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Women's Hockey: Five straight losses for ‘Cats

Staff Writer

Published: Sunday, December 1, 2013

Updated: Monday, December 2, 2013 22:12

The UNH women’s hockey game lost Sunday at home to Ohio State University, giving the Buckeyes the sweep of the weekend’s two games. The loss brings UNH down to 6-9-2, 2-3-2 in Hockey East.

The Wildcats had freshman forward Jonna Curtis and sophomore defenseman Alexis Crossley back in the lineup, Curtis’s first weekend back since Oct. 21 of last season and Crossley’s first since Oct. 16 earlier this year. Freshman goaltender Ashley Wilkes started in net for the fifth time this season, continuing an impressive string of games despite a record of 1-4-0. She saved 18 of the 20 shots she faced.

“I feel like our heads weren’t in it,” Wilkes said. “I think we came back on our heels not ready to play.”

OSU’s game-winning goal was scored by Danielle Gagne, assisted by Melanie Moylan, 3:25 into the game. Upon receiving the pass from Moylan in the neutral zone, Gagne carried the puck down the right side lane and shot at the net’s top right corner from the right faceoff dot. The puck went over Wilkes’ left shoulder, making the score 1-0.

The Buckeyes scored again with 6:37 remaining in the period when Julia McKinnon received a pass in the slot from Sara Schmitt. McKinnon wound up and fired at Wilkes, who was about 20 feet away in goal. Claudia Kepler got a stick on the shot and knocked it in on Wilkes’ right side, making the score 2-0.

UNH forward and captain Nicole Gifford said the team needs more practice with Crossley and Curtis in the lineup again.

“We’re a little disjointed, two players coming back,” Gifford said. “It’s a good thing having them come back, but it’s obviously a bit of a disjoint for our team. … We’ll be fine, we need a little bit more practice this week.”

The Wildcats struggled to keep the Buckeyes out of the slot for much of the game. OSU got some of the best opportunities by skating with ease through the Wildcat defensemen, including their second in which McKinnon, Schmitt and Kepler surrounded Wilkes as if the Wildcat defensemen were not even there.

UNH coach Brian McCloskey wasn’t concerned too much about these advantages, as the Wildcats handled these odd man rushes well.

“That didn’t bother me as much as just the fact that we got caught numerous times pinching where we shouldn’t have been,” McCloskey said. “I thought our defense and Ashley [Wilkes] played what advantage plays we gave up, and we haven’t been giving many up so they played them well. … [OSU] didn’t really capitalize on their chances. They had some clear two on ones. … In that sense, at least, defensively, I think it was good for us.”

The Wildcats did not create similar opportunities in their offensive zone as consistently as the Buckeyes. In the first period, they did not take a single shot from the closer of the faceoff dots. Most of their shots Sunday came from the point, but their forwards in front of OSU goaltender Lisa Steffes were unable to get a stick on the shot.

OSU proved to be one of the most physical teams the Wildcats gave faced. The Buckeyes had no problem bumping and grinding against the Wildcats, both against the boards and in the open ice. In one instance, an OSU skater charged at Ariel O’Neill, who stood alone in her own end at the left faceoff circle. The Buckeye hit O’Neill and fell hard to the ground as if she’d hit a concrete wall. Players also jeered each other more frequently than usual, protecting their goalies and teammates.

“They’re a more physical team than we’ve been used to,” Curtis said. “But it teaches us to be more physical. You can learn something from every game.”

In one scrum, Jenna Lascelle fell to the ice and took a few seconds to get to her feet. She limped to the bench, but she returned later in the game and appeared fine.

Jonna Curtis eagerly participated in scrums along the boards and in front of the goal, demonstrating a lack of fear in spite of being injured for over a year.

Crossley played with a similar aggressiveness, though at times she fell in a manner to suggest she was careful about throwing her body around.

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