The University of Maine women’s ice hockey season came to an end on Wednesday night. The road warrior mentality of the Black Bears was strong, but sometimes a hard nosed team just comes up a bit short. That’s what happened in the semifinals game vs. Providence College.
After the Black Bears won 3-1 over a tough University of Vermont team in the quarterfinals, UMaine had the opportunity to reach their first ever finals with a win at Providence. This was the fifth time that the UMaine women’s hockey team had made a semifinal in the program’s history. No team has ever made it to the finals.
After a whole 60 minutes of regulation play, the scoresheet was blank, 0-0. Neither team faltered defensively. Both teams knew this was going to be a tight game, and one mistake could end their season. UMaine fourth-year goalie Loryn Porter was superb, as we’ve come to expect. She was named to the Hockey East Second Team All Stars prior to the playoffs, and she displayed why in this game, stopping all 22 Providence shots in regulation. Providence fourth-year goalie Sandra Abstreiter was the busier of the two goalies, stopping all 31 shots she faced in regulation, plus two in overtime on her way to earning a shutout.
Going into overtime, it felt as if this was one of those games that would take multiple overtimes to find a winner, but that was not the case. Maine got caught in a line change early and Providence fourth-year forward Giana Savastano created a two-on-one opportunity for Providence with her speed. First-year Maine defender Elise Morphy got back to try and stop Savastano, but Savastano dove on her stomach to reach the puck and slide it past Morphy to linemate third-year forward Hunter Barnett. Barnett got the puck point blank in front of Porter. She made a nifty forehand to backhand move to beat Porter and send Providence to the finals.
This was a heartbreaking ending to the season, but Savastano’s big effort play was a fitting end to this game. It felt like it was going to take something special to win this game, and that play was special. Sadly, it did not go in UMaine’s favor, but this team should hold its head high for going as far as any UMaine women’s hockey team before them has. They were one goal away from the finals, and that stings, but they gave it their all, and as a fan, that is all you can ask for.
Looking back on this season we will remember everything that made it strange. The empty stands, the schedules not being announced until the week of the games and all of UMaine’s games being on the road due to COVID-19. But we should also look back on some of the bright spots, like Porter starting for the first time as a fourth-year and getting named to the Hockey East Second Team All Star honors. Second-year forward Ida Kuoppala also got an All Star team honors for her fantastic season, with 15 points in 16 games. The game-winning goal she had vs. the University of Vermont in the quarterfinals was a special moment for her and the team.
At the end of the day, it was a great season and one that we should look back on in a positive light. Hopefully next season we can get back to normal and there will be people to cheer on our women’s hockey team.