BOSTON – Jessica Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) matched her career high of two goals but the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team was defeated 5-4 by Northeastern University at Matthews Arena on Saturday afternoon.
UNH is now 9-21-2 overall and 4-14-2 in Hockey East. NU climbed to third place in the league standings at 12-6-2 and is 17-13-2 overall.
Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario) and Arielle O'Neill (St Catharines, Ontario) both recorded two assists for the Wildcats; that total equaled O'Neill's personal best. Kayla Mork (Victoria, Minn.) and Jenna Lascelle (Cornwall, Ontario) scored UNH's other goals.
UNH starting goaltender Ashley Wilkes (North Pole, Alaska) recorded a career-high 28 saves in 40 minutes. She exited the game with the score tied, 3-3, at the start of the third period. Vilma Vaattovaara (Veikkola, Finland) stopped 13 of 15 shots in the final frame and was charged with the loss.
NU goalie Chloe Desjardins made 10 saves in both the first and third periods as part of a 24-save effort. Brittany Esposito recorded three points with two goals and an assist.
The Wildcats generated early pressure, but Desjardins kept the 'Cats out of the scoring column with stops against Cassandra Vilgrain (Calgary, Alberta), Hannah Armstrong (Keswick, Ontario), Hitchcock and Armstrong yet again.
Wilkes then did her part to keep the game scoreless by denying Kelly Wallace twice in the fourth minute, and then the UNH netminder also turned aside Colleen Murphy.
Esposito responded with a goal 16 seconds later to tie the score, 1-1.
Wilkes, who finished the first period with 13 saves, stood strong against a Huskies' flurry of shots by Hayley Masters, Hayley Scamurra, Esposito and Scamurra again to keep the game deadlocked.
The Wildcats regained the lead, 2-1, on Mork's fourth goal of the season at 2:02 of the second stanza. O'Neill and Caroline Broderick (Marblehead, Mass.) set up the tally.
NU went on a power play at 6:31 when UNH was whistled for checking, and the Huskies capitalized on the skater advantage to tie the score, 2-2, on Wallace's goal at 7:22.
The Wildcats went back on the penalty kill at 8:09 and Northeastern had a two-skater advantage for seven seconds when another 'Cat was sent to the penalty box for holding at 10:02.
Wilkes made two saves on the extended power play to keep the score knotted at 2, but just 24 seconds later Esposito scored her second goal of the game to give the home team its first lead of the game, 3-2, at 12:26.
Northeastern was called for slashing at 15:47 and the Wildcats netted a power-play goal to even the score, 3-3, at 16:39. Gifford and Alexis Crossley (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia) were credited with assists on Hitchcock's power-play tally.
NU responded with pressure, but Wilkes denied Scamurra twice and then stoned Esposito two times before period's end to send the teams into the locker room tied.
New Hampshire went back on the power play at 5:33 of the third period, but Desjardins recorded saves against Mork, Hitchcock (twice) and Gifford to keep the score tied at 3.
One minute after the Huskies returned to full strength, they regained the lead on Heather Mottau's goal at 8:36.
In the 13th minute, Vaattovaara turned aside both Sonia St. Martin and Tori Hickel before Esposito's shot ricocheted off the post.
UNH potted its second power-play of the game when Hitchcock struck again at 15:31 to tie the score, 4-4. O'Neill and Gifford assisted on the game-tying goal.
The Huskies once again answered quickly at the other end of the ice on Maggie Brennolt's goal 30 seconds later, and that proved to be the game-winning tally.
Desjardins denied Hitchcock and, off the ensuing faceoff, Gifford's shot clanged off the pipe.
The Wildcats pulled Vaattovaara in favor of an extra skater with 1:49 remaining. The 'Cats recorded just one shot the rest of the way, however, and Desjardins stopped that bid by Megan Armstrong (Edina, Minn.) to preserve the win.
NU's 44 shots marked the highest total by a UNH opponent this season and ended a stretch of 10 consecutive games in which the Wildcats recorded the shot advantage.
New Hampshire concludes the regular season with Senior Day against Northeastern on Sunday, Feb. 23. Game time is 2 p.m. at the Whittemore Center.