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UMaine women’s hockey downs Merrimack 2-1 in first game of weekend series

On Saturday afternoon the University of Maine women’s ice hockey team beat Merrimack College 2-1 in dramatic fashion. The women’s team took to the road, this time traveling to North Andover, Massachusetts. This was their 13th road game of the year, and they have yet to play a game on home turf this year. Saturday’s win improved the Black Bears’ record to 6-7 on the season, and helped them climb to fifth place in the Hockey East standings. Meanwhile, Merrimack sits at the bottom of Hockey East with only one win in 15 games this season.

UMaine would again come into this game missing some players as they had last weekend, but they would gain one key player back. Second-year forward Ida Kuoppala rejoined the team on the ice, and she would prove to be crucial for UMaine. Overall, the Black Bears were still missing three forwards, one defenseman and a backup goalie heading into this game. Despite this disadvantage, UMaine outshot Merrimack 25-24, and put in a good enough performance to edge out Merrimack for the win.

The scoring got underway early for the Black Bears. Merrimack first-year forward Regan Minor would take a minor penalty for tripping just two minutes into the game. This early mistake by Merrimack would prove to be costly, and UMaine first-year forward Rachel Enzler would make them pay. A shot from the point by third-year forward Celine Tedenby was tipped in front by Enzler and beat Merrimack second-year goalie Emma Gorski. The Black Bears’ fourth-year defender Taylor Leech also picked up a secondary assist on the goal.

Merrimack continued to puzzle out how to get past fourth-year goalie Loryn Porter, who was seemingly unbreakable, but eventually slipped one past Porter off of a shot by Merrimack first-year defender Raice Szott. The shot from the point encountered net-front traffic and its quick deflection and change of direction gave Porter no chance to track the puck. It ended up finding the back of the net, tying the game 1-1 late in the second period.

Going into the third period it could have been anyone’s game, with neither goalie willing to give ground. Then, with under seven minutes left in the game, UMaine second-year forward Morgan Trimper forced a turnover and found Kuoppala in open space. Trimper hit Kuoppala with a pass that gave her a breakaway, who made no mistakes and ripped a shot top shelf that made it past Merrimack’s Gorski.

Kuoppala’s goal would be the game winner as UMaine held onto the 2-1 lead, and Porter did what she does well and shut the door on the Merrimack offense. Porter and Kuoppala again proved themselves as the straws that stir the drink of the Black Bears’ success. The goal was Kuoppala’s team leading sixth goal on the season, and her point total increased to a team-leading 9 points. Porter’s performance today improved her already impressive stats, with her save percentage going up to a 0.954 and her goals against average improving to 1.62.

The Black Bears will return for another opportunity to beat Merrimack again on Feb. 14 in a Sunday afternoon game at Merrimack College.

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