No. 1 New Hampshire enters the postseason riding a program-best 26-game unbeaten streak that would be a winning streak if not for the efforts of Maine. The Black Bears managed a 5-5 tie on Jan. 13 and provided the Wildcats with their toughest weekend set since November. Maine has been playing quasi-postseason hockey for several weeks, overcoming a slow start to best Connecticut for the final berth in the Hockey East Championships. UNH has been almost mechanical in stockpiling victories, but emotions promise to be high this weekend as the Wildcats chase a title that has eluded them since the league’s inception.
Two things to focus on: Can Maine bottle up its play at Alfond Arena and transport it to Matthews Arena? And who will win the special teams battle?
In past years, any question regarding a team’s play away from home would likely have been directed at New Hampshire, but the Wildcats have proven they can preserve their style of play on smaller sheets this season. The Black Bears, on the other hand, lost just twice at home all season, but managed just a 7-6-2 mark on the road, averaging 2.20 goals for 2.47 against. In Orono, they averaged 3.25 for and 1.50 against.
In the tie between these two squads, Maine dominated special teams situations with three power-play goals and a short-handed tally. The Wildcats recovered to go +3 on special teams in the second game and won. On paper, the edge has to go New Hampshire with the nation’s best power play and third-rated penalty kill, but specials are definitely a strong suit for the Black Bears as well (sixth in both categories). Maine likely has to at least break even on special teams Saturday to harbor hopes of turning a January tie into a March upset.
Maine (17-8-6 overall, 9-8-4 Hockey East)
Top Scorers: Brigitte Laflamme, Jr., F (14-17-31), Julie Poulin, Jr., D (7-19-26), Kelly Law, Jr., D (7-19-26)
Top Goaltenders: Genevieve Turgeon, Fr. (9-7-4, 2.16, .893), Rachel Gettings, Jr. (6-1-1, 1.26, .935)
Scoring Offense: 3.26 (7th)
Scoring Defense: 1.97 (10th)
Penalty Minutes: 14.1 (9th)
Power Play: 44 of 220, 20.0% (6th)
Penalty Kill: 158 of 178, 88.8% (6th)
No. 1 New Hampshire (30-2-1 overall, 19-1-1 Hockey East)
Top Scorers: Sadie Wright-Ward, So., F (27-27-54), Jennifer Hitchcock, So., F (24-30-54), Sam Faber, Fr., F (18-27-45)
Top Goaltender: Melissa Bourdon, Jr. (25-2-1, 1.14, .925)
Scoring Offense: 4.82 (1st)
Scoring Defense: 1.09 (1st)
Penalty Minutes: 9.7 (30th)
Power Play: 53 of 176, 30.1% (1st)
Penalty Kill: 132 of 147, 89.8% (3rd)
All-time: 20-1-3 New Hampshire
Last 5 meetings:
1/14/06: UNH 5, Maine 3
1/13/06: UNH 5, Maine 5 (OT)
10/15/05: UNH 4, Maine 1
2/13/05: UNH 5, Maine 0
2/12/05: UNH 5, Maine 2