GAME NOTES: Women's Ice Hockey Travels For Two-Game Series At Penn State (Oct. 26-27)


The Matchup

    The University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team (3-2-1) travels University Park, Pa., to play a two-game series against Penn State University (2-3-1) on Oct. 26 & 27.
    PSU, a second-year varsity program, played its first games at Pegula Ice Arena (5,782 capacity) last weekend.
    Saturday night's game will be the first between the UNH and Penn State women's ice hockey programs.

Vaattovaara Tabbed Top Defensive Player
    Sophomore goaltender Vilma Vaattovaara was named Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on Monday (Oct. 21); in addition, the UNH Wildcats were named Team of the Week for the second time this season. Vaattovaara backboned UNH to a 3-1 victory at second-ranked Boston College on Oct. 16 with a 36-save effort. She shut out the Eagles in the second (seven saves) and third (14) periods and blanked BC on all six power plays, including three in the final frame.

The State of New Hampshire
    New Hampshire enters the weekend series at Penn State University with a 3-2-1 overall record that includes 1-0-1 in Hockey East and 2-1-0 on the road. The Wildcats have won each of their last two road games, including a 3-1 win at then-No. 2 Boston College in the most recent action (Oct. 16).
    The win at BC extended UNH's unbeaten streak to three games (2-0-1).  In that three-game stretch, the Wildcats are 4-for-16 on the power play with multiple power-play goals against both Syracuse (2 of 7) and BC (2 of 5).
    UNH's penalty kill is perfect the last 14 shorthanded situations, which spans three games. The PK was perfect against both Boston College (6-for-6) and Maine (3-for-3) and was also successful the last five kills against Syracuse.
    New Hampshire has been outscored 7-3 in the first period but has the scoring edge in both the second (7-3) and third (4-3) periods.

'Cat Nips
    Sophomore forward Sara Carlson recorded a career-high two assists at (then) second-ranked Boston College (Oct. 16), and the two points matched her personal best.
    Freshman forward Cassandra Vilgrain has scored a goal each of the last two games – Oct. 13 vs. Maine and Oct. 16 at BC. She is the only Wildcat to score a goal in back-to-back games this season.
    Senior forward and captain Nicole Gifford recorded her second multiple-point game of the season with a goal and an assist at Boston College.
    Senior forward Arielle O'Neill recorded her first point of the season with a goal – the game-winning tally – at BC.

    Senior forward Nicole Gifford recorded her 50th career point with the first of her career-high three assists – a helper in the second period –  Oct. 5 against Syracuse. Gifford currently has 54 points (21g, 33a) in 106 career games.
    Classmate and fellow forward Arielle O'Neill is approaching the 50-point milestone. She enters the weekend with 46 points (23g, 23a) in 106 career games.

Countdown to 250
    Head coach Brian McCloskey enters the weekend with 249 victories. Now in his 12th season at the UNH helm, McCloskey has compiled an overall record of 249-106-39 that includes 152-52-22 in Hockey East.

Working Overtime
    Including this season, each of UNH's last five 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.

What Just Happened
    New Hampshire skated to a 3-1 victory at (then) second-ranked Boston College on Oct. 16 behind Vilma Vaattovaara's 36 saves. The Wildcats skated to a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Arielle O'Neill (at 4:01) and Nicole Gifford (13:05). BC pulled within 2-1 with four seconds remaining in the first period.
    UNH reestablished a two-goal advantage, 3-1, on Cassandra Vilgrain's power-play goal at 18:23 of the second stanza.
    The Eagles had three power play opportunities in the final frame; they had a power play at 17:30 and pulled goalie Corinne Boyles for the final 84 seconds to create a two-skater advantage.
    New Hampshire finished the game 2-for-5 on the power play and 6 of 6 on the penalty kill.

What Happens Next
    Following the road trip to Penn State, UNH plays host to Boston University on Friday, Nov. 1 (7 p.m.). Two days later, the 'Cats travel to Boston to play Northeastern (Nov. 3, 2 p.m.).

Captain of the 'Cats
    Senior forward Nicole Gifford is captain of the 2013-14 Wildcats. Gifford ranked fifth on the team in assists (10) and also scored three goals – all on the power play – for a total of 13 points last year.
    This season, Gifford has tallied a point in four of six games as she leads the team in goals (three), assists (four) and points (seven). She also has a team-leading 25 shots.
    Gifford tallied a career-high three assists Oct. 5 vs. Syracuse, and the three points equaled a personal best. In the most recent game at (then) second-ranked BC, she tallied two points with a goal and an assist.
    Junior forward Hannah Armstrong and sophomore defenseman Alexis Crossley are the assistant captains.
    Armstrong rebounded from an injury-plagued 2011-12 season to skate in all 34 games a year ago. She ranked fourth overall – and is the leader among returning forwards – with 19 points on 11 goals and eight assists; she was second in goals.
    Armstrong recorded an assist in consecutive home games against RIT (Oct. 4) and Syracuse University (Oct. 5). She is tied for fifth on the team in both assists (two) and shots (16).
    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 led all 'Cats in both assists (17) and power-play goals (five), and she ranked second in points (24). In the league, she was second in defenseman scoring, third in blocked shots (64) and fifth in both freshman scoring and power-play points (13).
    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 is tied for second on the team in goals (two), is tied for third in points (three) and is third in shots (23).

Special Teams
    New Hampshire enters the weekend ranked No. 9 in the nation in power play at .207 (6-for-29). The Wildcats are also 17th in penalty kill – 29 teams are ranked – at .861 (31-for-36). UNH's combined .569 percentage ranks seventh.
    Nicole Gifford leads all 'Cats with five power-play points (2g, 3a). Alexis Crossley (2g, 1a) and Sara Carlson (3a) both have three points.
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 3 of 6 games with a total of three points (1g, 2a) – with those stats, she is tied for third in assists and tied for fourth in points.

First Blood
    UNH has scored the game's first goal twice in six games – the 2-1 win at St. Lawrence (Sept. 28) and 3-1 at Boston College (Oct. 16). The Wildcats are 1-2-1 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 Wildcats have trailed at the first intermission four times (1-2-1 record) and at the second intermission twice (1-1-0).

Facing Off
    Senior forward Arielle O'Neill, a three-time Hockey East All-Academic Team honoree, is the top 'Cat in the faceoff circle. She won 20 of 25 faceoffs vs. Maine and has a .684 faceoff win percentage (67 of 108) 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
    In its first game against a nationally-ranked team this season, UNH recorded a 3-1 road victory against (then) No. 2 Boston College on Oct. 16.
    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.

Equal Opportunity Wildcat
    Sara Carlson was one of three freshman – the only forward – to skate in all 34 games last year; she was equal finisher, equal playmaker with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points.
    Carlson tallied an assist in the season opener at St. Lawrence (Sept. 27) and scored a goal the next day vs. the Saints to account for her two points in six games this season.
    Two other Wildcats have proven to be equal finisher, equal playmaker during their four-year careers. Jessica Hitchcock has 28 goals and 28 assists for 56 career points while Arielle O'Neill has 23 goals and assists for 46 career points.

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.
    Kashman has tallied a point in three of six games this season to rank second on the team in points (four), tied for second in goals (two) and tied for third in assists (two). With two goals on five shots, she has a .400 shooting percentage. Kashman recorded two points (1g, 1a) Oct. 13 vs. Maine to match her career high.

The Puck Stops Here
    The Wildcats once again have four goaltenders on the 2013-14 roster with three returning netminders (one junior, two sophomores) and one incoming freshman. The sophomores are the only goalies to see action this season.
    Vilma Vaattovaara has had a strong start to the season with a 3-0-1 record, 1.47 GAA and .952 save percentage in four games (all starts); with those numbers, she ranks No. 7 in the nation in both GAA and save percentage. In two Hockey East league games, she is 2-0-0 with a 1.44 GAA and .946 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). Most recently, 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.
    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).
    Freshman Ashley Wilkes has served as the third-string goalie while junior Jenn Gilligan has not dressed.

She's Positive
    Junior forward Jenna Lascelle leads all Wildcats in plus/minus with a +4 rating, and that includes +2 in two Hockey East league games. Lascelle has two points (1g, 1a) through six games with a goal in the season opener at St. Lawrence University (Sept. 27) and an assist vs. Maine (Oct. 13).
    Kayla Mork, another junior forward, is tied for second on the team in plus/minus rating at +2. She tallied her lone point of the 2013-14 season with an assist in the Sept. 27 season opener at St. Lawrence.

Blue Line
    Juniors Caroline Broderick and Jess Ryan as well as sophomore Megan Armstrong are logging a lot of minutes for UNH's defense. Broderick has also contributed two points (1g, 1a) while both Ryan and Armstrong have one point on an assist. Ryan and Broderick are tied for second overall – first among defensemen – in plus/minus with a +2 rating.

Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine, Mine
    Sophomore forward Brittney Redlick scored six goals to account for all six of her points in 26 games played last season. She has not recorded a point in six games this season.

In & Out
    Freshman defenseman Kate Haslett played in both games opening weekend at St. Lawrence (Sept. 27-28) but has not dressed the past four games.
    Sophomore forward Haley Breedlove was out the opening weekend at SLU but skated in the last four games.

Incoming 'Cats
    UNH has three incoming student-athletes – all freshmen – with one new forward, defenseman and goaltender.
    The lone newcomer to the forward corps is Cassandra Vilgrain. She led the Edge School for Athletes to a gold medal at the World Sport School Challenge, where she was named the tournament's top forward, and to the JWHL championship game.
    Kate Haslett comes to UNH from Brooks School, where she captained the team as a senior defenseman and was named ISL All-League and All-New England Second Team.
    Ashley Wilkes played between the pipes at North American Hockey Academy in 2012-13, when she had a 19-0-1 record with a 1.09 GAA and .942 save percentage to garner JWHL First Team All-Star recognition and backbone NAHA to the league title.

Current 'Cats With Hat Tricks
    Three current UNH skaters have scored three goals in a game.
  Hannah Armstrong - Feb. 11, 2013 vs. Connecticut
  Nicole Gifford - Nov. 26, 2011 vs. Princeton
  Jenna Lascelle - Dec. 12, 2011 vs. Dartmouth

Spanning the Globe
    The Wildcats are a team made up of student-athletes from around the world. In the geographic breakdown, 12 'Cats hail from Canada while eight are from the United States and one calls Finland home.

UNH Records 700th Win
    UNH, now in its 37th year at the varsity level, is the winningest women's college hockey program in the United States with an overall record of 728-232-74 for a .740 winning percentage. The Wildcats attained the most recent century milestone Feb. 3, 2011 with a 4-2 road victory against third-ranked Boston University.
    In 36 years, the Wildcats have won one national championship (1998; AWCHA), four Hockey East tournament championships, six Hockey East regular-season titles, five ECAC tournament championships and four EAIAW championships. UNH made five consecutive NCAA tourney appearances (2006-10) with two trips to the Frozen Four in that span.

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 249-106-39 overall record, including a 152-52-21 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.

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    6:45 pm
  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

We're Back
    UNH returns 18 letterwinners from last year's team that went 14-16-4 overall and finished fourth in the Hockey East standings with a 10-8-3 league record. UNH also has three newcomers (all freshmen) for a 21-player roster consisting of 12 forwards, five defensemen and four goaltenders.
    The top two point-producing forwards were lost to graduation, but five double-digit performers are back in 2013-14. They are junior assistant captain Hannah Armstrong (11-8-19), senior Jessica Hitchcock (9-9-18), senior Arielle O'Neill (8-7-15), sophomore Sara Carlson (7-7-14) and senior captain Nicole Gifford (3-10-13).
    Two juniors – Caroline Broderick, Jess Ryan – and two sophomores – Megan Armstrong, assistant captain Alexis Crossley – return to patrol the blue line. Crossley led all 'Cats in assists (17) and ranked second overall in points (24) en route to being named a Hockey East Second Team All-Star and All-Rookie Team honoree. Armstrong was second among UNH defensemen in goals (four) and points (13).
    In goal, junior Jenn Gilligan started 20 of the last 24 games of the 2012-13 season and was a Hockey East Honorable Mention selection. Sophomores Vilma Vaattovaara (12 gp) and Marie-Eve Jean (4 gp) also return between the pipes.

Scouting the Nittany Lions
     Penn State University (University Park, Pa.), which went 7-26-2 overall and 1-17-2 in the CHA in its inaugural season as a varsity program in 2012-13, enters the weekend with a 2-3-1 overall record that includes 1-1-0 at home. Last weekend, the Nittany Lions opened Pegula Ice Arena with a split against Union College – PSU lost 2-1 on Friday, Oct. 18 but responded with a win by that score on Saturday, Oct. 19.
    Sophomore forward Shannon Yoxheimer has a team-high five points and is tied for the lead in goals (three) with freshman forward Laura Bowman. Senior forward Taylor Gross, who played three semesters at UConn before transferring, has four points (1g, 3a), as does freshman forward Sarah Nielsen (4a).
    Head coach Josh Brandwene (Penn State '91) has alternated two goaltenders through three weekends with Nicole Paniccia playing the first game and Celine Whitlinger the second.
    Paniccia – another UConn transfer – is 0-2-1 with a 3.26 GAA and .915 save percentage. She stopped 24 shots in last Friday's 2-1 loss. The previous week at Quinnipiac, Paniccia made 48 saves in a 5-1 loss. The senior earned a tie in the season opener with 35 saves and three goals allowed at UVM.
    Whitlinger is 2-1-0 with a 2.33 GAA and .941 save percentage. She recorded 20 saves to backbone PSU to its 2-1 victory vs. Union last Saturday. One week earlier, the sophomore had a 55-save effort in a 4-0 loss at Quinnipiac. In her first game of the year (Oct. 5), Whitlinger led the Nittany Lions to a 4-2 win at Vermont with 37 saves.
    Penn State has been outscored 17-11 overall, including 8-3 in the third period, and is averaging 23.3 shots per game in comparison to the opponent's 39.3. The Nittany Lions are 2-for-19 (.105) on the power play and 17 of 24 (.708) on the penalty kill, which ranks last in Division I (29 teams).

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