DURHAM, N.H. — No Kingsbury, no problem this time for St. Lawrence.
Well, it did take until the final 8.6 seconds of overtime for the No. 5 Saints (4-2-1) to put away No. 9 New Hampshire (2-2-1). But they’ll take the win, even though it wasn’t pretty.
Senior Ricki-Lee Doyle netted the game-winner for St. Lawrence when linemate Emilie Berlinguette overhandled the puck and let it slip back to Doyle. She let the puck rip and it exploded into the back of the net.
Doyle was helped in her game-winning effort by an earlier attempt where the big ice surface had fooled her into thinking she had plenty of time to shoot. This time there was no hesitation.
“All I was thinking was I knew I had no time, I knew I had to fire the puck,” Doyle said. “So I didn’t close my eyes, but I thought just shoot it. After a while, you just know where the net is.”
The loss was another devastating one for UNH, which lost a close game late to North Dakota last weekend. The Wildcats maintained a 28-21 shot advantage but Saints goaltender Rachel Barrie let nothing soft into the net.
UNH had a chance in the final minute when captain Kristen Thomas went in on a break with freshman Nicole Hekle, who had just jumped out of the penalty box. But it was to no avail, and St. Lawrence bounced back with the game-winner on the other end.
“We had plenty of chances but couldn’t score,” said New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey. “That’s been the story of the season.”
McCloskey said he was not disappointed with his team’s effort, while Flanagan was not particularly pleased on the other end despite the win. Both teams get a chance to better themselves when they rematch on Sunday.
McCloskey felt UNH played better hockey for the better part of the game, and Flanagan concurred.
“I really don’t think we deserved a game like that for sure, and in a game like that they didn’t deserve to drop that,” Flanagan said. “They’re well-coached. They played hard. I give them a lot of credit. From our perspective, I know we can play a little better. We can be more consistent.”
There were outside factors leading both teams to play below their best. UNH has been hampered by injuries, and McCloskey said he would be down to 15 skaters for Sunday.
Hockey East Rookie of the Year Lindsay Hansen hurt her knee on an awkward turn in the open ice. McCloskey estimated she’d be out for several weeks. The Wildcats had already lost Vicki Davis for about as long.
St. Lawrence, meanwhile, has been hampered by a brutal travel schedule. The Saints had spent four consecutive weekends on the road and played six straight games against Top Ten teams.
“We weren’t at our strength today,” Doyle said. “We looked more like a team that’s been on the bus six hours and has done a lot of sleeping. Hopefully the bus legs will be gone by Sunday.”
St. Lawrence controlled the game early. It took the Wildcats nearly half the period to get a shot on net, but that changed when St. Lawrence was whistled for three separate penalties over a six-minute stretch.
Barrie made a butterfly stop, an acrobatic glove save, and a pad save the opposite way on a Carolyn Gordon deflection from the point. The period closed out with an even 9-9 shot count despite the Saints’ early control of the game. The mistakes brought the Wildcats back into the game, and they never relented.
The teams went into the second intermission tied 1-1, while UNH dominated the shot charts by a 19-11 margin. The Wildcats limited the Saints to just four shots, most of which came on a two-man advantage.
UNH earned the game’s first goal as Shannon Clement, Rebecca Paul, and Lindsay Hansen adeptly controlled the puck in front of the net, and Clement found the back of it when her shot slowly found its way underneath Barrie for the 1-0 lead.
It took the two-man advantage for the Saints to finally get their power play going, as the Saints had started the period with consecutive power plays and ended with nothing to show for it. Maghan Grahn made two saves to start the power play but Saint sophomore Tracy Muzzerall found the inside of Grahn’s pads on an unpressured shot from the point.
St. Lawrence’s power play is now just 3-for-39 for the season.
“We’re not generating many goals,” Flanagan said. “We’ve got to do a better job getting shots on net. We’re trying to be too cute. At times it was fine, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
The defenses were just a step ahead of the offenses for most of the third period, as neither team could find the back of the net. New Hampshire had the superior chances, but couldn’t cash in on them. Hekle had room to wind her shot up on occasion, and Debbie Bernand nearly received the puck at the crease down the stretch, but Barrie was not letting anything soft through and the Saint defense was protecting her just enough.
Barrie made 27 saves for the day. Grahn stopped 19 shots, in an effort which McCloskey considered among the most solid of the season for the Wildcats in net.
Both teams will look to rest up tomorrow before Sunday’s game. Doyle said the Saints would probably relax a bit, check out the campus, and maybe do some shopping. There will still be practice for the Saints, and time to improve.
If the past is any indication, there will be another close game on Sunday.
“Every single game except last Sunday’s for us it’s been one goal or tied going into the third period – that’s women’s college hockey,” Flanagan said.