On Saturday, Feb. 22, the University of Maine women’s ice hockey team took to the ice against the Vermont Catamounts for their final regular-season game in a Hockey East contest. This would also be the final regular-season game for the fourth-year students for Maine, while it was respectively the Catamounts’ senior night.
Vermont opened the contest with the first goal of the game off the stick of second-year defender Maude Poulin-Labelle just four minutes into the first period. Poulin-Labelle was positioned at the top of the Black Bears’ zone, and as the puck rode the boards off the stick of first-year forward Hailey Burns, fourth-year forward Abby Cleary collected the puck in fourth-year goaltender Carly Jackson’s stick side corner and fed the puck out to Poulin-Labelle for the clean slap shot.
The Black Bears answered at the midway point of the second period on fourth-year forward Tereza Vanisova’s 13th tally of the season. Fellow fourth-year forward Brittany Colton and third-year defender Taylor Leech were credited with the assists on the play, though Vanisova’s clean shot from the slot through the traffic in front of the net really did the job. Second-year forward Liga Miljone gave Maine a 2-1 lead in the final minute of the middle frame, jamming the loose puck home past the Catamounts’ second-year goaltender Blanka Skodova.
Tearing back onto the ice with intent to level the score, the Catamounts sparked their offense up once more late in the third period when second-year forward Theresa Schafzahl decked out Jackson before hitting a smooth wrist shot for her 14th tally of the season. Each team had opportunities to break the 2-2 tie, but they could not find the back of the net. Jackson made 19 saves on 21 shots while the Black Bears took 24 shots on goal.
A slew of penalties through the first two periods, including three hookings, one tripping and one checking, looked promising to give one team an advantage over the other, but the two squads buckled down defensively during power plays. Combined, they only allowed four shots while being at the personnel disadvantage, showing the resilience of both Jackson and Skodova.
Maine ends the season with the record of 13-13-8 and 9-11-7 in Hockey East play, good for No. 7 in the division, sending them on the road for the first round of the playoffs to face off against the No. 2 Boston University Terriers. While Maine will have its hands full with the Terriers, the Catamounts, sitting at No. 8, will be forced to travel into the bandsaw of No. 1 Northeastern. The Huskies have dominated all season, only losing three contests, and remain the likely favorites to win the Hockey East.
The additional quarterfinal playoff matchups are No. 6 New Hampshire traveling to No. 3 Providence and No. 5 Connecticut traveling to No. 4 Boston College. Each of these series will be the best of three, and all four series are set to begin Friday, Feb. 28, with the divisional round to follow the next week.