This Week In Women’s Hockey: Nov. 29, 2000

Keeping Pace

Don’t look now, but No. 8 New Hampshire is all alone in second place in the ECAC. Of course, the Wildcats have played more conference games that a lot of other teams, but at 9-2-0 UNH, which lost its top four scorers last year to graduation, could be in for more than just a rebuilding year.

“I think our team has surprised a lot of people thus far, but not themselves and not our coaching staff,” said Wildcats coach Karen Kay. “We keep telling them that we must be blue collar and maintain our work ethic in order to be successful on a consistent basis. I also think we’ve done a good job of attacking things week to week and setting short term goals. We need to improve a couple things every time we play so that we’ll be in the hunt in the end.A young team is often an unpredictable team so our work ethic is the most important thing.”

With the likes of Tina Carrabba, Carisa Zaban and Samantha Holmes no longer in Durham, Kay is hoping that youngsters like rookie Janine Goulet (8g, 4a) and junior Kira Misikowetz (5g, 7a) can provide depth on offense. For the most part, however, the Wildcats have relied on the leadership of senior forward Michelle Thornton (5g, 12a). So far this strategy has worked, as Thornton is second in the ECAC in scoring.

“Michelle Thornton is a tremendous athlete that leads by example,” Kay said. “She brings the game up to a different level when she’s out there. Michelle is not a natural goal scorer and has to work hard for her points, but goal-scoring is not how she should be judged as a player. Michelle does so many good things–faceoffs, penalty killing, blocking shots, power play leader, speed that scares the opposition. She competes as no other athlete I’ve ever coached.”

The anchor of the UNH defense has been sophomore Jen Huggon, who has recorded a solid 1.64 GAA and a .939 save percentage. Kay will need Huggon to continue to shut down opposing offenses for the Wildcats to remain in the upper division of the ECAC this season.

“Jen Huggon had a great rookie campaign last season and we knew that she would have to build on that for us to be in the hunt for a championship this season,” Kay said. “I think the more shots she has in a game, the more effective she is so we’re working with her on her mental toughness as well as developing her on-ice skillsShe is also a very good skater and good stick skills, which allows her to be very active with our young defensemen in our zone.”

Huggon, Thornton and the rest of the Wildcats will be tested in their next four games, three of which are against ranked teams. UNH is 2-2 against ranked opponents so far this season.

Travel Partners Clash in Providence

Nothing is certain when No. 2 Brown and No. 5 Harvard get together. Two years ago, Brown was the only team to beat the Crimson as Harvard went on to win the national title with a 33-1 record. Last year, the Crimson tied the Bears in December before beating them in February even though Brown would win the ECAC crown and advance to the national championship in March.

The Bears (5-1-0) and Crimson (5-3-0) seem to have so much in common: they have established themselves as women’s hockey powerhouses in the last few years and they are both continuing their winning ways despite losing some of the best defensemen and goaltenders in the country last year. But when Harvard takes on Brown in Providence this Wednesday, it will be a clash of Ivy League opposites.

Harvard enters the game with four of the conference’s top 10 scorers in forwards Tammy Shewchuk (6g, 10a), Angie Francisco (3g, 13a), Jennifer Botterill (8g, 6a)and Kiirsten Suurkask (6g, 6a). The Crimson leads the conference in scoring at 5.12 goals per game. Although Harvard only carries 14 skaters on its roster, nearly all of them are scoring threats who can play at the blue line or the wing.

“We have got Division I players all the way through our roster,” said Harvard coach Katey Stone. “That is a first for us, and we are working hard to do more with less players this year. We are getting better every day and we have good competition at every position, even at goaltender.”

On the other hand, goaltending is still the strength at Brown. Sophomore netminder Pam Dreyer has proved herself as a capable successor to Ali Brewer, last year’s Kazmaier Award winner. Breyer is second in the conference in both GAA (0.99) and save percentage (.966). With Dreyer between the pipes, Brown leads the ECAC in defense, allowing just 1.50 goals a game

Naturally, this suggests that the key to Wednesday’s game will be how Brown’s offense fares against Harvard’s defense. Junior Alison Kuusisto has been reliable for the Crimson in net thus far, though Stone may give the nod to rookie Jessica Ruddock. Either way, Brown will look to senior forwards Kathleen Kauth (2g, 6a) and Christina Sorbara (3g, 4a) to provide some offense in the Harvard zone.

Even Steven at Matthews Arena

In one of the more closely contested interconference matchups last weekend, No. 10 Ohio State (5-6-2) split a two-game series with No. 9 Northeastern (6-2-0) in Boston. This was a rematch of the series that began the Buckeyes’ inaugural season in 1999-2000, and the outcomes were much more competitive than last year’s 6-0, 7-2 final scores.

This time, Ohio State took Saturday’s game in overtime, 4-3, before Northeastern netminder Erika Silva blanked the Buckeyes on Sunday, 3-0. Silva clearly was the difference, as Ohio State clearly dominated in shots on goal, 45-20. On the weekend, Ohio State outshot the Huskies, 89-42.

We have been very successful with our forecheck this year,” said Ohio State coach Jackie Barto. “We are able to get the puck deep in the zone and apply a lot of pressure with our forecheck. We also are generating quality shots off our forecheck. Erika Silva was the difference in the game on Sunday, she came up big on the penalty kill. You definitely need to put a lot of quality shots at her and I feel she plays even better with a lead.”

Barto has received a strong showing from her freshmen class this year. In addition to rookie defensemen Kelli Halscisak (3g, 7a) and Emma Laaksonen (5g, 2a), forward Jeanne Chapple (5g, 5a) has established herself as a force around the net. In Saturday’s win, Chapple scored an unassisted goal and also recorded the equalizer in the third period that sent the game into overtime, when a score from Shana Frost won it for the Buckeyes.

“Jeanne is a quick explosive forward who can generate offense,” said Barto. “She is improving every weekend in the defensive end and she is quickly learning our systems. Because of her speed and quickness and work ethic she is a threat with the puck and she can generate off the cycle. We need her to get stronger physically and continue to work on developing her shot.”

The Buckeyes will be tested again this weekend when No. 6 Minnesota-Duluth (8-3-1) comes to Columbus for two games.