GAME NOTES: Women's Hockey Rings In 2014 With Home-and-Home Series vs. Providence


The Matchups
    The UNH women's ice hockey team, which last played an opponent Dec. 8, 2013, resumes the 2013-14 schedule Jan. 10 in the first of a home-and-home series against Providence College at the Whittemore Center. Opening faceoff for the game, which will be broadcast on the Wildcat Sports Radio Network, is 7 p.m. The teams battle again Jan. 11 (7 p.m.) at PC's Schneider Arena.
    One of the longest rivalries in women's college hockey continues this weekend with the 138th meeting Friday night between the Wildcats and Friars. UNH has a 75-48-12 lead in the series, which began in December 1977. The Wildcats have a 37-13-8 edge at home and that includes 18-7-5 at the Whittemore Center.
    New Hampshire has the slight advantage the last five games (2-1-2) – three of those games have gone into overtime – but Providence is 5-3-2 the past 10 meetings. And in the last five seasons (2010-2014) at the Whittemore Center, the Friars have a 6-1-1 record. Prior to this season's 4-2 win on Nov. 7, the last time UNH defeated PC in Durham was the 2009 Hockey East semifinals.
    Back in November at the Whittemore Center, Providence College took a 2-0 lead into the first intermission on goals by Courtney Kukowski (8:06) and Beth Hanrahan (14:58). UNH rallied to tie the score in the second period with a Hannah Armstrong shorthanded goal (9:09) and Kayla Mork tally (19:00). The Wildcats took a 3-2 lead when Jess Ryan struck at 12;12 of the third period and Nicole Gifford secured the win by netting an empty-net goal with 15 seconds remaining.
    UNH goalie Vilma Vaattovaara tallied double digit saves in the first (11) and second (10) periods and stopped 28 shots overall. PC counterpart Sarah Bryant, who was pulled in favor of an extra skater with 76 seconds to play, was credited with 19 saves. Both teams were scoreless on seven power plays opportunities.

The State of New Hampshire
    New Hampshire enters the weekend with a 7-10-2 overall record that includes 3-5-1 at home and 2-3-2 in Hockey East; those numbers include 1-2-1 in league home games.
    UNH has not played a game since Dec. 8, 2013, when the Wildcats were 2-1 victors against intrastate rival Dartmouth College at the Whittemore Center. The one goal allowed marked the least by the 'Cats since a 3-1 win at Penn State on Oct. 27 (10 games between).
    The Wildcats close out the regular season with 14 consecutive Hockey East league games with an even split of seven home games and seven road games.
    New Hampshire is ranked third in Hockey East in scoring defense at 2.53 goals allowed per game.
    In the national statistics, UNH enters the weekend ranked No. 21 in offense (2.11 gpg) and No. 16 in defense (2.53 gpg). The Wildcats are in the middle of the pack in both power play (18th- .187) and penalty kill (18th- .854).
    New Hampshire entered Thanksgiving weekend ranked No. 6 in the nation in power play (20.3%). Since then, the Wildcats are 0-for-18 spanning four games. And in the last seven games, the 'Cats are 1-for-29 (3.4%) on the power play.
    The Wildcats had a five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) spanning Oct. 4-27. They went 1-6-1 in November and 1-2-0 in December.

'Cat Nips
    Senior forward and captain Nicole Gifford leads the Wildcats in goals (six), power-play goals (three) and points (13); she is also tied atop the assist leaderboard with seven and ranks second in shots (63).
    Gifford has been UNH's go-to player in the faceoff circle. She has taken 421 draws and has a .513 winning percentage; the next highest total is 196 by Heather Kashman.
    Junior forward and assistant captain Hannah Armstrong has scored all five of her goals the past nine games. She is tied for second on the team in goals and is second in points (10).
    Junior forward Kayla Mork has already established single-season highs in both assists (seven) and points (nine). She is tied top UNH's leaderboard in both assists and plus/minus (+4).
    Junior defenseman Caroline Broderick leads the team and is second in Hockey East in blocked shots with 35. Jess Ryan and Megan Armstrong also rank in the top 10 in the league with 25 (No. 8) and 24 (No. 10), respectively.

What Happens Next
    Following the weekend series against Providence College, the UNH Wildcats play a home-and-home series vs. UConn with a trip to Freitas Ice Arena on Jan. 18 followed by a Jan. 19 matchup at the Whittemore Center; both games begin at 2 p.m.

Happy New Year
    New Hampshire has a 29-5-2 lifetime record in "New Year" games – the first game of a new calendar year –and that includes 10-1-1 at home. Last season, the Wildcats were 4-2 victors at Union College on Jan. 15. Friday's game vs. Providence marks the third home "New Year" game the past decade – the 'Cats were last home in 2011 (4-2 loss to Northeastern; Jan. 9) and prior to that in 2005 (1-1 tie vs. Princeton; Jan. 1).
    UNH has faced off against PC in one other "New Year" game – the Friars won 5-0 at Schneider Arena on Jan. 10, 2009.

Race to Three
    UNH has a 5-0-1 record when scoring three goals in a game and is 1-6-1 when allowing three goals. On the flip side, the Wildcats are 2-9-1 when scoring less than three goals and have a 6-3-1 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 has tallied a point in 10 of 19 games as she leads the team in goals (six), power-play goals (three) and points (13). She is also tied atop the assist leaderboard (seven) and ranks second in shots (63).
    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 421 draws (she has won 216 of them; 51.3%) – the next highest is 196 by Heather Kashman.
    Junior forward Hannah Armstrong and sophomore defenseman Alexis Crossley are the assistant captains.
    Armstrong ranks second in points (10), tied for second in goals (five) and tied for fifth in assists (five); she has the team's only shorthanded goal of the season and ranks fourth in shots (54). She has scored five goals the past nine games 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 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 three points (2g, 1a) in 10 games. 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 not recorded a point in four games since returning to the lineup.

Special Teams
    New Hampshire entered Thanksgiving weekend ranked No. 6 in the nation in power play (20.3%). Since then, the Wildcats are 0-for-18 spanning four games to drop to No. 18 (.161 overall). And in the last seven games, the 'Cats are 1-for-29 (3.4%) 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 17 games.
    The Wildcats are 18th in penalty kill – 34 teams are ranked – at .854 (76-for-89). The opposition has scored a power play three of the last four games; UNH's PK went 8-for-11 (72.7%) in that span.
    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 8 of 19 games with a total of nine points (3g, 6a) – with those stats, she is tied for third in both assists and points. She is also tied atop the leaderboard in plus/minus at +4 and ranks third in shots (59).

First Blood
    UNH has scored the game's first goal six times in 19 games and is 3-2-1 with wins at St. Lawrence (Sept. 28), at Boston College (Oct. 16) and at Penn State (Oct. 28); the losses were to Boston U. (Nov. 1) and Quinnipiac (Nov. 16). The Wildcats are 4-8-1 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 'Cats are 2-2-1 when leading through 20 minutes and 2-0-2 when taking a lead into the third period.
    The Wildcats have trailed at the first intermission 10 times (3-6-1 record) and at the second intermission seven times (1-6-0).
    Eight games have been tied at the start of the third period, and the 'Cats went on to victory four times.

Color Me Blue
    Senior Arielle O'Neill had never skated as a defenseman until taking the blue line Oct. 27 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 19 games this season (F-6, D-13), she has netted five goals to rank tied for second on the team; her goal at Quinnipiac (Nov. 16) gave the 'Cats a 1-0 first period lead. O'Neill is also atop the leaderboard in shots with 71.
    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 and has a .695 faceoff win percentage (82 of 118) 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.

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 tied for third this season in assists with six. She also has one goal for a total of seven points, which is tied for sixth on the team.
    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    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

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 in 2011-12.
    Kashman is currently tied for fifth in goals (three) and also has three assists for a total of six points. 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 92 of 196 draws (.469). She has taken the second most faceoffs on the team (behind Nicole Gifford's 421).

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.
    In 10 games overall (all starts), Vaattovaara is 5-3-2 with a 2.37 GAA and .919 save percentage. In six Hockey East games, she is 2-2-2 with a 2.12 GAA and .928 save percentage. She has not seen game action since Nov. 15 at Princeton (3-1 loss; 17 saves).
    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 got the starting nod each of the last six games. 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. In seven games (all starts), she is 2-5-0 with a 2.33 GAA and .908 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 3.55 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). Her most recent action came in the 3-2 loss to RIT (Oct. 4).

She's Positive
    Junior forward Kayla Mork leads all 'Cats in plus/minus rating at +4; she is also tied for the lead in assists (seven) and tied for third in points (nine). 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 tied for third on the team in plus/minus at +3.  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).

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 five points (2g, 3a). 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.
    Ryan, who didn't record a point as a freshman and tallied three points last year, already has seven points (3g, 4a) in 19 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 tied for third overall in plus/minus at +3.
    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.

Working Overtime
    Including this season's pair of OT games, 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.

Quiet Contributor
    Jenna Lascelle has six points (2g, 4a) through 19 games. In the series at Penn State, Lascelle matched her career highs in both goals (two) and points (three) in the 8-5 win on Oct. 26; her second goal of the game broke a 5-5 tie with 3:39 remaining in regulation. She also recorded a goal in the season opener at SLU and an assist vs. Maine (Oct. 13). Most recently, she tallied an assist vs. Boston U. (Nov. 1).

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.

Scouting the Friars
    Providence College enters the weekend with an 8-13-0 overall record that includes 3-5-0 in Hockey East, 6-6-0 at home and 2-7-0 on the road; the Friars are 2-2-0 in conference home games and 1-3-0 in conference road games.
    PC is coming off a weekend split of Rensselaer in which the visiting Engineers were 3-1 victors in the opener (Jan. 4) and then the Friars prevailed 4-3 in overtime (Jan. 5) to end a three-game losing streak. Providence held two-goal leads of 2-0 and 3-1 before Lexi Romanchuk scored with 1:22 remaining in OT.
    Corinne Buie leads the team in assists (15) and points (22); she enters  Friday's game with 98 career points (44g, 54a). Beth Hanrahan (7g, 7a) and Haley Frade (5g, 9a) are tied for second in points (14), and Cassidy Carels has a team-high 10 goals; Carels is tied with Molly Illikainen with 13 points. Lexi Romanchuk has also reached double digits in points (12) and is second in assists (10).
    In goal, Sarah Bryant has started 19 of 21 games. She has an 8-10-0 record with a 3.10 GAA and .878 save percentage.
    PC has a slight scoring edge in the first period (20-18) but has been outscored in both the second (27-12) and third (27-22). The Friars have a 3-2-1 record when scoring the first goal and, therefore, 4-8-1 when falling behind 1-0. Seven of the team's 19 games have been decided by one goal and Providence is 3-4 in those games.
    In the national rankings, Providence is No. 13 in offense (2.67 gpg), No. 31 in defense (3.48 gpg), No. 23 in power play (.125) and No. 13 in penalty kill (.862).

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