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PROVIDENCE, R.I. - Sadie Wright Ward (Durham, N.H.) scored two goals, including an empty-net tally with 56 seconds remaining, and Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) tallied her 150th career point to propel the No. 1 ranked University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to Saturday afternoon’s 3-1 non-conference victory against Brown University at Meehan Auditorium.
UNH, which had been idle since its 4-1 victory against Harvard University on Dec. 14 and was missing four players who are in competition at the European Air Canada Cup, won its third consecutive game to improve to 18-3-0 overall and 9-3-0 in non-conference action. The Wildcats' victory ended their five-game losing streak and seven-game winless streak (0-5-2) at Meehan Auditorium vs. the Bears dating back to an 8-2 victory in December 1997. Brown, still winless since its Oct. 26 season opener, is now 1-11-2.
Wright-Ward's line accounted for all three goals as Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) tallied three assists and Hitchcock recorded a goal and an assist. Hitchcock, who became the 11th UNH Wildcat to reach 150 career points with an assist on Wright-Ward's empty-net tally, now has 79 goals and 71 assists.
UNH goaltender Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) recorded 20 saves to mark the fifth consecutive game with 20+ saves. Brown counterpart Nicole Stock finished with 39 saves, including 22 in the first period and 13 in the second.
UNH took a 1-0 lead and a 23-6 shot advantage - Hitchcock herself tallied seven first-period shots - into the first intermission. After killing an early Brown power play, the 'Cats dominated puck possession and peppered Stock with a number of quality shots.
Midway through the stanza, Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) generated a UNH shorthanded bid by charging down the right wing. Her centering pass to the slot was redirected onto the net by Craig, but Stock made the save to keep the game scoreless. The Bears regrouped and generated strong puck possession the remainder of the power play to get three shots on net.
One minute later, UNH finally put the puck into the net on Wright-Ward's 12th goal of the season at 13:20. She carried the puck into the offensive zone and found Craig, who was denied twice in the slot. Wright-Ward corralled the second rebound at the right post and deposited the puck into the open near side.
In the closing minutes of the opening frame, both Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) and Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.) maneuvered around the defense into open space in the slot, but Stock turned aside both shots.
Brown opened the second stanza with a 5x3 power-play advantage for one minute, 14 seconds but could not sustain puck possession in the offensive zone. The Bears pulled even at 5:17 when Rylee Olewinski rushed down the right wing around the UNH defense and charged the net to force the puck into the net.
The 'Cats went on their second power play of the game at 10:56 and had an abbreviated 5x3 advantage when Brown was whistled for another penalty at 12:46. New Hampshire capitalized on the extended power-play opportunity and Hitchcock's tally at13:38 put the 'Cats back in front, 2-1. Craig gathered the puck at the faceoff dot outside the offensive zone and carried the puck along the right dashers to the back to the net. Her pass went to the left post, where Hitchcock’s shot trickled inside the near post. Martine Garland (Toronto, Ontario), with the outlet pass from the defensive zone, was also credited with an assist.
Hitchcock created a breakaway opportunity with 1:15 to play in the second period, but Stock denied the backhanded bid to keep Brown’s deficit at one goal heading into the second intermission.
Early in the third period, the Bears' Savannah Smith was positioned in the slot and redirected a shot that Herman had to turn aside with an extended right leg pad. UNH was whistled for a penalty on the sequence, however, then generated a shorthanded scoring chance when Faber's cross-ice pass found Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) in the left circle. Paton cut across the slot but lost her balance and eventually control of the puck to negate her chance at the open right side of the net.
With seven minutes remaining, a blocked shot from the right point caromed to an unmarked Andrea Hunter in the near circle, and she lifted a shot that Herman blocked down with her left shoulder. Just over a minute later, the Bears generated a 2-on-1 rush in which UNH defenseman Nicole Goguen (Truro, Nova Scotia) blocked Frances Male’s centering attempt into the right circle.
Brown called time out with 1:27 remaining and pulled Stock in favor of an extra skater with the faceoff just outside its offensive zone. UNH thwarted the home team in the neutral zone and Hitchcock carried the puck across the Wildcats' offensive blue line into the left circle. Her pass deflected off Craig's stick to the high slot, where Wright-Ward gained possession and wristed a shot into the open net at 19:04 to secure the victory.
UNH's top-ranked power play went 1-for-3 in the game to mark the fourth consecutive game with a power-play tally, and the fourth-ranked penalty kill was perfect against six Brown opportunities.
New Hampshire returns to action Jan. 10 (7 p.m.) at Northeastern University. The Wildcats' next home game is Jan. 19 (2 p.m.) against Providence College. Tickets are available online at www.unhwildcats.com.