Bright Hockey Center has not been kind to No. 3 New Hampshire over the past seven years. No. 9 Harvard is 5-0 against the Wildcats and owns a 25-8 goal differential during that time. Yet UNH, just two weeks removed from a statement victory over then-No. 1 Wisconsin, will enter the Cambridge facility favored to extend its winning streak to seven games and snap the Crimson’s four-game run in the process.
Three matchups to focus on this Friday. First, how do the defenses handle the forechecks? Both teams have the speed and the work ethic up front necessary to disrupt breakouts and cause turnovers. The edge on the blueline would seem to go to the Wildcats, who looked composed and crisp in triggering the rush against the Badgers (Martine Garland in particular). Harvard has experienced the natural growing pains of sending three freshmen over the boards game after game without a star safety net, and the Crimson needs its young blueline crew to be as sure-handed as possible.
Second, discipline. Harvard finds itself in the unfamiliar role of being the ECACHL’s most penalized team with 40 of the 90 infractions coming from five first-year skaters. The Crimson remains a solid penalty-killing team at better than 90% but a surplus of penalty minutes on Friday could spell doom in the face of the nation’s top-ranked power play. UNH, however, also has to be wary of the box as Harvard has the speed to draw penalties and is quietly third in the country in power play success rate despite losing its entire first power play unit from last season.
Third, goaltending. Always pivotal in big games, this matchup features two experienced goaltenders coping with new realities. Senior Ali Boe has been Harvard’s best player for much of the season while facing just under 30 shots per contest, up about 50 percent from her 2004-05 pace. Melissa Bourdon’s workload has gone the other way as the junior faces just over 14 shots a game, down about 50 percent from last year, and even the Badgers got just 16 pucks through to the UNH netminder.
No. 3 New Hampshire (11-2-0 overall, 6-1-0 Hockey East)
Top Scorers: Nicole Hekle, Jr., F (6-10-16), Leah Craig, So., F (10-3-13), Jennifer Hitchcock, So., F (7-6-13)
Top Goaltender: Melissa Bourdon, Jr. (10-2-0, 1.33, .906)
Scoring Offense: 4.38 (3rd)
Scoring Defense: 1.23 (2nd)
Penalty Minutes: 11.3 (T-25th)
Power Play: 22 of 75, 29.3% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 57 of 65, 87.7% (9th)
No. 9 Harvard (7-4-2 overall, 4-2-2 ECACHL)
Top Scorers: Jennifer Raimondi, Sr., F (6-10-16), Lindsay Weaver, Jr., D (1-12-13), Liza Solley, Jr., F (6-6-12)
Top Goaltender: Ali Boe, Sr. (5-4-2, 2.70, .907)
Scoring Offense: 3.54 (5th)
Scoring Defense: 2.38 (T-14th)
Penalty Minutes: 15.5 (7th)
Power Play: 17 of 70, 24.3% (3rd)
Penalty Kill: 76 of 84, 90.5% (4th)
All-time: 23-12-1 New Hampshire
Last 5 Meetings:
12/11/04: UNH 2, Harvard 1
12/9/03: Harvard 4, UNH 0
11/30/03: Harvard 2, UNH 1
12/13/02: Harvard 7, UNH 1
12/14/01: Harvard 4, UNH 3