Wildcats feel sting of Maine loss
Published: Monday, October 14, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 14, 2013 23:10
The UNH women’s hockey team is preparing for its matchup Wednesday night at No. 2 Boston College. The team is coming off of a disappointing tie on Sunday afternoon against the University of Maine, and its hoping they can bounce back against the Eagles, its second conference game of the year.
Head coach Brian McCloskey said he intends to use Wednesday’s game as a judge for where his team really stands in the conference.
“It’ll probably be the (biggest) we’ve had to date,” McCloskey said. “I think the bigger picture is how do we measure up in terms of shift to shift, can we defend and can we generate in our end?”
“I don’t really know any weaknesses. It’s a pretty veteran team, I think they probably have a handful of good young players.”
McCloskey pointed out that one of BC’s top defensemen in previous years, Blake Bolden, has graduated, taking a bit out of this year’s Eagles. However, he didn’t seem to think it will give them too great of an advantage. BC’s blue line, he said, is deep enough to give the Wildcats a hard time despite the loss of Bolden.
“They’ve lost a senior, Blake Bolden, great player,” McCloskey said. “But their D is very solid, so we won’t be able to take five minutes off.”
UNH is going into Wednesday night fueled with the frustration that came in the tie with Maine on Sunday. It was tough, sophomore Heather Kashman said, to see its 2-1 lead fall apart with less than three minutes left in regulation.
“Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating when you’re ahead of them,” Kashman said. “Controlling the play the whole time, and it’s hard when you have so many more shots than them and it doesn’t result on the scoreboard, but we worked hard and we know we should have won.”
“I think we outplayed them. We obviously outshot them,” captain and senior Nicole Gifford said. “But that was frustrating because we couldn’t really capitalize on our opportunities.”
The Wildcats had plenty of opportunities visible in the box score. They took 52 shots on Maine goalie Meghann Treacy, the shot totals for each period reaching double digits.
“I thought we executed well at times, but it’s obviously disappointing that we didn’t finish,” McCloskey said. “But that seems to be a challenge for us right now, so we’ve just got to stay with it.”
It doesn’t help that UNH blew a chance to beat its longtime rivals from across the state line.
“I mean, we never like Maine,” Gifford said.
Gifford knows the Black Bear seniors well, having played them annually for the past four years. She even had some previous experience playing with them. Gifford and Maine senior Kelley McDonald both played in PWHL juniors teams, Gifford for the Mississauga Jr. Chiefs and McDonald for the Stoney Creek Sabres.
“Yeah, I mean, there’s been tension,” Gifford said. “There’s obviously, there’s a few (Maine) seniors that I’ve played against growing up in juniors, too, we’ve always had that little bit of tension on the ice, so you definitely feel it.”
Kashman harbors her own reservations about the Black Bears, not only for the sake of team pride. In her freshman year, the last year before being redshirted in her sophomore year, the Wildcats lost to the Black Bears. That loss still stings.
“There’s always extra dirt in front of the net between us,” Kashman said. “But [they’re] a good team to play against because it gives that extra little motivation to beat them.”
One of New Hampshire’s high points Sunday afternoon was freshman Cassandra Vilgrain’s first career goal. Kashman, who got an assist on that play before scoring a goal of her own, said she was elated to be a part of a freshman’s first goal. There’s nothing like that experience, she said, and Kashman was able to relive the joy of her own first goal two years ago by seeing Vilgrain beaming on the ice after the puck went in the net.
“Being able to even be on the ice, not only assisting, so excited for her first goal,” Kashman said. “Your first goal, you’re never going to forget, you might have nicer goals later on in your freshman year, but you will never forget your first goal.”
The Wildcats will face off against Boston College Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Chestnut Hill, Mass.