DURHAM, N.H. — Several New Hampshire players felt that Friday night’s 2-1 overtime defeat to St. Lawrence was the most devastating of their careers. They made sure they didn’t feel that way again on Sunday.
The No. 9 Wildcats (3-2-1) bounced back to defeat the No. 5 Saints (4-3-1) Sunday by a 6-3 margin on the strength of a Steph Jones hat trick and four power-play goals. All but one of UNH’s goals came with fewer than five Saints on the ice.
“We had a couple setbacks, and we could easily have come in there and played down or soft,” said New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey. “That was a gut check today, and we answered the bell big time.”
New Hampshire’s opportunism began at 8:21 of the first period when Jones slipped through the Wildcat defense and broke in alone on a two-on-none which she finished for the 1-0 lead. That goal opened the floodgates and turned the season around.
“I think the second power play we scored on got our confidence up, and they got lost over there,” Jones said.
New Hampshire outshot St. Lawrence 28-21 as in Friday’s game, but this time the Saints defense surrendered higher quality chances.
“Even when did work hard, they wanted it more,” said St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan. “That was evident in how they were winning the 1-on-1 battles. I give them a ton of credit.”
Both teams faced adversity entering the game. The Wildcats were missing Lindsay Hansen to injury, while St. Lawrence was missing Gina Kingsbury to the Canadian national team. The Saints could not adapt as well given their tough schedule, which featured six road games in a row against Top Ten teams. The big ice surface at the Whittemore did not come at an opportune time either.
“I don’t think we played the big ice well on Friday, and we were fortunate to win,” Flanagan said. “Today we couldn’t generate the forecheck the way we’d like to, or the way we could in a regulation size barn, but you have to adapt to whatever is thrown at you, and we didn’t today.”
The Wildcats cushioned their lead when Carolyn Gordon snuck around the outside of the St. Lawrence defense. Despite pressure all the way down the left side of the ice, she slipped the puck past the near post for the 2-0 lead a minute into the second period.
Three minutes later, Jones received a past behind the defense at the blue line and broke in again on Rachel Barrie. She put the puck over her left shoulder for the 3-0 lead.
Rebecca Russell finally netted the Saints first goal a minute later when she received a pass at the crease from Lindsay Charlebois, who had circled freely down to the endline.
Further penalties ended any chance of a Saint comeback. Allison Edgar scored on a rebound off a Kristen Thomas slapshot at the 9:11 mark of the second period. Then at 10:51, Jones received a pass from Carolyn Gordon to complete the hat trick, the fourth of her career.
Then the game started to get ugly. Ricki-Lee Doyle, the hero from Friday, found herself in the box with a five-minute major penalty for elbowing. Seconds later, Gordon ran through Barrie after the whistle, knocking the Saints’ brick wall off her feet. St. Lawrence received a bench minor a minute later. Those penalties resulted in the sixth UNH goal at 0:18 when Edgar ripped a shot from the point past Barrie.
“The first two goals were basic one-on-ones where we beat,” Flanagan said. “On others they beat us to lose pucks on the doorstep. I don’t blame Rachel, she didn’t have any help. It was just a real poor defensive showing on our part.”
The Saints finished 0-for-7 on the power play, which dropped them to 3-for-46 this season. New Hampshire had its best effort of the season, going for 4-for-8. This time, the Wildcats power-play passes were crisp and their opponents were helpless.
“I feel our power play has looked strong, but I think we’ve just been missing,” McCloskey said. “They’ve been moving it. We just haven’t been burying it or finding the right option. We’ve got new people and we’re learning ”
With so many players in the box, the only way the Saints could score was shorthanded, which they did with frequency in the third period. Freshman Chelsea Grills worked behind the net to Emilie Berlinguette wide open in front for the score to make it 6-2. The Saints earned a second shorthanded goal when Grills put in a rebound off a Rebecca Russell shot.
UNH let St. Lawrence have a last gasp on a two-man advantage in the final minutes, but prevented the Saints from any second-chance opportunities.
Now UNH has a positive result to build on following two devastating defeats. The Saints will look to put a defeat behind them, as the Wildcats did this day.
“We’re sitting there like we just lost the last game of the season, but we’ve got ways to go,” Flanagan said.