The University of Maine women’s hockey team hosted their rivals, the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, on Friday, Jan. 31, at Alfond Arena taking home a strong 5-1 victory.
The Wildcats opened the game with a 7-2 shot advantage in the first 14 minutes of play, but Maine was able to get the first tally of the game. First-year forward Ida Kuoppala opened up the scoring for the contest and extended her goal streak to four games in a row. Effective communication, defensive zoning and excellent play from fourth-year goaltender Carly Jackson held the Wildcats scoreless on eight shots in the first period, while Maine took eight shots of their own, with Kuoppala scoring the lone goal.
Barely a minute into the second period, the Wildcats’ second-year defender Emily Rickwood caught a feed pass from first-year forward Annie Berry and took a wrist shot from the near side faceoff circle that flew over Jackson’s stick-side shoulder to equalize the game at one.
A tripping penalty on first-year forward Tamara Thierus sent the Black Bears on the power play just five minutes into the period, and Maine began to rattle off shot after shot at Wildcats’ first-year goaltender Nikki Harnett. Eventually, a wrist shot from second-year defender Ida Press was tipped in by second-year forward Ally Johnson to seize the advantage back for Maine.
Another penalty for the Wildcats less than a minute after the goal sent Maine back on the attack. First-year defenseman Ella MacLean scored her first career goal as she maneuvered through the Wildcats’ depleted defense.
Maine would keep the pressure on by pressing into the Wildcats zone, allowing Kuoppala to score her second point of the game, increasing the lead to 4-1. Second-year forward Liga Miljone and MacLean picked up the assists on the play. Miljone finished off the scoring for the Black Bears, picking up her eighth goal of the season and her fourth point of the night. Maine took home the impressive 5-1 win behind Jackson’s 31 saves, Kuopalla’s offensive efficiency and the promising development of younger players.
Taking back to the ice the following day, New Hampshire tightened up their defensive scheme and held the Black Bears to just two goals in a tight contest that was ultimately decided in overtime. The contest, part of the Hockey East’s Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer schedule, was made special that night for the Black Bear community. The athletics department flew in Press’ mother Malin Press, who was diagnosed with breast cancer last March, from Sweden for the ceremonial puck drop to start the contest.
Maine’s opening goal came nine minutes into the first period, as Press tore through the Wildcats’ defensive zone to bury the puck behind Harnett for the early 1-0 Maine lead. That tally was Press’ sixth goal of the season, with the assists coming from third-year forward Michelle Weis and second-year forward Ali Beltz.
The Wildcats changed their tune after that, keeping a tighter grouping in the defensive zone while blocking a multitude of Black Bears shots throughout the remainder of the period. New Hampshire went on a consistent offensive of their own with under five minutes left in the first, but Jackson made quick work of their shots with deflections and saves. Maine skated off the ice for the first intermission with the lead, but an inability to score following the opening goal was apparent.
The Wildcats came bursting out of the intermission and seemingly caught the Black Bears off guard with their intensity on the opening puck drop, overpowering the Black Bears zone as second-year forward Lauren Martin scored just 11 seconds into the period. Martin won the faceoff and immediately fed the puck out to first-year forward Jada Christian, who ripped a slapshot that was deflected by Jackson. Martin corraled the rebound and fired a wrist shot of her own over the recovering Jackson, tying the game at one.
Scoring in her fifth straight game, Kuoppala gave the Black Bears the advantage on a powerplay just two minutes later. Christian was called for a holding penalty seconds after the Wildcats had scored and a turnover in the neutral zone gave Kuoppala the real estate she needed to beat Harnett for the goal, notching her 15th goal of the season. Beltz picked up her second assist of the night on the score and 17th of the season, showing strong team chemistry between the lines.
Following a faceoff in the Black Bears’ zone, Christian poked the puck away from third-year forward Tereza Vanisova and turned quickly to bury the clapper past Jackson, tying the game at two.
Neither team was able to capitalize in the third, with Maine receiving a lengthy power play to end the second and the start of the third, and New Hampshire getting its own power play try into the third. Neither team could capitalize on the advantage, and the game would go to overtime tied at 2-2. Both teams skated to a stalemate in the extra minutes, and Maine took the series 1-0-1. The Black Bears took 31 shots on goal and Jackson made 29 saves on 31 shots. Maine moves to 11-12-6 overall and 7-10-5 in Hockey East matchups.
Maine will travel to Providence College to take on the Friars Friday, Feb. 6, and Saturday, Feb. 7.