January 19, 2014

Curtis' Late Goal Lifts Women's Hockey Past UConn, 3-2

DURHAM, N.H.Jonna Curtis (Elk river, Minn.) broke a 2-2 tie with 4:41 remaining in regulation to lead the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to Sunday afternoon's 3-2 victory against the University of Connecticut at the Whittemore Center. 

UNH earned a weekend split with UConn to improve to 9-12-2 overall and 4-5-2 in Hockey East. The Huskies, who prevailed 3-1 Saturday on their home ice, is now 6-6-16-2, 3-7-1.

Curtis was one of nine Wildcats who tallied one point; the other goal scorers were Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario), who extended her point-scoring streak to five games, and Cassandra Vilgrain (Calgary, Alberta). 

UNH goaltender Vilma Vaattovaara (Veikkola, Finland), in her first action since Nov. 15 (she missed nine games), made 11 of her 24 saves in the first period. UConn counterpart Elaine Chuli recorded double-digit saves in the first (10) and second (14) periods as part of a 30-save effort.

UConn was led offensively by Sarah MacDonnell, who netted third-period goals 1:43 apart to erase the Huskies' two-goal deficit. 

The Wildcats took an early 1-0 lead just 14 seconds into the game. Caroline Broderick (Marblehead, Mass.) gained possession in the neutral zone and sent a diagonal pass to Jessica Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) on the left wing. Hitchcock quickly saucered a centering pass to Gifford, who advanced down the slot behind the defense and her point-blank shot was stopped by Chuli. Gifford corralled the rebound and deposited a shot into the open left side of the net. Thee assist extended Hitchcock's point streak to five games. 

UConn went on the first of its seven power plays at 2:35 when the 'Cats were whistled for too many skaters on the ice. UNH's penalty kill yielded just one shot, however, and Vaattovaara denied Rachel Farrel.

Vaattovaara stood strong midway through the period by stopping the charging Kayla Campero in the right circle and then Emily Snodgrass off the rebound in the low slot. 

The Huskies went back on the power play with 48 seconds left in the opening stanza, but the visitors did not record a shot before time expired and, at the end of 20 minutes, the shots were even at 11.

In the opening minute of the second stanza – with UConn still on the power play, Vaattovaara denied Kelly Harris at the left doorstep and also stopped her second attempt off the rebound. 

UNH was called for tripping at 4:17, but the penalty kill did not allow a shot. Vaattovaara preserved the 1-0 lead with a pokecheck that denied Campero's breakaway bid, but the Wildcats were called for hooking on the play at 9:03.

The teams skated four-per-side when a UConn skater went to the penalty box for interference at 10:37 and the 'Cats potted an even-strength goal to take a 2-0 lead at 10:59. 

Vilgrain carried the puck off the right half-boards to the point and dropped the puck for Heather Kashman (Edmonton, Alberta), who followed Vilgrain's path and then snapped a pass to Vilgrain cutting down the slot. After her initial shot was deflected, Vilgrain gathered the puck and, while diving forward, lifted a shot inside the left post. Jess Ryan (Cloquet, Minn.) was also credited with an assist.

In the 13th minute, MacDonnell attacked through the left circle and backhanded a pass to Michela Cava, whose one-timer from the slot was stopped by Vaattovaara's left leg pad. 

UConn went on its fifth power play at 13:31, but once again UNH's penalty kill did not surrender a shot.

The Wildcats had a two-skater advantage when Huskies were penalized at 15:11 and 15:55, but this time it was the Huskies' penalty kill that proved stout by allowing just one shot before New Hampshire was called for tripping at 16:20. 

On the ensuing 4-on-3 power play, UNH's Hitchcock and Arielle O'Neill (St. Catharines, Ontario) were denied by Chuli.

The teams returned to full strength for the final minutes of the second stanza. The 'Cats recorded a 15-8 shot advantage in that frame and held a 26-19 edge overall through 40 minutes. 

MacDonnell scored goals at 1:48 and 3:31 to level the score, 2-2. Farrel set up the first tally by intercepting a pass in the left circle. Vaattovaara made the save on that slap shot and MacDonnell's initial shot off the rebound at the left doorstep, but MacDonnell scored off her own rebound. Cava set up the game-tying goal when she stole the puck behind the net and flipped backhanded pass to the low-right circle, where MacDonnell one-times a shot into the cage.

The Wildcats regained the lead, 3-2, at 15:19. Sara Carlson (Hutchinson, Minn.) won possession of the puck in the left corner and sent the puck behind the net to Jenna Lascelle (Cornwall, Ontario). Lascelle's one-touch pass went back to Curtis at the left doorstep. Instead of shooting immediately, Curtis patiently advanced to the top of the crease past Chuli and swept the puck into the open net. 

UConn called time out and pulled Chuli with 2:15 on the clock.  UNH was called for checking 35 seconds later to give the visitors a two-skater advantage. The Wildcats kept the Huskies at bay until Alice Hughes was denied by Vaattovaara with 43 seconds remaining.

Gifford won the ensuing faceoff and cleared the puck out of the zone with 25 seconds to play. UConn reentered the offensive zone 10 seconds later but did not retain possession. 

UNH finished the game 0-for-3 on the power play and UConn was scoreless on seven power plays.

New Hampshire returns to action Jan. 25 at Boston College and the 'Cats play host to the Eagles on Jan. 26. Both games begin at 2 p.m.

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