Vallotton hat-trick highlights Black Bears victory over Merrimack
With only two home games remaining and four crucial Hockey East points up for grabs, the University of Maine women’s ice hockey team knew that they would need to come out aggressively and execute their game plan in order to be successful and defend their home ice. That is just what they did, as they handled Merrimack College 4-0 on Saturday afternoon in the first game of the weekend series.
Maine Head Coach Richard Reichenbach was happy with the way his team came out of the gate.
“I think the first 10 minutes we did a really good job of taking away their time and space and making good decisions with the puck and driving their net. Their goalie is very good so it was nice to see a couple go in,” Reichenbach said.
“I thought in the second we backed off a little bit and they outplayed us and then I think in the third we came back and moved our feet again and did what we wanted to,” he added.
The Black Bears would get on the board first, 8:36 into the opening period. Second-year center Jessica Vallotton scored the first of her three goals by using her size to find the puck through traffic in front of the net and put it by Merrimack first-year goaltender Samantha Ridgewell for a 1-0 lead.
Vallotton would extend the Black Bears’ lead to 2-0 less than four minutes later. First-year center Nicole Arnold fired a shot on net that was saved by Ridgewell. The rebound bounced right to the stick of a wide-open Vallotton, who was able to bury the puck into the back of the net.
Merrimack first-year forward Jessica Bonfe was called for hooking at 12:16 into the first period.
The red-hot Black Bear offense would make her and the Warriors pay, as second-year center Brooke Stacey would score the power play goal just 24 seconds into the man advantage to make it 3-0. Stacey won the offensive zone faceoff to second-year right winger Catherine Tufts. Tufts would slide the puck back over to Stacey who beat Ridgewell with a hard wrist shot for her ninth goal of the year. The assist was Tufts’ fourth of the season.
Despite facing a three-goal deficit, Merrimack wasn’t about to throw in the towel. They came out with a head of steam to start the second period. The Warriors had a chance to cut into the deficit when first-year forward Annie Boeckers broke free for a breakaway, but she was stymied by Maine fourth-year goalie Meghann Treacy, who made a sprawling save with her left pad to keep Merrimack off the board.
Vallotton would cap the scoring with 7:48 to go in the contest. Stacey picked up the puck in the neutral zone and she and Vallotton entered the Merrimack end on a two-on-one. Once the defender committed to Stacey, she slid the puck over to Vallotton who was able to slap it home on a one-timer to complete the hat trick.
“I didn’t really know it was [Vallotton] until I got around the defense and I put my head up and heard her screaming for the puck and I just passed it over,” Stacey said.
Vallotton was quick to credit her teammate.
“Brooke has amazing talent and I was just ready for the puck calling for it. I wasn’t really thinking about the outcome, I was more just playing in the moment trying to make a play,” Vallotton said.
Vallotton, who converted from defense to forward, has embraced the position change thus far.
“I was pretty nervous about switching positions at this elite level of play without ever playing forward before. I have enjoyed the challenge of learning new things each day and competing with my teammates every day. I am having fun as a forward and am excited to just keep growing as a player,” Vallotton said.
Her talent and hard work haven’t gone unnoticed.
“Obviously she’s got great size, a very hard shot. I think for her the key was just using that size with the puck and she did that with the two net drive goals, but I think in all three zones she was really just able to use her body and keep her feet moving and as the season has gone on, she’s just got a little bit more confident with the puck and I think that showed today,” Reichenbach added.
Maine’s Treacy would finish the contest with 19 saves to pick up her fourth shutout of the season. Her record improves to 8-16-2. Merrimack’s Ridgewell finished with 17 saves. Her record falls to 4-17-1.
The Black Bears were superior in all three aspects of the game. Maine was 1-2 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill. Conversely, Merrimack was 1-2 on the penalty kill and 0-4 with the man advantage. The Black Bears outshot the Warriors 21-19 and held the edge in the faceoff circle, 25-24.
The win improves Maine’s record to 9-19-2 (5-15-1 WHEA) while Merrimack drops to 4-24-1 (2-16-1 WHEA) in their inaugural season. The two teams will square off again on Sunday in game two of the weekend series. Puck drop is scheduled for 2 p.m. at Alfond Arena.
Hummel’s goal helps Maine complete sweep of Merrimack with 1-0 win
The University of Maine women’s ice hockey team honored their fourth-year players who laced up the skates for the last time on home ice Sunday afternoon. These players were goalies Treacy and Natalie Robinson, forwards Audra Richards, Jillian Langtry and Abbey Cook and defenders Brooklyn Langlois and Kelsey MacSorley. Cook was able to dress and participate in warm-ups but she was held out of game action as she continues to recover from a broken foot.
The seven member class was recruited by current Black Bear Head Coach Richard Reichenbach back when he was an assistant under former Head Coach Maria Lewis.
“They’ve been through a lot of ups and downs and today was a perfect ending to their regular season in the Alfond. It was just hard working, gritty, there were ups and downs in the game, but they stuck with it and stuck together, most importantly, to the end, and they got it done,” Reichenbach said.
The Black Bears came out aggressive to start the game, much like they did in Saturday’s contest. Maine would have the majority of the scoring opportunities as they put 13 shots on net in the opening period. Merrimack first-year goaltender Samantha Ridgewell was up for the challenge though, as she withstood the tenacious Black Bear attack.
It was a duel between Maine’s Treacy and Merrimack’s Ridgewell all game. The Black Bears were unable to break the scoreless tie until the 14:16 mark in the final period. Richards gathered the puck in the neutral zone and skated into the Merrimack end and ripped a slapshot from just above the right circle. Richards’ shot would be blocked by Ridgewell, but second-year forward Victoria Hummel gathered the rebound and found the back of net for her second goal of the year. Richards picked up her seventh assist and team-leading 20th point of the season. Langlois was also credited with an assist on the play.
The one goal would be all the Black Bears would need, as Treacy stopped all 31 shots she faced en route to her second shutout on the weekend. Reichenbach offered his praise for the veteran netminder.
“Meghann [Treacy] came here and she wasn’t highly recruited. She red-shirted and she’s been here every summer working and training and slowly has gotten better each and every year. Today was another example. She’s just very calm in there and knows her positioning. She really is the anchor of our team and we couldn’t be more proud of what she’s done in her career at Maine,” Reichenbach said.
Both teams had four opportunities on the power play, which included a 5-on-3 advantage for Merrimack late in the first period. Despite not being able bury the puck with the extra attacker, Reichenbach was pleased with his team’s effort.
“I thought our first two power plays were good. We created some chances. I think we just got a little bit frustrated and rushed some stuff,” Reichenbach explained. He credited his wife, and assistant coach, Sara Reichenbach for the team’s success on the penalty kill.
“Sara did a really good job with the penalty kill. They worked hard and we pressured them. Obviously the two kills in the third were huge. The penalty kill was huge all weekend, obviously a huge factor in our success this weekend,” Reichenbach added.
The Black Bears outshot the Warriors 36 to 31 and held the faceoff edge 35 draws to 23. Maine’s record improves to 10-19-2 (6-15-1 WHEA) while Merrimack drops to 4-25-1 (2-17-1 WHEA). Maine’s Treacy improves to 9-16-2 on the year and solidifies herself in second place on the UMaine all-time saves list. Merrimack’s Ridgewell takes the tough-luck loss and falls to 4-17-1.
With the sweep, Maine moves into sole possession of seventh place in Hockey East. They trail Vermont and New Hampshire by one point for fifth place.
The Black Bears return to action next weekend as they head to Storrs, Conn. to take on the fourth place Connecticut Huskies. Puck drop is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Friday and 2 p.m. on Saturday.