Wildcats advance to Hockey East title game
BOSTON - Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) recorded four points with two goals and two assists to lead the No. 1-ranked University of New Hampshire to Saturday afternoon's 6-0 victory against fourth-seeded University of Maine in the early semifinal game of the Hockey East Championship at Northeastern University's Matthews Arena.
UNH, the top seed of the league tournament, won its 15th consecutive game, extended its unbeaten streak to 27 games (26-0-1) and matched the school's single-season record for wins by improving to 31-2-1. The Wildcats advance to the March 5 title game (1 p.m. at Matthews Arena) against the winner of the Boston College vs. Providence semifinal matchup. Maine ends the season at 17-9-6.
Hockey East Player of the Year Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.) and Rookie of the Year Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) both recorded two points with two assists and two goals, respectively. Jackie Wedster (Chicago, Ill.) finished with a goal and an assist for the Wildcats and Amy McLaughlin (Berlin, Mass.) had a pair of assists. Melissa Bourdon (Ile Bizard, Quebec), three-time Hockey East Goaltending Champion, made 21 saves to record her third consecutive shutout, ninth of the season and 19th of her career. UNH has five straight shutouts and takes a shutout streak of 342:19 into the title game. Bourdon's shutout streak stands at 222:10.
Maine starting goalie Genevieve Turgeon stopped 25 of 29 shots and exited the game with 8:44 remaining. Rachel Gettings made four saves and surrendered two goals the rest of the way.
Hitchcock, Wright-Ward and Faber combined to quickly give UNH a 1-0 lead 55 seconds into the game. Wright-Ward entered the offensive zone at the left point off a pass from Faber, who trailed and picked up the puck in the left circle. Faber then maneuvered to the slot and fired a shot into the upper-left corner. Hitchcock, a First Team All-Star, started the play with a pass through the neutral zone to Faber, and was also credited with an assist.
Three minutes later, both teams had a player in the penalty box when UNH's Amy McLaughlin fired a shot from the top of the right circle that caromed off the right post. Five minutes into the game, Maine's Sonia Corriveau gained possession on a Wildcat turnover and her shot from the right circle ricocheted off the near post. The Black Bears also had a strong bid on their second power play, but Bourdon made a right leg-pad save to deny Brigitte LaFlamme's shot from the top of the crease.
The Wildcats took that 1-0 lead into the second period and Lindsay Hansen (Northport, N.Y.), who slid behind the defense in the slot, wristed a shot off the left post. New Hampshire capitalized on its fifth power play of the game to extend the advantage to 2-0 at 16:22 of the middle stanza when Hitchcock scored off her own rebound by sweeping a backhander inside the right post. McLaughlin, with the pass from the left point down low to Wright-Ward, set up the tally.
UNH pulled away in the third period with four goals. The final frame opened with close-range opportunities at both ends of the ice, first by UNH's Wright-Ward and then Maine's Cheryl White.
Lindsey Caleo (Clinton Township, Mich.), with the assistance of Wedster and Shannon Clement (Sault Ste Marie, Ontario), scored from a scrum in front to give the 'Cats a 3-0 lead at 7:29. Faber, from Hitchcock and McLaughlin, snapped a shot from the high slot into the upper-right corner at 11:16 to extend the cushion to 4-0. Wedster, off a pass from Nicole Goguen (Truro, Nova Scotia), scored off her own rebound at 16:18 and Hitchcock netted an unassisted shorthanded goal with eight seconds remaining to close the scoring.