BOSTON — This game was decided in 20 seconds.
That’s because at just 20 seconds after the opening faceoff, New Hampshire freshman Nicole Hekle roofed a shot from the right post that beat Northeastern star goaltender Chanda Gunn. The goal eventually stood as the game winner in a 5-0 New Hampshire victory.
“20 seconds into the game? That was awesome!” exclaimed Hekle. “It was obviously a good start for our team. I was lucky to be out there with such a good forecheck going on. It was good to get our team off and going. Everyone was really nervous.”
Those nerves were not apparent. Even after the early goal, New Hampshire kept up the pressure, scoring twice more in the opening frame to take away any doubt on the outcome of the game.
“I don’t think the score was indicative of how hard our kids played,” said Northeastern coach Joy Woog. “My team came out, they gave it their best, they worked hard the whole game, they never gave up.”
New Hampshire was led offensively by youth, getting goals from first year players Hekle, Sadie Wright-Ward, and Jackie Wedster. Not that this is any surprise to UNH head coach Brian McCloskey, as Hekle has 12 goals on the season to pace all freshmen, while Wright-Ward has 10 and Wedster has seven. And New Hampshire goaltender Melissa Bourdon, who finished the shutout with 20 saves, is also a rookie.
“Our freshmen have contributed all year,” said Brian McCloskey, coach of New Hampshire. “We’re still a very young team. We happen to be blessed with some top players that really get a lot of notoriety, like [Allison] Edgar and [Kristen] Thomas and [Carolyn] Gordon, but for the most part we’re a freshman and sophomore team. That’s been the case all year, the young kids have really chipped in and played big.
“It bodes well for us, extremely well. That’s a great nucleus to work around.”
Hekle concurred. “As young players we want to get in there, get going, and contribute as much we can.”
Besides the youth, a couple of the New Hampshire seniors also reached milestones. With an assist on the fourth goal, defenseman Kristen Thomas tied the all-time scoring record for a defenseman at UNH with 108 points. And with a goal and an assist, forward Stephanie Jones reached 100 career points.
Jones’s goal, the second of the game, came as she chipped the puck over Gunn, who fell backward in the net. There was little celebration until the referee motioned a goal had been scored.
The third goal, officially credited to Sadie Wright-Ward, was an own goal by Northeastern. As Wright-Ward made a rush on the goaltender, Gunn made the stop. Northeastern Ashly Waggoner went back to help out Gunn, and knocked the puck off her stick and into the gaol.
“[The first goal, at 0:20] didn’t affect us as much as the second, and the back-breaker, the third,” said Woog. “The best case scenario for us would be to keep the score at zero for as long as possible.”
“For whatever reason, we seem to be able to get goals by Chanda [Gunn],” shrugged McCloskey. “I don’t think were blessed with Gretzkys, but for whatever reason we seem to be able to get the puck by her.”
That continued in the third period, with two final goals capping off the scoring. Allison Edgar converted a bounce off the boards for the fourth goal, while first year Jackie Wedster finished off the scoring with a top shelf goal after skating uncontested into the zone.
Woog understands that even a 5 goal loss is part of the rebuilding process.
“The sophomores weren’t even here last year,” she explained. “The entire team, aside from two players, have never been in playoff hockey situations before.”
With the loss, the lone senior on Northeastern’s squad, netminder Chanda Gunn, finished her playing career as a Husky.
“It’s not the end of her career, although it’s the end of her career at Northeastern,” said Woog. “She’s done an amazing job for us. She’s an incredible hockey player, but at the same time, she’s an incredible person. It’s been such a pleasure having her in our program, setting such a great example for everyone.
Referring to Gunn’s chances of playing in net for the national team in the next Olympics, Woog said, “I have no doubt she’s going to be wearing red, white and blue. No doubt.”
New Hampshire (23-8-4), which has only lost once in the last 20 games, will meet Providence in tomorrow’s title game. The match-up is a repeat of last year’s championship game, which Providence won by a narrow 1-0 score. The one loss the Wildcats have in the recent streak came at the hands of the Friars back on February 1st.
But UNH goalie Melissa Bourdon doesn’t see tomorrow’s game being a repeat of last year’s loss.
“This is a different team,” she said emphatically. “Last year there was a maturity and a little more experience, but we have young players that will just go crazy and want the puck.
“We want it, that’s for sure.”