Melissa Bourdon remembers January 13, 2006, a bit too well.
The standout New Hampshire goaltender didn’t have one of the best games that night on the road against Maine. As a matter of fact, she might even tell you it was her worst game of the season.
Bourdon surrendered five goals to the Black Bears that night, including three in the third period. The end result was a 5-5 tie thanks to a late UNH goal.
That game was a blemish in what has been an otherwise impeccable streak for New Hampshire.
For those who haven’t been following: New Hampshire is currently in the middle of the longest unbeaten streak in the short history of NCAA women’s hockey. The ‘Cats are 26-0-1 in their last 27 games with 15 consecutive wins. The sole tie in the mix was the 5-5 draw at Maine.
That was exactly 50 days ago, but the truth of the matter is that the memories of that game sit fresh in the mind of Wildcat players.
Saturday, Bourdon and the Wildcats had the chance for a little bit of revenge, the chance to prove that earlier game was maybe just a fluke. And this time the prize at the end was sweeter.
UNH faced Maine on Saturday afternoon in the Hockey East tournament semifinals. It was time for UNH to make a statement. A definitive one.
The Wildcats did exactly that, posting a 6-0 victory over Maine on Saturday to advance UNH to the Hockey East title game for the third time in the four-year history of the tournament. A win in Sunday’s final will give UNH the Hockey East championship that has eluded them for the past three years.
“I wanted to put that game behind me,” said Bourdon when asked to remember back to the January tie. “If I was going to do that I had to come out and play well today.”
Play well she did. As a goaltender who doesn’t generally face a lot of shots, Bourdon faced 21 on Saturday. Many of those grade ‘A’ variety.
A solid right pad save on Maine’s Sonia Corriveau in the game’s final minute was the last one in clinching her ninth shutout of the season.
Bourdon’s teammates proved early they were ready to help the junior netminer. Rookie phenom Sam Faber scored just 55 seconds into the game. With Maine holding strong, it took until late in the second before UNH could get any breathing room. This time it was Faber’s linemate Jennifer Hitchcock potting her 25th goal of the season to give the Wildcats, just like that fateful January night, a two-goal lead heading into the third.
This time the script was much different. Third-line winger Lindsey Caleo gave UNH a three-goal cushion at 7:29 and the route was on. Hitchcock and Faber picked up their second goals of the game each and third-line forward Jackie Wedster each potted the remaining marker to account for the 6-0 final.
The shutout was Bourdon’s third straight and the team’s fifth. Bourdon currently has a 222 minute, 19 second shutout streak while the Wildcats as a team have gone an even gaudier 342:19 without allowing a goal.
So what was the difference between January’s tie and Saturday’s victory?
According to head coach Brian McCloskey, everything. His team is playing more sound defensively, allowing few scoring chances. In fact, Saturday’s 21 shots allowed were the most since the Maine series in early January.
In the postseason, though, that’s what’s expected by McCloskey and UNH. So it’s times like this when good goaltending will make all the difference in the world.
“I’ve always had confidence in [Bourdon] as a goalie,” said McCloskey. “I knew come playoff time she was going to see more high-quality shots.
“She’s responding in this situation. She’s a competitor. Tonight we got a gutsy performance out of her, and with that you’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
For Bourdon, memories of January 13 are now in the distant past. And what timing, as she and her Wildcat teammates can now look to build some new memories — championship memories.