Women's Hockey: Loss to UConn ends 'Cats bid to host tournament

By Max Sullivan
On February 11, 2014

The UNH women's hockey team lost 3-1 to Connecticut Sunday afternoon, bringing their record to 9-18-2, 4-11-2 in Hockey East.

The loss mathematically eliminated the Wildcats from hosting the Hockey East tournament this year. It was also their sixth straight loss.

UNH forward and captain Nicole Gifford said there wasn't much to say in the locker room after Sunday's loss.

"I think everyone's disappointed," Gifford said. "You can sit there and talk about stuff, but the bottom line is we didn't win, and that's not acceptable anymore. Not a lot was said, and I think people just need to go back and really think about what they're doing with their play and stuff like that for the next weekends to come."

The game-winning goal came at 19:23 of the second period during a Huskies power play. UConn's Sarah MacDonnell held the puck in open ice at the top of the left faceoff circle and shot. The puck darted low through traffic and off of a Wildcat's skate, deflecting past UNH goaltender Ashley Wilkes' front and into the lower right side of the net to give UConn a 2-1 lead.

UNH forward Cassandra Vilgrain scored the first goal of the game on a power play 11:23 into the first period for her ninth of of the year.

UNH defenseman Jess Ryan threw a puck from the high slot towards the goal and the puck bounced off the left UConn defender, across the right side of the net. Vilgrain, who was in the slot facing away from the goal, spun around and found the puck. Her spin took her off her feet, but she managed to knock the puck past UConn goaltender Elaine Chuli as she dove with the momentum of the shot, making the score 1-0.

At that point in the game, it appeared that the Wildcats might be able to overmatch the Huskies. By the 4:30 mark, they had outshot UConn 14-4. 

"[UNH] really outplayed us in the first [period]," UConn coach Chris MacKenzie said. "We got going a little bit and were fortunate."

The Huskies tied the game 4:31 into the second period off a shot by UConn forward Emily Snodgrass from the left faceoff circle that bounced off of Wilkes' pad. The puck landed in front of Ryan, who was standing in the slot, but UConn forward Brittany Berisoff skated swiftly to the puck before the UNH defenseman could see it. Wilkes was still on her knees on the left side of the goal where'd she'd made the save, leaving the right side wide open for Berisoff's shot, which she buried to make the score 1-1. 

"I thought I had it," Wilkes said. "I just wasn't expecting a rebound, I guess."

UConn forward Michela Cava scored a third goal for the Huskies 7:39 minutes into the third period. UConn defenseman Kiana Nauheim took a shot from the blue line, which was deflected by down in front of Wilkes, bring the score to its eventual final of 3-1. 

Chuli currently has the second best save percentage (.939) in Hockey East. On Saturday, she shut out second-place Boston University.

"They got a good goalie," Gifford said, "And when you come up against a goalie like that, it's hard to squeak more than one or two past her."

Excluding their 7-4 loss to BU on Saturday, the Wildcats haven't appeared helpless in their contests with powerhouses like BU and Boston College, losing to those high-ranking teams by small deficits. Before Saturday, it had been seven games since they'd lost by more than two goals, including two close match ups with BC.

Considering the amount of shots on net UNH has posted this season, co-head coach Jamie Wood said his players need to learn to finish more consistently.

"We've outshot every team the past six games by quite a bit, so it's not like we're not working hard, and it's not like we're not getting chances," Wood said. "We seem to have trouble finishing on some of our opportunities right now, and we've got to just keep working at that."

"Other than that we've seen some progress," Wood continued. "It's not like we're hanging our heads thinking the season's over."

UNH hosts two games next weekend against Vermont. Both Saturday's and Sunday's games start at 2 p.m.

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