DURHAM, N.H. — No. 6 New Hampshire’s 1-1 tie against Princeton on Saturday was full of more ups and downs than the final score would indicate.
The biggest down came when Wildcat top scorer Nicole Hekle went headfirst into the boards in the first period and was taken off the ice in a stretcher. But Hekle shocked the crowd when she stepped up at center ice to take the second period’s opening faceoff. Freshman Taylor Palazeti stepped up too with an unassisted goal to give the Wildcats a 1-0 lead.
“Our margin for injury and sickness is down to zero. To lose our leading scorer, that would have been devastating for us,” said UNH coach Brian McCloskey, whose roster is down to nine forwards and five defensemen. “We would have struggled to get through the game without her.”
While Hekle did more than her teammates ever expected by bouncing back so quickly, she still wasn’t herself. Late in the third period Hekle took another hit in the same corner and could not follow Princeton’s rush to the other end. She could only watch as Tiger freshman Marykate Oakley fed the puck through traffic to Sarah Butsch in front for an easy finish and a 1-1 tie at the 13:43 mark.
The Wildcats (12-3-2) had their fair share of opportunities to take a two-goal lead, but they went 0-for-6 on the power play. They outshot Princeton 28-23, but like usual junior Roxanne Gaudiel was solid for the Tigers (9-4-3). Her only blemish came at 11:10 of the second period when Palazeti stole the puck in the neutral zone and walked in alone across the net for a top-shelf finish.
“I thought we might take control of the game and open it up a little bit, but I give their [goalie] credit,” McCloskey said. “She was just very air-tight around her own net when the puck was in tight.”
Sophomore goalie Melissa Bourdon held up her end of the goaltending duel. She made the save of the game when she stopped a breakaway shot by Princeton sophomore Liz Keady that otherwise seemed destined for the five-hole.
“[Bourdon] smoked us last year, and she did it again today,” said Princeton coach Jeff Kampersal.
The Wildcats could not keep up with Keady on the Whittemore Center’s big ice surface as she made several end-to-end rushes throughout the afternoon. Keady just rejoined Princeton today after a week of exhausting training with the U.S. national program. Kampersal told her after the first period that she looked slow, and she found her second wind.
“They’re a very good skating team and used the big ice to their advantage,” said UNH captain Stephanie Jones. “I think we kind of sat back on our heels a bit and let them come at us.”
UNH will look for a better effort tomorrow against No. 10 Yale, who suddenly has dropped three straight games since its first national ranking in school history. Princeton, now unbeaten in its last seven, will head north for the St. Lawrence-Clarkson road trip before breaking for fall semester exams.