PROVIDENCE, R.I. — New Hampshire and Providence have always been neck-and-neck in the Hockey East standings over the years, but both teams have been dominant on their respective home surfaces. Saturday was no different as the Friars blew away the No. 8 Wildcats by a 5-1 margin.
Junior Karen Thatcher led the way for Providence (13-6-4, 8-0-1 Hockey East) with two goals, including the game’s first goal at 5:09 in when she redirected a centering pass from Rush Zimmerman underneath the crossbar.
“We had some people not competing the whole game, and Providence is the kind of team with Thatcher and Zimmerman, if you take a shift or half a shift off, you’re going to find the puck in the back of the net,” said UNH coach Brian McCloskey. “[Providence] was opportunistic, they created chances and took advantage.”
The more surprising development for Providence was that three freshmen scored goals in addition to Thatcher’s pair. Such contributions were essential, because the Friars’ third-leading scorer Sonny Watrous was out due to injury.
“[Watrous] is a big loss for us, but at the same time look what our freshmen have done,” said Providence coach Bob Deraney. “Our freshmen scored three goals. That shows the amount of confidence we have in them, and how much they have, and how far they’ve come. They’ve just answered the bell extremely well.”
Freshman Kelli Doolan but the Friars up 2-0 early in the second period when she intercepted a UNH shot from the point towards the end of a power play and finished to the upper right corner on the breakaway.
UNH bounced back and cut the deficit to 2-1 when sophomore Nicole Hekle fed across to linemate Stephanie Jones for a top-shelf finish at 6:25 of the second period. But any Wildcat momentum was short-lived as Friar freshman Cherie Hendrickson scored her first career goal 33 seconds later. Hendrickson buried a loose puck that was left for her by the physical work of Rush Zimmerman.
UNH began to take itself out of the game with a pair of penalties just past the midway point of the second period. The Wildcats killed off the first end of a 5-on-3, but they could not stop Thatcher from putting in a backhand rebound on the 5-on-4 for a 4-1 lead.
Friar freshman defenseman Kathleen Smith rounded out the game’s scoring at 4:30 of the third period, when she collected the rebound off a shot by freshman Rachel Crissy. Smith became the second Friar to net her first career goal this game.
Providence senior Amy Thomas was solid in net with a 22-save performance. Sophomore Melissa Bourdon stopped 30 for the Wildcats.
With the victory, Providence improved to a 4-1 mark against UNH at Schneider Arena in Hockey East history. UNH also fell to 3-3-1 on the road this season. The Wildcats will hope for better luck tomorrow at the Whittemore Center, where they are 3-0 against the Friars over the previous two seasons of conference play.
But UNH knows it’ll have to do better in small rinks to be successful further down the line.
“We didn’t handle the small surface well,” McCloskey said. “The game physical in that rink, but we’re going to have to get used to those rinks because we have Maine and UConn coming up for four of the next five.”