey East Second Team All-Star, All-Rookie Team, Rookie of the Month and All-Academic Team included among her accolades. Crossley led all 'Cats in both assists (17) and power-play goals (five), and she ranked second in points (24). In the league, she was second in defenseman scoring, third in blocked shots (64) and fifth in both freshman scoring and power-play points (13).

Senior Snipers
    Senior forwards Jessica Hitchcock and Arielle O'Neill are two of the top returning point producers.
    Hitchcock is a second-year Wildcat who was also a two-year letterwinner at Niagara University. She scored a goal in her UNH debut and ended the 2012-13 season ranked third in goals (nine) and fifth in points (18). Hitchcock also ranked third in shots.
    O'Neill, a three-time Hockey East All-Academic Team honoree, skated in 102 of 103 games the past three seasons. She netted eight goals last year as a junior to rank fourth on the team, and she also tallied seven assists for a total of 15 points.

Equal Opportunity Wildcat
    Sara Carlson was one of three freshman – the only forward – to skate in all 34 games last year; she was equal finisher, equal playmaker with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points.

Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine
    Sophomore forward Brittney Redlick scored six goals to account for all six of her points in 26 games played last season.

Healthy Returns
    Heather Kashman (sophomore) and Jonna Curtis (freshman) return from redshirt seasons in 2012-13. Injury sidelined Kashman last year after recording 10 points (7g, 3a) as a freshman. Curtis had a strong start to her UNH career with three multiple-point efforts in the first five games, but then she was sidelined by injury the rest of the season and was awarded a redshirt season; Curtis tallied six points (2g, 4a) in five games.

The Puck Stops Here
    The Wildcats once again have four goaltenders on the 2013-14 roster with three returning netminders (one junior, two sophomores) and one incoming freshman.
    After missing the first 10 games of the 2012-13 season, Jenn Gilligan started 20 of the last 24 games and finished with a 10-5-3 record, 2.29 GAA, 909 save percentage and two shutouts. Her stats improved in league games with a 2.06 GAA and .915 save percentage. With those numbers, Gilligan was a Hockey East Honorable Mention selection.
    Gilligan went unbeaten (3-0-0) in November and was honored as Hockey East Goaltender of the Month in January by virtue of a 1.81 GAA and .924 save percentage.
    Vilma Vaattovaara played in 12 games, including 10 starts, a year ago and compiled a 3-9-0 record with a 4.04 GAA and .868 save percentage.
    Marie-Eve Jean went 1-1-1 with a 2.71 GAA and .906 save percentage in four games (two starts) last year as a freshman. In Hockey East league action, Jean was unbeaten (1-0-1) with a 1.45 GAA and .935 save percentage.

Incoming 'Cats
    UNH has three incoming student-athletes – all freshmen – with one new forward, defenseman and goaltender.
    The lone newcomer to the forward corps is Cassandra Vilgrain. She led the Edge School for Athletes to a gold medal at the World Sport School Challenge, where she was named the tournament's top forward, and to the JWHL championship game.
    Kate Haslett comes to UNH from Brooks School, where she captained the team as a senior defenseman and was named ISL All-League and All-New England Second Team.
    Ashley Wilkes played between the pipes at North American Hockey Academy in 2012-13, when she had a 19-0-1 record with a 1.09 GAA and .942 save percentage to garner JWHL First Team All-Star recognition and backbone NAHA to the league title.

Facing Off
    Arielle O'Neill led UNH and was second in Hockey East in faceoff win percentage (64.5%). She won 343 of 532 faceoffs.
    It was Nicole Gifford, however, who took the highest total of faceoffs with 661. She won 347 draws for a .525 win percentage.

Current 'Cats With Hat Tricks
    Three current UNH skaters have scored three goals in a game.
  Hannah Armstrong - Feb. 11, 2013 vs. Connecticut
  Nicole Gifford - Nov. 26, 2011 vs. Princeton
  Jenna Lascelle - Dec. 12, 2011 vs. Dartmouth

Spanning the Globe
    The Wildcats are a team made up of student-athletes from around the world. In the geographic breakdown, 12 'Cats hail from Canada while eight are from the United States and one calls Finland home.

UNH records 700th win
    UNH, now in its 37th year at the varsity level, is the winningest women's college hockey program in the United States with an overall record of 726-231-73 for a .741 winning percentage. The Wildcats attained the most recent century milestone Feb. 3, 2011 with a 4-2 road victory against third-ranked Boston University.
    In 36 years, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1998; AWCHA), four Hockey East tournament championships, six Hockey East regular-season titles, five ECAC tournament championships and four EAIAW championships. UNH made five consecutive NCAA tourney appearances (2006-10) with two trips to the Frozen Four in that span.

200 Wins at The Whitt
    New Hampshire recorded its 200th victory at the Whittemore Center with a 4-2 victory Jan. 30, 2011 against Maine. UNH has an overall record of 205-55-27 (.761 win percentage) at The Whitt since the venue opened in Fall 1995.

Scouting the Tigers
    RIT (Rochester, N.Y.), selected fourth in the CHA preseason poll, enters Friday's game with a 0-1-0 record following a 12-1 loss to third-ranked Clarkson University last Saturday (Sept. 28). The Tigers were outshot 18-4 and outscored 5-0 in the first period, followed by 16-6 and 6-1, respectively, in the second stanza. The final shot total was 44-13 in favor of Clarkson. On special teams, RIT was scoreless on two power-play opportunities and surrendered four power-play goals in nine shorthanded situations.
    The Tigers used three goalies in the season opener. Ali Binnington got the start in goal but was pulled after allowing three goals in just 5:58; she also had six saves. Brooke Stoddart played the remainder of the first period and the second period; she made 17 saves and yielded eight goals.  Jetta Rackleff was between the pipes for the third period and she stopped 9 of 10 shots on goal.
    RIT went 16-16-5 overall with a 9-8-0 CHA record last season – its first as a Division I program – and has 14 players returning from that team. Binnington played in 28 games and went 11-10-4 with a 1.93 GAA, .928 save percentage and six shutouts; with those numbers, she ranked 13th in the nation in GAA and ninth in save percentage. Kourtney Kunichika is the team's returning top scorer with 24 points (9g, 15a) and she has 112 career points (44g, 68a).

Scouting the Orange
    Syracuse University (Syracuse, N.Y.) was picked second in the CHA preseason poll after finishing 20-15-1 overall – the best mark in the program's five-year existence – and 13-6-1 in the conference a year ago. The Orange, led by sixth-year head coach Paul Flanagan, must replace its top point producer (Holly Carrie-Mattimoe, 26 pts) and goal scorer (Shiann Darkangelo, 16g) from the 2012-13 season.
    SU does return three 20-point producers in Nicole Ferrara (10-14-24), Melissa Piacentini (9-14-23) and Margot Scharfe (11-11-22). All three goaltenders return. Kallie Billadeau was the top goalie with 25 starts; she went 16-9-0 with a 1.56 GAA, .940 save percentage and six shutouts. Jenesica Drinkwater was 4-6-1 with a 2.90 GAA, .890 save percentage and two shutouts.
    The first goal was a barometer of wins and losses, as the Orange were 16-4-1 when scoring first and 4-11-0 when falling behind 1-0.

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