Before the pause on winter athletics at the University of Maine, the women’s ice hockey team was able to participate in their season opening series. The team traveled to Worcester, Massachusetts to take on the Holy Cross Crusaders on Nov. 20 and 21 for a Friday night and Saturday afternoon games. This would be UMaine’s first varsity athletic competition since March 8 of last year.
On Friday night, UMaine beat Holy Cross 2-1 in the season opener. UMaine scored first at the midway point of the first period when
second-year forward Ida Kuoppala tipped in a shot from second-year defenseman Ella MacLean. UMaine would get another goal before the end of the first period. Holy Cross defender Antonia Matzka took an interference penalty and put UMaine on the powerplay with less than two minutes to go in the period. UMaine would convert on this powerplay when first-year forward Morgan Sadler scored her first career goal with 17 seconds to go in the period. This put UMaine up 2-0 at the first intermission. From this point on UMaine would look to their fourth-year goaltender Loryn Porter to carry them, and carry them she did. Porter would save 34 shots in the game and only surrendered one goal to the Crusaders early in the third period on a shot from Holy Cross forward Bryn Saarela. The goal by Saarela came on a shot from the slot that deflected off of Porter’s glove and in — a goal Porter would like back, but she would make up for it with some key saves late in the game to help UMaine get the win.
On Saturday night the Holy Cross Crusaders got the last laugh, defeating UMaine 3-2. Holy Cross would open the scoring late in the first period on a tap in goal by forward Sommer Ross on a cross crease pass from forward Carly Beniek. UMaine would start the second period behind a goal. On the penalty kill at the start of the period forward Ida Kuoppala would bring UMaine level with a great defensive play, intercepting a Holy Cross pass at the blueline in the defensive zone. She then used her speed to turn defense into offense, getting a breakaway and beating Holy Cross goalie Jada Brenon on the high blocker side. Going into the third period the game was tied 1-1, but Holy Cross would take the lead back controversially at the beginning of the period. A Holy Cross shot deflected off of UMaine goalie Porter and went above her head, where Holy Cross forward Beniek batted it out of mid air and into the net for a Holy Cross goal. The goal would be reviewed to see if Beniek played the puck with a high stick. The goal stood after a lengthy review allowing Holy Cross to take a 2-1 lead. UMaine fought hard, but were struggled to find an equalizer, and in a last ditch effort pulled goalie Porter in hopes of finding that equalizer. It would not work and Sommer Ross would score her second goal of the night for Holy Cross on the empty net with a one minute and 40 seconds to go in the game, making the score Holy Cross 3, UMaine 1. Ida Kuoppala would tally her second goal of the game, and third of the season with 23 seconds to go, but the effort would not be enough and UMaine would take their first loss of the year, while Holy Cross would pick up their first win of the year.
There are definitely some positives to take away from the weekend’s game for the women’s ice hockey team. Road wins are hard to come by, and picking up an early season road win against a conference rival is always a good thing. Kuoppala returned to her scoring ways from last season, as she led the team in goals last season with 19 in 35 games, and she already has 3 in the first 2 games to start the season. Goalie Porter is in her first season as a starter after backing up Carly Jackson the last few years. She boasts an impressive 0.953 save percentage coming out of this series against Holy Cross. First-year forward Morgan Sadler was named Hockey East Rookie of the week for her performance in the series, as she notably had the game winning goal in the Friday night game.
Coming into the season the UMaine women’s ice hockey team were picked to finish seventh in the preseason polls. This is not a surprise due to how the team performed in last year’s season, finishing with a 9-11-7 record in conference. Unfortunately, they will have to wait a bit until they can get back into action, as on Nov. 24 it was announced that UMaine would be pausing winter athletics until Dec. 8. All games in between those dates have been cancelled, meaning the series scheduled against UConn and Boston University have been canceled. Assuming that games continue as scheduled beyond Dec. 8, the UMaine women’s ice hockey team’s next game will be at the University of New Hampshire on Dec. 11.