GAME NOTES: Women's Hockey Welcomes Ohio State to the Whitt (Nov. 30; Dec. 1)


The Matchup
    The UNH women's ice hockey team closes November and opens December with a two-game home series against The Ohio State University at the Whittemore Center. Saturday's game begins at 2 p.m. and Sunday's faceoff is set for 1 p.m.
    Kids' Club members are invited to stay after Saturday's game for a Skate with the Team event. Sunday's game is televised live on the Live Well Network and will also be broadcast on the Wildcats Sports Radio Network.
    New Hampshire has an 8-1-0 lifetime record against Ohio State but these programs have not faced off since October 2002, when the Wildcats recorded 1-0 and 5-4 (overtime) victories on the road.
    UNH has a 4-1-0 home record vs. the Buckeyes, who last visited the Whittemore Center in October 2001. OSU won the opening game of the series, 4-3, and the 'Cats prevailed by that scored one day later (in overtime).

The State of New Hampshire
    New Hampshire enters the weekend with a 6-7-2 overall record that includes 2-3-1 at home. The Wildcats have not played a WCHA team yet this season.
    UNH enters the weekend with a loss in three consecutive games and a four-game winless streak (0-3-1). The Wildcats have scored one goal each of the last three games.
    The 'Cats had a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) spanning Oct. 4-27. They are 1-5-1 in November.
    In the national statistics, UNH enters the weekend in the middle of the pack in both offense (19th-2.40 gpg) and defense (17th-2.47 gpg). The Wildcats rank sixth in power play (.203) and 15th in penalty kill (.872).
    New Hampshire's penalty kill has been perfect the last three games following last Sunday's game vs. Boston U., which was scoreless on five power plays.
    The 'Cats went winless in four November road games (0-3-1).

'Cat Nips
    Freshman goaltender Ashley Wilkes recorded a career-high 27 saves for the second consecutive game in last Sunday's 2-1 loss to ninth-ranked Boston University. She recorded nine saves each period to match the benchmark established the previous game at nationally-ranked Quinnipiac University (Saturday, Nov. 16).
    Junior defenseman Jess Ryan has recorded an assist each of the last two games – Nov. 16 at Quinnipiac and Nov. 24 vs. Boston U. – both of whom are nationally-ranked teams. Last year, Ryan recorded an assist in three consecutive games.
    All three goals scored by junior forward Hannah Armstrong have come in the past five games. She netted her third goal of the season last Sunday vs. BU and previously scored in back-to-back games against Providence (Nov. 7) and Vermont (Nov. 10).
    In nine games as a defenseman, senior Arielle O'Neill has recorded five points (4g, 1a). Only Hannah Armstrong (3g, 3a) and freshman forward Cassandra Vilgrain (2g, 4a) have recorded more points during the nine-game stretch; Jess Ryan has also tallied five points (3g, 2a).

What Just Happened
    UNH battled ninth-ranked Boston University to the final whistle in a 2-1 loss Nov. 24 at the Whittemore Center– it marked the third consecutive game the 'Cats dressed just 13 skaters (and three goalies).
    Trailing by that one-goal deficit at 16:10 of the third period, the Wildcats had a two-skater advantage with a BU skater in the penalty box and UNH goalie Ashley Wilkes on the bench for another skater. The teams went back to even strength just 21 seconds later, however, when a 'Cat was sent to the penalty box for slashing.
    Wilkes was pulled again with 1:24 remaining, but BU stymied UNH's attack and possessed the puck the last 20 seconds to secure the victory.
    The Terriers took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission on Sarah Lefort's goal at 8:01 of the opening stanza. New Hampshire leveled the score, 1-1, on Hannah Armstrong's power-play goal at 15:28 of the second period. BU regained the lead, 2-1, on a Kayla Tutino tally at 11:14 of the third period.

What Happens Next
    Following the weekend series vs. Ohio State, UNH wraps up the 2013 portion of its schedule with games against ECAC foes Harvard (Dec. 6; road) and Dartmouth (Dec. 8; home).

Race to Three
    UNH has a 5-0-1 record when scoring three goals in a game and is 1-5-1 when allowing three goals. On the flip side, the Wildcats are 1-7-1 when scoring less than three goals and have a 5-2-1 mark when holding the opposition to two goals or less.

Captain of the 'Cats
    Senior forward Nicole Gifford is captain of the 2013-14 Wildcats. She has tallied a point in eight of 15 games as she leads the team in goals (six), power-play goals (three) and points (11). She also ranks second in shots (50) and is tied for third in assists (five).
    Gifford tallied a career-high three assists Oct. 5 vs. Syracuse, and the three points equaled a personal best. She scored the game-winning goal and recorded an assist to lead UNH to a 3-1 win at (then) second-ranked Boston College. Gifford netted a goal in back-to-back games vs. Providence (Nov. 7) and UVM (Nov. 10). Most recently, she tallied an assist on the team's only goal vs. BU (Nov. 24).
    In the faceoff circle, Gifford has taken 334 draws (she has won 168 of them; 50.3%) – the next highest is 152 by Heather Kashman.
    Junior forward Hannah Armstrong and sophomore defenseman Alexis Crossley are the assistant captains.
    Armstrong ranks third on the team in both points (eight) and shots (42), and is tied with Gifford for third in assists (five); she has the team's only shorthanded goal of the season. Armstrong matched her personal best of two assists Oct. 26 at Penn State. She recorded an assist in consecutive home games against RIT (Oct. 4) and Syracuse University (Oct. 5) and scored a goal in back-to-back games against Providence College (Nov. 7) and Vermont Nov. 10).
    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 recorded her first points of the 2013-14 season with a two-goal effort vs. Syracuse (Oct. 5) to tie her benchmark for goals in a game; both of those goals were scored on the power play. She tallied an assist in UNH's road win against BC (Oct. 16) and has a total of three points (2g, 1a) in six games; Crossley has missed the past nine games due to injury.

Special Teams
    New Hampshire enters the weekend ranked No. 6 in the nation in power play at .203 (14-for-69); last weekend, the 'Cats went 1-for-5 against BU. UNH scored on 5 of 8 power plays in the weekend series at Penn State as part of three consecutive games with multiple power-play tallies (2x5 at BC; 3x5 at PSU; 2x3 at PSU). The Wildcats have scored at least one power-play goal in 8 of 15 games.
    The Wildcats are 15th in penalty kill – 34 teams are ranked – at .872 (68-for-78). The PK has been perfect each of the last three games, including 5 of 5 last Sunday against the Boston University Terriers, with 13 consecutive successful kills.
    Nicole Gifford leads all 'Cats with seven power-play points (3g, 4a). Sara Carlson (5a), Cassandra Vilgrain (2g, 2a) and Jess Ryan (2g, 2a) are the next top point producers.

Senior Sniper
    Senior forward Jessica 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.
    This season, Hitchcock has tallied a point in 6 of 15 games with a total of seven points (1g, 6a) – with those stats, she is tied for the lead in assists and tied for fourth in points. She is also third in plus/minus at +3.

First Blood
    UNH has scored the game's first goal six times in 15 games and is 3-2-1 with wins at St. Lawrence (Sept. 28), at Boston College (Oct. 16) and at Penn State (Oct. 28); the losses were to Boston U. (Nov. 1) and Quinnipiac (Nov. 16). The Wildcats are 3-5-1 when falling behind 1-0.

Playing Catchup
    UNH took a lead into the first intermission for the first time this season – the sixth game of 2013-14 – when the Wildcats held a 2-1 advantage at Boston College (Oct. 16). The 'Cats are 2-2-1 when leading through 20 minutes and 2-0-2 when taking a lead into the third period.
    The Wildcats have trailed at the first intermission six times (2-3-1 record) and at the second intermission four times (1-3-0).
    Seven games have been tied at the start of the third period, and the 'Cats went on to victory three times.

Color Me Blue
    Senior Arielle O'Neill had never skated as a defenseman until taking the blue line Oct. 27 at Penn State. In her debut at the position, O'Neill still contributed offensively with a pair of power-play goals in the third period to propel UNH to an 8-5 victory; the two goals matched her career high. O'Neill also scored the next day in the Wildcats' 3-1 win at PSU. She was honored as Hockey East co-Player of the Week on Oct. 28 for her efforts vs. the Nittany Lions.
    In 15 games this season (F-6, D-9), she has netted five goals to rank second on the team; her goal at Quinnipiac (Nov. 16) gave the 'Cats a 1-0 first period lead. O'Neill is also atop the leaderboard in shots with 58.
    Before making the transition to the blue line, O'Neill was the top 'Cat in the faceoff circle. She won 20 of 25 faceoffs vs. Maine and has a .699 faceoff win percentage (79 of 113) this season. Last year, O'Neill led UNH and ranked second in Hockey East with a .645 win percentage.
    O'Neill tallied her first point of the 2013-14 season when she scored a first-period goal to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead at second-ranked Boston College (Oct. 16) and that proved to be the game-winning goal. She also made a key defensive play in the third period when a her pokecheck thwarted a 3-on-1 rush and preserved UNH's 3-1 lead.

Against the Best
    UNH has a 1-2-0 record against nationally-ranked teams. In their first game against a nationally-ranked team this season, the Wildcats were 3-1 road victors against (then) No. 2 Boston College on Oct. 16. The 'Cats led 1-0 midway through the Nov. 16 game at No. 7 Quinnipiac, but the Bobcats netted goals late in both the second and third periods to record a 2-1 victory. Most recently, UNH and ninth-ranked BU were deadlocked 1-1 through two periods, but the visiting Terriers struck midway through the final frame to record a 2-1 victory (Nov. 24).
    Last year, the Wildcats were 3-7-1 in 11 games against nationally-ranked opponents with home wins against BC (4-3) and Boston University (4-2) as well as a 3-1 road win against Northeastern University and a 2-2 tie at home vs. Harvard University.

Setting The Table
    Sara Carlson, who was equal finisher, equal playmaker last year as a freshman with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points, leads the 2013-14 Wildcats in assists with six. She also has one goal for a total of seven points, which is tied for fourth on the team.
    Carlson recorded a career-high two assists in the 3-1 win at (then) No. 2 Boston College (Oct. 16) and tallied one assist in the weekend series at Penn State.
    In the opening weekend of the season at St. Lawrence, Carlson tallied an assist in the first game (Sept. 27) and scored the game-winning goal the next day vs. the Saints.

That Happened Fast
    UNH entered third period of the Nov. 10 game at Vermont with a 3-0 lead, but the Catamounts scored three times in the opening 4:10 of the final frame to level the score en route to a 3-3 tie.
    In the next game at Princeton (Nov. 15), the Tigers scored three goals in a span of 2:06 to quickly transform a scoreless game into a 3-0 lead. Princeton struck at 18:54 of the second period, then netted goals at 25 and 59 seconds of the third.

Kashing In
    Heather Kashman (sophomore) returns from a redshirt season in 2012-13. Injury sidelined Kashman last year after recording 10 points (7g, 3a) as a freshman in 2011-12.
    Kashman is currently tied for fourth in goals (three) and also has three assists for a total of six points.
The forward has matched her career high of two points twice this season, most recently with a goal and an assist at Penn State on Oct. 26. Kashman also finished with 1g, 1a against Maine (Oct. 13).
    In the faceoff circle, Kashman has won 70 of 152 draws (.461). She has taken the second most faceoffs on the team (behind Nicole Gifford's 334).

The Puck Stops Here
    The Wildcats have three goaltenders on the 2013-14 roster with two returning netminders (two sophomores) and one freshman.
    Vilma Vaattovaara had a strong start to the season with a 4-0-1 record, 2.16 GAA and .928 save percentage through October. In two Hockey East league games, she went 2-0-0 with a 1.44 GAA and .946 save percentage.
    In 10 games overall (all starts), Vaattovaara is 5-3-2 with a 2.37 GAA and .919 save percentage. In six Hockey East games, she is 2-2-2 with a 2.12 GAA and .928 save percentage.
    Vaattovaara was honored as Hockey East co-Player of the Week following her career-high 41-save effort in a 2-1 win at St. Lawrence (Sept. 28). She made 36 saves to lead UNH to a 3-1 victory at second-ranked BC (Oct. 16) and was honored as Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week.
    Ashley Wilkes got the starting nod the last two games vs. BU (Nov. 24) and Quinnipiac (Nov. 16) and recorded 27 saves both games, and both were 2-1 losses for the 'Cats. In three games (all starts), she is 1-2-0 with a 1.70 GAA and .934 save percentage.
    Wilkes made her collegiate debut with the Oct. 28 start at Penn State University and earned her first career win, 3-1, with a 17-save effort. She blanked the Nittany Lions in both the first and third periods with five and 10 saves, respectively. The only goal allowed was on a PSU two-skater advantage.
    Wilkes was honored as Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 18 following a 27-save effort against seventh-ranked Quinnipiac University. She held the Bobcats scoreless in the first period (six saves) and followed that with 10 saves in the second and 11 in the third.
    Marie-Eve Jean is 0-2-0 with a 3.55 GAA and .860 save percentage in two games (both starts) this season. She made a season-high 27 saves in the Sept. 27 season opener at SLU (4-2 loss). Her most recent action came in the 3-2 loss to RIT (Oct. 4).

She's Positive
    Junior forward Kayla Mork ranks second on the team in plus/minus rating at +4; she is also tied for third in assists (five) and tied for fourth in points (seven). Mork recorded a career-high three points with one goal and two assists Oct. 26 at Penn State; the two assists matched a personal best. Mork also finished with multiple points (1g, 1a) in the Nov. 7 win against Providence.
    Sophomore forward Haley Breedlove leads all 'Cats in plus/minus at +5.  She was out of the lineup the opening weekend at SLU but skated in each of the last 13 games. She tallied her first point of the season with a goal at home against Boston U. (Nov. 1), and netted a third-period goal at Princeton (Nov. 15).
    Both Breedlove and Mork have two goals on 11 shots for a .182 shooting percentage.

Blue Line
    Juniors Caroline Broderick and Jess Ryan as well as sophomore Megan Armstrong are logging a lot of minutes for UNH's defense, which has been hit by injury to Alexis Crossley and Kate Haslett. Crossley has missed each of the last nine games, while Haslett has been sidelined since the third game of the season.
    Broderick has also contributed four points (2g, 2a). She recorded her first career multiple-point game with a goal and an assist Oct. 26 at Penn State. She tallied her first point of the season with a goal Sept. 28 at St. Lawrence and was credited with an assist vs. Maine (Oct. 13).
    Ryan, who didn't record a point as a freshman and tallied three points last year, already has six points (3g, 3a) in 15 games this season, and she recorded an assist each of the last two games vs. Quinnipiac (Nov. 16) and BU (Nov. 24). She leads all defensemen and is fourth overall in plus/minus at +1.
    Ryan scored her first career goal and finished the game with two goals – both on the power play – to lift UNH to 3-1 win at Penn State (Oct. 27). She opened the game scoring and then struck again to give the 'Cats a 2-0 lead. Ryan also netted the game-winning goal against Providence (Nov. 7) when she gave the 'Cats a 3-2 lead.
    Armstrong has four points, all on assists. She recorded three of her points the Nov. 7-10 weekend against Providence (1a) and Vermont (2a). The two assists against the Catamounts matched her personal best.

Working Overtime
    Including this season's pair of OT games, each of UNH's last six regular-season overtime games have ended in a tie – the Wildcats were defeated in OT of the 2013 Hockey East quarterfinal (5-4 at home by Providence College) after all four regular-season overtime games were ties.
    The most recent UNH win or loss in a regular-season OT game was a 4-3 loss at Maine (Feb. 18, 2012). Earlier in the season, the 'Cats prevailed 3-2 in overtime against Union College on Nov. 29, 2011.

The McCloskey File
    Brian McCloskey (Dartmouth '77), who recorded his 200th career victory Dec. 8, 2009 at Boston College (4-0 win), is in his 12th year at the helm of the Wildcats. He is a four-time Hockey East Coach of the Year recipient (2003, 2005, 2006, 2009) and was runner-up in both the 2003 and 2006 national Coach of the Year balloting. He has directed UNH to the NCAA Women's Ice Hockey Championship five consecutive years (2006-10) with four consecutive Hockey East tournament titles (2006-09) and six straight league regular-season crowns (2004-09). The 'Cats advanced to the Frozen Four in '06 and '08.
    A Wildcat was honored as Player of the Year each of the first four years of Hockey East's existence. In addition, the ITECH Goaltending Champion award was presented to a UNH goalie each of the first six years and the Scoring Champion has five times been a Wildcat.
    McCloskey has compiled a 252-111-40 overall record, including a 153-55-23 mark in Hockey East, with 20+ wins each of the initial seven seasons.
    In his first year (2003) as head coach of the program, he led the 'Cats to a 27-7-2 record, which is now the fifth-best single-season win mark behind those established in 2006 & 2008 (33), 1998 (31) and 2007 (28).
    Under his tutelage, five players have received a total of six All-America honors and five have been honored as a Patty Kazmaier Memorial Award Top 10 Finalist.
    Coach McCloskey's predecessors at UNH also exceeded 200 victories. Russ McCurdy compiled a 264-36-10 record from 1978-92 and Karen Kay went 215-90-25 from 1993-2002.

Lights. Camera. Action!
    The UNH women's ice hockey team will have four home games broadcast on television – two on the Live Well Network (sister station of WBIN-TV) and two on Fox College Sports. Here is the schedule:
 Sat. Oct. 5    Syracuse    Live Well Network    3-2 win
 Sun. Dec. 1    Ohio State    Live Well Network    1 pm
 Sun. Feb. 9    UConn    Fox College Sports    2 pm
 Sat. Feb. 15    Vermont    Fox College Sports    2 pm

On The Air
     A total of nine games will be broadcast on the Wildcats Sports Radio Network – Fox Sports WPKX-AM 930 (Dover-Portsmouth-Rochester) and WGIR-AM 610 (Manchester). Here is that schedule:
 Sun. Oct. 13    Maine    2-2 tie
 Thur. Nov. 7    Providence    4-2 win
 Sun. Dec. 1    Ohio State    12:45 pm
 Sun. Dec. 8    Dartmouth    1:45 pm
 Fri. Jan. 10    Providence    6:45 pm
 Sun. Jan. 19    UConn    1:45 pm
 Sun. Feb. 9    UConn    1:45 pm
 Sat. Feb. 15    Vermont    1:45 pm
 Sun. Feb. 23    Northeastern    1:45 pm

Scouting the Buckeyes
    The Ohio State University (Columbus, Ohio) enters the weekend series with a 3-9-2 overall record that includes 2-5-0 on the road and 2-8-2 in the WCHA. The Buckeyes are on a nine-game winless streak (0-8-1) and have lost five straight following Tuesday's 2-1 home loss to Robert Morris; the tie came vs. Bemidji State (2-2; Nov. 9). The most recent win was Oct. 19 at North Dakota (2-1).
    OSU, which went 3-1-1 in the opening five games of the season, has scored one goal each of the last three games and was shut out in the game prior to that for a total of three goals the past four games.
    Defensemen Sara and Kari Schmitt are the top point producers. They are tied for the team lead in goals (four); Sara is also tied for the team lead in assists (eight) for a team-high 12 points. Kari has seven assists to rank second in points (12). Ally Tarr has eight assists and ranks third in points (10).
    Seniors Chelsea Knapp and Lisa Steffes have split the goaltending duties. Knapp is 2-5-1 with a 3.14 GAA and .895 save percentage in nine games (all starts). Steffes has a 1-4-1 record with a 1.83 GAA and .938 save percentage in six games (five starts).
    OSU has been outscored 17-5 in the third period despite recording a 143-136 shot advantage. Ohio State is winless when falling behind 1-0 (0-4-1), when trailing after one period (0-4-0) and when trailing at the second intermission (0-6-1).
    Of the 12 games that didn't end in a tie, seven were decided by one goal and OSU has a 2-5 record in those games.
    In the national rankings, the Buckeyes are No. 27 in offense (1.86 gpg) and No. 19 in defense (2.71 gpg) as well as 20th in power play (.148) and 23rd in penalty kill (.825).

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