January 18, 2014

Wilkes Matches Career High of 27 Saves; Women's Hockey Edged 3-1 by UConn

STORRS, Conn.Ashley Wilkes (North Pole, Alaska) matched her career high of 27 saves but the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team was defeated 3-1 by the University of Connecticut at Freitas Ice Forum on Saturday afternoon.

UNH, which swept UConn in last year's three-game series, is now 8-12-2 overall and 3-5-2 in Hockey East. The Huskies improved to 6-12-2, 3-6-1. 

Wilkes tallied 10 saves in the second period and a personal single-period high of 13 in the third as part of her 27-save effort. UConn goaltender Elaine Chuli eclipsed 30 saves for the sixth consecutive game with 33 overall, including 11 in the first period and 13 in the third.

With the Wildcats trailing 1-0 in the third period, Alexis Crossley (Cole Harbour, Nova Scotia) scored her third goal of the season to tie the score, 1-1, at 9:58. Nicole Gifford (Ennismore, Ontario), with her team-leading 10th assist of the season, and Jessica Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario), with her eighth assist, set up the tally. 

UConn answered with goals 2 minutes, 17 seconds apart – at 15:42 and 17:59 – to reclaim the lead. Rebecca Fleming, with the assistance of Emily Snodgrass and Kayla Campero, potted her second goal of the season to put the Huskies back in front. Stephanie Raithby, also with her second strike of the year, extended the advantage to two goals with the assistance of Margaret Zimmer and Leah Buress.

Wilkes was pulled in favor of an extra skater with 61 seconds remaining, but Chuli stopped Arielle O'Neill (St. Catharines, Ontario) in the waning seconds to preserve the two-goal margin and victory. 

The Wildcats pressured in the opening minutes of the game with four shots – one each by Megan Armstrong (Edina, Minn.) and Hitchcock followed by two off the stick of Hannah Armstrong (Keswick, Ontario).

UConn responded by taking a 1-0 lead at 5:26 on Campero's goal. UNH responded with more pressure during the next eight minutes, but Chuli denied O'Neill, Megan Armstrong, Hitchcock and Jonna Curtis (Elk River, Minn.). Crossley hit the pipe in the latter part of the opening frame and Caroline Broderick (Marblehead, Mass.) was denied by Chuli in the closing seconds. 

The Huskies took that 1-0 advantage into the locker room despite the visitor's 11-5 shot advantage.

The second period began similarly to the first, with UNH recorded a 3-1 edge in shots in the opening three minutes. New Hampshire was whistled for the first penalty of the game at 3:57, but Wilkes kept the 'Cats within one goal with two saves during the penalty kill. 

UConn was called for too many skaters on the ice at 9:19, but the Wildcats did not record a shot on the ensuing power play.

That penalty kill gave momentum to the Huskies, who generated shots by Campero, Snodgrass and Campero once again – but Wilkes turned aside all three challenges. UConn continued to produce scoring chances the next three minutes, but Wilkes once again turned aside all three shots to keep the score 1-0. 

The Huskies went on another power play at 15:43, but the 'Cats didn't yield a shot before the skater advantage ended at 17:21 when the home team was once again called for too many skaters on the ice.

UNH went on its second power play at 17:43 and created sustained pressure in the offensive zone, but Chuli stopped Heather Kashman (Edmonton, Alberta) twice and also made a save to deny Jenna Lascelle (Cornwall, Ontario). 

UConn generated a 10-9 shot advantage in the second period, but UNH held the overall edge at 20-15.

Both teams generated scoring chances early in the third period. Wilkes make three saves in as many minutes, then at the other end of the ice her Wildcat teammates peppered Chuli with four consecutive shots in a two-minute span. 

Wilkes once again had a stretch of three consecutive saves spanning two minutes, then Chuli twice denied Broderick to keep UConn in front, 1-0.

Both teams had a player sent to the penalty box for roughing at 9:35, and Crossley netted a 4-on-4 goal 13 seconds later to level the score.

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