BOSTON — On the strength of two power-play goals set up by captain Kristen Thomas and a 27-save shutout from freshman Melissa Bourdon, New Hampshire won its second straight over Northeastern at Matthews Arena by a 5-0 margin on Saturday afternoon.
The Huskies (6-3-2, 0-2-1 Hockey East) could not get by Bourdon despite having the better play during the first period. The Wildcats (6-2-2, 3-0-1) went ahead by capitalizing on two-of-four power plays in the first period and never looked back.
“We benefited today from being opportunistic,” said UNH coach Brian McCloskey. “Early in the game the power play made a difference for us. Special teams have been good for us all year.”
The power play was not as strong later in the game, when Thomas was absent due to a sprained ankle, which she sustained after getting pinned against the boards late in the first period. McCloskey was hopeful but unsure of Thomas’ status for Tuesday’s game against Brown.
While more bad news on the injury front is the last thing the Wildcats needed, they did good news in that last year’s Hockey East Rookie of the Year Lindsay Hansen played in her first game since hurting her knee against St. Lawrence two weeks ago. She scored a goal late in the third period. Wildcat freshman Lindsey Caleo also scored her first career goal in the final minutes.
With Saturday’s shutout, Bourdon has given up just two goals in three starts. Bourdon had missed the Wildcats’ first six games over questions about her eligibility.
“A lot of the shots I think she saw, and she had to make a couple big saves or the game could have been a little bit more see-saw,” McCloskey said. “Northeastern is a good team, quick and opportunistic. I was very impressed. Melissa just shut them down.”
Bourdon helped New Hampshire to a 2-0 first period lead despite getting outshot 35-27.
Early in the first period, Northeastern sprung freshman Marie Desrosiers free on a blueline-to-blueline pass. On the breakaway, she appeared to have deked Bourdon and opened up the left side of the net, but at the last second Bourdon jutted out her left foot and Desrosiers could not get enough air on the puck.
On one of Northeastern’s three first period power plays, Rachel Bertram walked in and had a good shot on Bourdon, which she stopped, and then she adjusted quickly to make a stop on a bid from Jessica Coppney off the rebound from point blank range.
McCloskey felt Bourdon looked confident, and she had reason to be with the defense she had in front of her.
“My defense has been playing great in front of me,” Bourdon said. “I make the first save and usually don’t have to worry about the rebound in front of me.”
Despite the second straight defeat, Northeastern coach Joy Woog was optimistic after the game, especially about the first period. She felt Thursday’s 4-2 loss came down to four mistakes and that this game came was closer than the final score indicated. The difference was the New Hampshire power play and Northeastern’s failure to capitalize on its early opportunities.
“There’s no shame in the last two games we played,” Woog said. “I’m not disappointed at all. And we’ll just take what we learned today and put it into work in practice and get better.”
The 10 penalties Northeastern took were what swayed the balance in New Hampshire’s favor. Woog said the team wore down with same people on the ice again and again.
“You can’t afford to take that many penalties, especially when New Hampshire has a great power play,” Woog said.
Both UNH power-play goals in the first period originated from powerful Thomas shots from the point. On the first, junior Steph Jones one-timed the rebound that had been sitting at the edge of the crease.
“On the first power play, we blocked about eight shots prior to that goal, but when there’s a mess in front of the net they outnumber us,” Woog said. “It was a great play on their part.”
On the second, deflections from Jones then senior Carolyn Gordon fooled Northeastern goaltender Katy Augustyn. A puck that Thomas had shot to the left was suddenly directed into the right corner of the net.
Gordon extended the Wildcats’ lead when she won the puck out of a scrum at the crease, put the puck off Augustyn’s chest and batted the high rebound down into the net. UNH’s fourth goal came with 4:24 left when Hanson gathered a rebound at the crease from an Allison Edgar shot, and with time to spare she put the puck inside the right post.
The last goal was Caleo’s with 2:29 left off an assist from Debbie Bernhard. Her teammates, eager to celebrate her first career goal, mobbed her on the ice, and she received well-earned congratulations from the bench.
Neither team has much time to recover from the tough series. Northeastern hosts BC on Wednesday and New Hampshire plays at Brown on Tuesday.