GAME NOTES: Women's Hockey Plays Home-and-Home Series vs. No. 7 BC


The Matchup
    The University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team plays a home-and-home series this weekend against seventh-ranked Boston College. The Wildcats travel to Conte Forum for a Jan. 25 matchup and the teams face off at UNH's Whittemore Center on Jan. 26. Both games begin at 2 p.m.
    UNH has a 46-9-5 lifetime record, including 21-4-3 on the road, against Boston College. BC has a 6-2-2 edge the past 10 meetings (dating back to Nov. 2010) and that includes 3-1-1 at Conte Forum.
    New Hampshire defeated second-ranked Boston College, 3-1, on Oct. 16, 2013 at BC. Vilma Vaattovaara recorded 35 saves, including the last 21 shots she faced – all seven in the second period and 14 in the third. Nicole Gifford finished with a goal and an assist while Sara Carlson tallied a career-high two assists to match her personal best of two points.
    UNH netted goals at 4:01 and 13:05 of the first period before Haley Skarupa struck with four seconds on the clock to lift the Eagles within 2-1. Cassandra Vilgrain's power-play goal extended the Wildcats' lead to 3-1 at 18:23 of the second stanza. BC went on its sixth power play of the game at 17:30 of the third period and pulled goaltender Corinne Boyles with 1:24 on the clock to create a two-skater advantage, but UNH's penalty kill kept the home team on the perimeter to preserve the two-goal lead.
    New Hampshire finished the game 2-for-5 on the power play while BC was 0-for-6. The Eagles generated a 37-27 shot advantage that included 14-4 in the final frame.
    The Wildcats have not recorded consecutive wins in the series since  the 2009 Hockey East title game (2-1 at the Whitt) and first meeting of the 2009-10 season (4-0 at Conte Forum; Dec. '09). That was the last of a four-game win streak and nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1) vs. BC.

The State of New Hampshire
    New Hampshire enters the weekend with an 9-12-2 overall record that includes 5-5-1 at home, 4-7-1 on the road and 4-5-2 in Hockey East; those numbers include 3-2-1 in league home games and 1-3-1 in league road games.
    The Wildcats are in the midst of 14 consecutive Hockey East league games; of the remaining 10 games on the schedule, there is an even split of five home and five road games.
    UNH has won three consecutive home games. On the other hand, the 'Cats have lost five straight road games as part of a seven-game winless road stretch (0-6-1); the last road win was Oct. 27 at Penn State (3-1).
    New Hampshire is ranked third in Hockey East in scoring defense at 2.52 goals allowed per game.
    The four goals scored in the 4-1 win Jan. 10 vs. Providence marked the team's highest total since also scoring four goals against those same Friars on Nov. 7. In between, the 'Cats scored a total of 10 goals in eight games. The four goals is bested this season only by eight goals at Penn State (Oct. 26).
    In the national statistics, UNH is ranked No. 22 in offense (2.13 gpg) and No. 16 in defense (2.52 gpg). The Wildcats are slightly below the middle of the pack in power play (20th- .140) and near the top 10 in penalty kill (11th- .871).
    New Hampshire entered Thanksgiving weekend ranked No. 6 in the nation in power play (20.3%). Since then, the Wildcats are 0-for-31 spanning eight games. And in the last 11 games, the 'Cats are 1-for-42 (2.4%) on the power play.

'Cat Nips
    Senior forward and captain Nicole Gifford has recorded a point each of the last five games – it started with a four-game assist streak – and has a total of six points (2g, 4a) in that span.
    Senior forward Jessica Hitchcock has tallied a point in five consecutive games with a total of seven points (4g, 3a) in that stretch.
    Sophomore goaltender Vilma Vaattovaara returned to action Jan. 19 following a nine-game absence; her previous action was Nov. 15 at Princeton University. In her return, Vaattovaara made 24 saves to backbone the Wildcats to a 3-2 victory against UConn at the Whittemore Center.
    Junior defenseman Caroline Broderick leads the team and is second in Hockey East in blocked shots with 41.
    Junior forward Brenna Boulanger joined the team as a walk-on in mid-December and made her collegiate debut Jan. 11 at Providence.

It's a Paradox
    UNH has recorded a 228-185 shot advantage in the first period – UNH's highest and opponent's lowest period totals – but has been outscored 19-9, which is the Wildcats' low period total.

What Just Happened
    UNH and UConn split a home-and-home series last weekend with both teams winning on home ice –UConn prevailed 3-1 (Jan. 18) and UNH was a 3-2 victor (Jan. 19).
    At Freitas Ice Forum, the Huskies scored at 5:26 of the first period and held that 1-0 lead until UNH leveled the score midway through the third period. UConn responded with goals at 15:42 and 17:59. New Hampshire goaltender Ashley Wilkes (27 saves) was pulled in favor on an extra skater with 61 seconds to play, but the 'Cats could not cut into the two-goal deficit. UNH finished with a 34-30 shot advantage; both teams went 0-for-2 on the power play.
    In the rematch at the Whittemore Center, Nicole Gifford scored 14 seconds into the game to quickly give the 'Cats a 1-0 lead. Cassandra Vilgrain extended the advantage to 2-0 at 10:59 of the second stanza before the visitor's Sarah MacDonnell netted goals 1:43 apart early in the third period. Jonna Curtis, with the assistance of Jenna Lascelle and Sara Carlson, put UNH back in front, 3-2, with 4:41 remaining. New Hampshire recorded a 33-26 shot advantage; Vilma Vaattovaara stopped 24 shots defending the Wildcats' goal. UNH did not score on three power plays while UConn went 0-for-7.

What Happens Next
    Following the weekend series against Boston College, the Wildcats travel to play a two-game set at the University of Maine on Feb. 1-2. UNH also plays at Boston U. (Feb. 8) before its next home game Feb. 9 vs. UConn.

Race to Three
    UNH has a 7-0-1 record when scoring three (or more) goals in a game and is 1-9-1 when allowing three-plus goals. On the flip side, the Wildcats are 2-12-1 when scoring less than three goals and have an 8-3-1 mark when holding the opposition to two goals or less.

Captain of the 'Cats
    Senior forward Nicole Gifford is captain of the 2013-14 Wildcats. She carries a five-game point streak (2g, 4a) into the weekend and has tallied a point in 14 of 23 games. Gifford leads the team in goals (eight), power-play goals (three), assists (10) and points (18). She also ranks third in shots (75). In 11 Hockey East league games, Gifford has tallied 10 points (5g, 5a).
    Last weekend vs. UConn, she tallied an assist on the team's only goal at Freitas Ice Forum (Jan. 18) and then scored 14 seconds into the game to help the 'Cats record a 3-2 win at the Whittemore Center (Jan. 19).
    In the Jan. 10-11 series vs. Providence College, Gifford tallied three points with a goal and two assists; that included a goal and an assist in the 4-1 win at the Whitt on Jan. 10.
    Gifford tallied a career-high three assists Oct. 5 vs. Syracuse, and the three points equaled a personal best. She scored the game-winning goal and recorded an assist to lead UNH to a 3-1 win at (then) second-ranked Boston College. Gifford netted a goal in back-to-back games vs. Providence (Nov. 7) and UVM (Nov. 10).
    In the faceoff circle, Gifford has taken 507 draws (she has won 261 of them; 51.5%) – the next highest overall total is 257 by Heather Kashman.
    Junior forward Hannah Armstrong and sophomore defenseman Alexis Crossley are the assistant captains.
    Armstrong is tied for third in both points (11) and goals (five), and tied for fifth in assists (six); she has the team's only shorthanded goal of the season and ranks fourth in shots (63). She scored all five goals in a nine-game span (Nov. 7 to Dec. 8) with goals in consecutive games against Providence and UVM as well as Boston U. and Ohio State.
    Armstrong ended the 2013 calendar year with a goal vs. Dartmouth College (Dec. 8). She matched her personal best of two assists Oct. 26 at Penn State. She recorded an assist in consecutive home games against RIT (Oct. 4) and Syracuse University (Oct. 5).
    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 missed nine consecutive games (Oct. 26 to Nov. 24) due to injury before returning to the lineup Nov. 30 against Ohio State; she has recorded one point (1g) in eight games since returning to the lineup.
    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 tallied an assist in UNH's road win against BC (Oct. 16) and has a total of four points (3g, 1a) in 14 games.

Special Teams
    New Hampshire entered Thanksgiving weekend ranked No. 6 nation in power play (20.3%). Since then, the Wildcats are 0-for-31 spanning eight games. And in the last 11 games, the 'Cats are 1-for-42 (2.4%) on the power play.
    UNH scored on 5 of 8 power plays in the weekend series at Penn State as part of three consecutive games with multiple power-play tallies (2x5 at BC; 3x5 at PSU; 2x3 at PSU). The Wildcats have scored at least one power-play goal in 8 of 23 games.
    The Wildcats are 11th in penalty kill – 34 teams are ranked – at .871 (88-for-101). UNH's PK has been perfect each of the last four games (12-for-12 total, including all seven shorthanded last Sunday vs. UConn). The penalty kill has not yielded a goal in 12 of 23 games and has allowed multiple power-play goals twice – two by St. Lawrence in the Sept. 27 season opener and two by Penn State on Oct. 26.
    Nicole Gifford leads all 'Cats with seven power-play points (3g, 4a). Sara Carlson (5a), Cassandra Vilgrain (2g, 2a) and Jess Ryan (2g, 2a) are the next top point producers.

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 12 of 23 games with a total of 15 points (6g, 9a) – with those stats, she is second in goals, assists and points. She leads the Wildcats in plus/minus rating (+8) and is second in shots (81).
     Hitchcock carries a five-game point-scoring streak into the series vs. Boston College; the streak began Dec. 8 with a goal in three consecutive games and continued with an assist both games vs. UConn last weekend.
    She matched her career highs in both goals (two) and points (three) Jan. 10 in the 4-1 win vs. Providence at the Whittemore Center. Hitchcock finished that two-game series vs. PC with four points (3g, 1a) to garner the Warrior Player of the Week award from Hockey East.

First Blood
    UNH has scored the game's first goal eight times in 23 games and is 5-2-1 when taking a 1-0 lead; at home, the Wildcats are 2-1-0 when scoring first. The Wildcats are 4-10-1 when falling behind 1-0 and that includes 3-4-1 at home.
    The team that has scored first has gone on to victory each of the last four games.

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 'Cats have led at the first intermission just six times in 23 games with a 3-2-1 record. UNH has trailed at the first intermission 12 times (3-8-1 record).
    At the second intermission, New Hampshire has led five times (3-0-2 record) and trailed nine times (1-8-0); the game has been tied through 40 minutes nine times (5-4-0 record).

Color Me Blue
    Senior Arielle O'Neill had never skated as a defenseman until taking the blue line Oct. 26 at Penn State. In her debut at the position, O'Neill still contributed offensively with a pair of power-play goals in the third period to propel UNH to an 8-5 victory; the two goals matched her career high. O'Neill also scored the next day in the Wildcats' 3-1 win at PSU. She was honored as Hockey East co-Player of the Week on Oct. 28 for her efforts vs. the Nittany Lions.
    In 23 games this season (F-6, D-17), she has netted five goals to rank tied for third on the team; she scored four of those goals as a defenseman. O'Neill is atop the leaderboard in shots with 85.
    Before making the transition to the blue line, O'Neill was the top 'Cat in the faceoff circle. She won 20 of 25 faceoffs vs. Maine (Oct. 13) and has a .683 faceoff win percentage (82 of 120) 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
    UNH has a 1-3-0 record against nationally-ranked teams. In their first game against a nationally-ranked team this season, the Wildcats were 3-1 road victors against (then) No. 2 Boston College on Oct. 16. The 'Cats led 1-0 midway through the Nov. 16 game at No. 7 Quinnipiac, but the Bobcats netted a goal late in both the second and third periods to record a 2-1 victory.
    UNH and ninth-ranked BU were deadlocked 1-1 through two periods, but the visiting Terriers struck midway through the final frame to record a 2-1 victory (Nov. 24). Most recently, Harvard skated to a 5-0 victory at Bright Hockey Center on Dec. 6.
    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.

Setting The Table
    Sara Carlson, who was equal finisher, equal playmaker last year as a freshman with seven goals and seven assists for 14 points, is third this season in assists with eight. She also has one goal for a total of nine points, which is tied for fifth on the team. Carlson has one assist each of the last two weekends, including a tally on last Sunday's game-winning goal vs. UConn.
    Carlson recorded a career-high two assists in the 3-1 win at (then) No. 2 Boston College (Oct. 16) and tallied one assist in the weekend series at Penn State. In the opening weekend of the season at St. Lawrence, Carlson tallied an assist in the first game (Sept. 27) and scored the game-winning goal the next day vs. the Saints.

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    2-0 loss
 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    4-2 win
  Sun. Dec. 1    Ohio State    2-0 loss
  Sun. Dec. 8    Dartmouth    2-1 win
  Fri. Jan. 10    Providence    4-1 win
  Sun. Jan. 19    UConn    3-2 win
  Sun. Feb. 9    UConn    1:45 pm
  Sat. Feb. 15    Vermont    1:45 pm
  Sun. Feb. 23    Northeastern    1:45 pm

The Puck Stops Here
    The Wildcats have three goaltenders on the 2013-14 roster with two returning netminders (two sophomores) and one freshman.
    Vilma Vaattovaara had a strong start to the season with a 4-0-1 record, 2.16 GAA and .928 save percentage through October. In two Hockey East league games, she went 2-0-0 with a 1.44 GAA and .946 save percentage.
    Vaattovaara returned to action Jan. 19 vs. UConn with a 24-save effort that backboned the Wildcats to a 3-2 victory; she was sidelined nine games by injury and had not seen game action since Nov. 15 at Princeton.
    In 11 games overall (all starts), Vaattovaara is 6-3-2 with a 2.34 GAA and .920 save percentage. In seven Hockey East games, she is 3-2-2 with a 2.10 GAA and .928 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). 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.
    Ashley Wilkes started nine consecutive games spanning Nov. 16 (at Quinnipiac) through Jan. 18 (at UConn). She recorded a personal-best 27 saves in back-to-back games vs. BU (Nov. 24) and Quinnipiac (Nov. 16) – both were 2-1 losses for the 'Cats.
    Wilkes also finished with 27 saves, including a single-period high of 13 in the third period, Jan. 18 at UConn (3-2 loss). She stopped 22 of 23 shots in UNH's 4-1 win against Providence College on Jan. 10.
    In 10 games (all starts), Wilkes is 3-7-0 with a 2.42 GAA and .907 save percentage.
    Wilkes made her collegiate debut with the Oct. 28 start at Penn State University and earned her first career win, 3-1, with a 17-save effort. She blanked the Nittany Lions in both the first and third periods with five and 10 saves, respectively. The only goal allowed was on a PSU two-skater advantage.
    Wilkes was honored as Hockey East Defensive Player of the Week on Nov. 18 following a 27-save effort against seventh-ranked Quinnipiac University. She held the Bobcats scoreless in the first period (six saves) and followed that with 10 saves in the second and 11 in the third.
    Marie-Eve Jean is 0-2-0 with a 3.50 GAA and .852 save percentage in three games (two starts) this season. She made a season-high 27 saves in the Sept. 27 season opener at SLU (4-2 loss). Jean entered the Jan. 11 game at Providence at the start of the third period and stopped three of the four shots she faced; that appearance ended a stretch of 17 consecutive games in which she did not play (dating back to Oct. 4 vs. RIT).

Blue Line
    Juniors Caroline Broderick and Jess Ryan as well as sophomore Megan Armstrong are logging a lot of minutes for UNH's defense, which has been hit by injury to Alexis Crossley and Kate Haslett. Crossley missed nine consecutive games before returning to the ice Nov. 30, while Haslett has been sidelined since the third game of the season.
    Broderick has also contributed seven points (2g, 5a) and leads the team in blocked shots with 41. She recorded her first career multiple-point game with a goal and an assist Oct. 26 at Penn State. She tallied her first point of the season with a goal Sept. 28 at St. Lawrence and was credited with an assist vs. Maine (Oct. 13). Broderick recorded an assist Dec. 8 vs. Dartmouth and set up a goal in UNH's 4-1 win vs. Providence College on Jan. 10.
    Ryan, who didn't record a point as a freshman and tallied three points last year, already has eight points (3g, 5a) in 23 games this season, and she recorded an assist three consecutive games vs. Quinnipiac (Nov. 16), BU (Nov. 24) and Ohio State (Nov. 30). She leads all defensemen and is second overall in plus/minus at +5.
    Ryan scored her first career goal and finished the game with two goals – both on the power play – to lift UNH to 3-1 win at Penn State (Oct. 27). She opened the game scoring and then struck again to give the 'Cats a 2-0 lead. Ryan also netted the game-winning goal against Providence (Nov. 7) when she gave the 'Cats a 3-2 lead.
    Armstrong has four points, all on assists. She recorded three of her points the Nov. 7-10 weekend against Providence (1a) and Vermont (2a). The two assists against the Catamounts matched her personal best.

One For Me, One For You
    A handful of Wildcats have almost even career totals in goals and assists. In 122 career games, Jessica Hitchcock has tallied 33 goals and 35 assists. The career breakdown for Hannah Armstrong is almost even at 20 goals and 21 assists. Arielle O'Neill (27g, 24a) isn't far off from a 50-50 split. Freshmen Jonna Curtis (4g, 5a) and Cassandra Vilgrain (5g, 6a) have also been equal finisher and distributor.

Kashing In
    Heather Kashman returns from a redshirt season in 2012-13. Injury sidelined Kashman last year after recording 10 points (7g, 3a) as a freshman in 2011-12.
    Kashman has scored three goals and has four assists for a total of seven points; she tallied an assist last Sunday vs. UConn. The forward has matched her career high of two points twice this season, most recently with a goal and an assist at Penn State on Oct. 26. Kashman also finished with 1g, 1a against Maine (Oct. 13).
    In the faceoff circle, Kashman has won 112 of 253 draws (.443). She has taken the second most faceoffs on the team (behind Nicole Gifford's 507).

Forward Thinking
    Junior forward Kayla Mork ranks fourth on the team in assists (seven) and is tied for fifth in points (nine) – both those numbers are personal single-season highs. She has skated in 22 of 23 games; she was not in the lineup Jan. 11 game at Providence.
    Mork recorded a career-high three points with one goal and two assists Oct. 26 at Penn State; the two assists matched a personal best. Mork also finished with multiple points (1g, 1a) in the Nov. 7 win against Providence. She closed the 2013 calendar year with an assist vs. Dartmouth College (Dec. 8).
    Sophomore forward Haley Breedlove is fifth on the team in plus/minus at +1.  She was out of the lineup the opening weekend at SLU but skated in every game since then. She tallied her first point of the season with a goal at home against Boston U. (Nov. 1), and netted a third-period goal at Princeton (Nov. 15) to account for both of her points.

Working Overtime
    Including this season's pair of OT games (Oct. 13 vs. Maine; Nov. 10 at Vermont), each of UNH's last six 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.

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 734-242-75 for a .734 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.

200 Wins at The Whitt
    New Hampshire recorded its 200th victory at the Whittemore Center with a 4-2 victory Jan. 30, 2011 against Maine. UNH has an overall record of 210-60-28 (.752 win percentage) at The Whitt since the venue opened in Fall 1995.

Scouting the Eagles
    Boston College, ranked No. 7 in this week's national poll, enters the weekend on a seven-game unbeaten streak (5-0-2) and three-game win streak following last weekend's sweep of Vermont (5-2, 2-0). The unbeaten streak includes wins against nationally-ranked Cornell and Boston U. as well as a tie against nationally-ranked Harvard.
    Boston College is 10-1-1 at home, including 6-1-1 in Hockey East, this season. The only loss was 3-1 to UNH on Oct. 16.
    BC's offense, which is ranked No. 5 in the nation (3.43 goals per game), is led by Haley Skarupa (14-12-26), Andie Anastos (11-12-23) and Emily Field (10-11-21). Kristyn Capizzano (8-9-17) and Kate Leary (5-12-17) are two of the other eight skaters in double digit points.
    The Eagles' defense, ranked No. 9 in the nation (1.87 gpg), is backboned by senior goaltender Corinne Boyles. In 20 games (all starts), she is 13-4-2 with a 1.75 GAA and .939 save percentage.
    In other national stats, BC is No. 10 in power play (.175) and No. 20 in penalty kill (.844). The Eagles have been strong in the third period with a 302-190 shot advantage and 28-15 edge in goals.
    BC is 1-0-3 in overtime this season.

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