DURHAM, N.H. — Just as in yesterday’s tie against Princeton, No. 6 New Hampshire held a one-goal third period lead against an Ivy opponent it was struggling to put away. But the difference today against No. 10 Yale was that Nicole Hekle did put the game away.
At 4:05 of the third period, Hekle won a physical battle for the rebound set up by linemate Steph Jones to give UNH (13-3-2) a critical 3-1 lead that proved to be the final.
“I thought they were going to come back and tie it a few times, but that third goal by Hekle was key, because it let us calm down a bit and just think about the game, because we were starting to worry,” said UNH freshman Taylor Palazeti.
Hekle was playing through the lingering effects of a headfirst collision into the boards the day before.
“She’s a real leader,” said freshman Leah Craig. “Knowing that Hekle is hurt and she’s still giving it all every shift, [the freshmen] really look up to her.”
Craig scored the game’s first goal just 1:13 in when she put home a pass by linemate Taylor Palazeti that happened to bounce in front off the side of the net. Palazeti scored herself at 7:35 when she was sprung free in the slot and had plenty of time to pick her spot for the top-shelf finish.
Yale coach Hilary Witt thought her team might need some time to adjust to the big ice surface, and she was right. The Bulldogs (9-7-0), looking to avoid a four-game losing streak, mounted a fierce comeback in the second period. They cut the deficit to 2-1 just five seconds into a power play when Deena Caplette put in a rebound off a shot from the point by Erin Duggan.
That goal at the 8:04 mark was all Yale could get, despite being on a 5-on-3 for more than a minute in the same period. The Bulldogs’ two offensive defensemen Erin Duggan and Helen Resor had their chances from point-blank range, and the best Yale chance on the 5-on-3 was a back door cut by Duggan.
But Melissa Bourdon stopped 29 of the 30 shots she faced, including 17 of 18 in the second period. Yale finished 1-for-7 on the power play, including 0-for-3 in the third period.
“In the third we came out flat on the power play,” Witt said. “It’s not the setup – it’s the energy on it. And we’re not getting the puck. We’re not having the patience.”
Yale will look to rebound during the Clarkson and St. Lawrence road trip next weekend.
On Wednesday, UNH will host No. 2 Dartmouth, a rematch of a 4-3 Big Green win from December 1. The Wildcats will need to stay out of the box and have their young defensemen play beyond their years. UNH could be down to just four defensemen with sophomore Martine Garland expected to be out for the season and freshman Andi Hanley battling injuries.
While the Wildcats were not able to control this weekend’s games for a full 60 minutes, they were pleased they won a game they felt they had to win.
“It gives us some confidence, exactly what we needed going into Dartmouth,” Palazeti said. “Dartmouth is such a good team, you have to feel like you can win, and I think we feel like we can.”