The University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team was awarded the third seed in the 2008 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship and advanced to the Frozen Four with a 3-2 overtime victory against St. Lawrence University at UNH’s Whittemore Center on March 15. The Wildcats (33-3-1) will face off against second-seeded University of Minnesota-Duluth (32-4-1) in a national semifinal game on March 20 (9 p.m. Eastern) at the Duluth Entertainment and Convention Center.

Tickets may be purchased through the UMD ticket office. The game will be broadcast live on the UNH Sports Network; that broadcast will also be online through www.unhwildcats.com or Yahoo. The game will also be videostreamed online for free and live stats are also available.

UNH, currently ranked No. 2 in both national polls, became the first team to complete the Hockey East regular season undefeated (20-0-1) to win their fifth straight regular-season crown, then captured their third consecutive league tournament title to earn the league’s automatic berth into the NCAAs. Minnesota-Duluth was a double titlist as well. The Bulldogs captured the WCHA regular season and tournament championships.

UNH has a 2-2-0 lifetime record vs. Minnesota-Duluth in which the home team has won every game. These teams played two-game series in both the 2000 and 2001 seasons but have not faced off since that time. In the most recent meetings, the Bulldogs recorded 3-0 and 8-1 wins at the DECC in December 2000. The Wildcats were 5-1 and 3-2 victors at the Whittemore Center in February 2000.

    New Hampshire enters the NCAA Women’s Frozen Four with a 33-3-1 overall record (20-0-1 Hockey East; 2-0-0 neutral site; 14-2-0 road; 2-0-0 vs. the WCHA; 6-2-0 vs. the ECAC). UNH has won 13 straight games and its current 19-game unbeaten streak (18-0-1) is the team’s longest of the season and third unbeaten streak of at least six games this season; the ‘Cats recorded previous streaks of eight games (8-0-0) and six games (6-0-0).

This is UNH’s third consecutive appearance in the NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship and the team’s second trip to the Frozen Four in the last three years (2006, 2008).

The Wildcats won their fifth consecutive Hockey East regular-season title as well as their third straight league tournament title this season. The ‘Cats became the first team to complete the Hockey East regular season unbeaten. UNH has a 42-game unbeaten streak (39-0-3), including four  postseason wins, vs. Hockey East teams.

During its 13-game win streak, the Wildcats have yielded a total of eight goals with seven shutouts. In the last nine games, UNH has won six times by shutout with just four goals allowed.

New Hampshire has allowed more than one goal in just 10 of 37 games this season with 12 shutouts – that means the ‘Cats yielded one goal 15 times. The opposition has scored more than two goals only two times: Dec. 7 at #6 Mercyhurst (4-3 loss) and Oct. 6 at #4 St. Lawrence (3-0 loss). In comparison, UNH has scored more than three goals 20 times (20-0-0 record).

UNH has scored the most goals in the third period (61) despite recording the fewest shots (403) in that stanza; that makes the final frame the one in which the Wildcats have the highest shooting percentage (.151; in comparison to .119 overall).

UNH has been unbeatable as a frontrunner. The ‘Cats are perfect when scoring first (25-0-0), leading at the first intermission (20-0-0) and leading after two periods (24-0-0).

The ‘Cats have won 20+ games all six years, including 30+ two of the last three years, under the guidance of head coach Brian McCloskey. Four of the top five seasons in terms of wins – including No. 1 (33 wins) in 2006 – have come in McCloskey’s tenure. This year’s 33 victories ties  the benchmark established in 2006; last year’s 28 total ranks fourth and 27 in ‘03 is fifth.

    UNH rallied from a pair of one-goal deficits to defeat St. Lawrence University, 3-2, in overtime, in a March 15 quarterfinal game at the Whittemore Center. Sadie Wright-Ward netted the game-winning goal at 2:40 of overtime and Kayley Herman stopped 20 shots for the victory. Jennifer Hitchcock and Kacey Bellamy both recorded two assists. Courtney Birchard pulled the ‘Cats even, 1-1, in the second period and Jenn Wakefield knotted the score, 2-2, with a third-period power-play goal.

New Hampshire earned one of the three automatic berths to the NCAA tournament by winning the 6th Annual Women’s Hockey East Championship Tournament, which was held March 8-9 at the University of Connecticut’s Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.

UNH advanced out of the league semifinals with an 8-0 victory against Boston University in which the Wildcats broke the game open with five second-period goals. It was the team’s highest single-period goal output since tallying five third-period goals Feb. 2 at Maine.

Rookies Jenn Wakefield (2g, 1a) and Courtney Birchard (1g, 2a) led the attack with three points apiece. Micaela Long and Sam Faber also netted two goals while Kacey Bellamy, Steph Holmes and Maggie Joyce each  tallied two assists. Kayley Herman recorded 14 saves as UNH recorded a 36-14 shot advantage and went 2-for-4 on the power play.

In the title game, Faber scored what proved to be the game’s only goal at 16:43 of the first period and Herman stopped 17 shots to lead UNH to a 1-0 victory against Providence College.

    The winner of Thursday’s Frozen Four semifinal game will advance to the national championship game on March 22 (1:30 p.m. Eastern) against the winner of the other semifinal, Harvard University vs. University of Wisconsin. The game will be televised by CSTV/CBS.

    UNH compiled a 6-2-0 regular-season record vs. the 2008 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship field. In addition to the road split against St. Lawrence, the Wildcats defeated top-seeded Harvard University, 4-1, Dec. 14 at the Whittemore Center.

The ‘Cats also swept a two-game home series – both games by a 2-1 score – against Wisconsin at the Whittemore Center on Nov. 17-18; the Badgers were ranked No. 1 in the polls at the time.

On the road, UNH upended Dartmouth College, 3-1, on Jan. 17 and split a series at Mercyhurst College with a 5-3 loss (Dec. 7) and 5-2 win (Dec. 8).

The only two 2008 NCAA tourney teams that UNH did not face this season are Minnesota and Minnesota-Duluth. The Wildcats were 6-5 victors in overtime last season (Oct. 7, 2--6) at Minnesota. They have not faced off against Minnesota-Duluth since December 2000.

UMD entered the NCAA tourney with a 8-4-1 record vs. the other seven teams and that included a 4-1-0 mark vs. the Frozen Four competitors (all five games vs. Wisconsin).

Harvard entered the NCAAs with a 5-1-0 record vs. the tournament field that included three wins vs. St. Lawrence and two against Dartmouth College. The loss was to UNH.

Wisconsin entered the NCAA tourney with a 4-7-1 record against this year’s field. The Badgers went 1-6-0 against the Frozen Four teams with a 1-4-0 record vs. UMD and 0-2-0 vs. UNH.

    New Hampshire has a 39-19 overall record in postseason play and that includes 2-2 in the NCAA tournament following last weekend’s 3-2 overtime win vs. St. Lawrence in the quarterfinals. In 2007, the Wildcats lost (6-2) at home to SLU in the quarterfinals. In UNH’s first NCAA tourney appearance (2006), the team recorded a 3-1 home win vs. Harvard in the quarterfinals and a 5-4 loss at Minnesota in the ‘06 Frozen Four semifinal.

UNH has a 5-3 record in national championship tournaments – including the American Women’s College Hockey Alliance (AWCHA) from 1998-2000. The ‘Cats won the inaugural AWCHA national title in 1998 by defeating Minnesota in the semifinal; and Brown in the title game at Boston’s TD Banknorth Garden. They finished as runner-up in 1999 with an overtime win against Minnesota and an OT loss to Harvard.

The Wildcats have a 24-3 record at home in postseason play with an 11-2 mark in the quarterfinal round; overall, the ‘Cats are 11-3 in quarterfinal games.

UNH has an 18-5 postseason record against current members of the ECAC, and that includes 5-2 vs. Harvard. Since splitting from that conference to join Hockey East in 2003, the Wildcats have a 2-1 postseason mark against ECAC teams.

The ‘Cats are 2-1 in postseason play against the WCHA – all vs. Minnesota. In addition to the aforementioned ‘06 Frozen Four, UNH upended the Golden Gophers in the 1998 AWCHA semifinal (4-1) and 1999 AWCHA semifinal (3-2 in overtime).

New Hampshire is 10-4 overall in postseason games decided by OT. In the last 10 years, however, the Wildcats are 2-3 in overtime (including this year’s NCAA quarterfinal game).

UNH has won six straight games in the Hockey East tournament.

    The cliche that defense wins championships rings true with this year’s Frozen Four field. The four teams all rank in the top five in the nation in defense (fewest goals allowed per game) and they are the top four teams in penalty kill.
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