STORRS, Conn. -- Three different players scored twice as the New Hampshire women's hockey team, ranked second in the nation, cruised past Boston University, 8-0, in the first semifinal contest of the Women's Hockey East Championship on Saturday afternoon at the University of Connecticut's Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum.
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The top-seeded Wildcats up their mark to 31-3-1 on the season and advance to their fifth Women's Hockey East Championship Game in the tournament's six-year existence. In each of those five wins, UNH has recorded a shutout with today's coming behind a 14-save effort by Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Sask.), her eighth shutout of the year. The Wildcats will vie for their third consecutive championship on Sunday against either Connecticut or Providence. UNH is now undefeated in each of its last 41 games against conference foes.
The Terriers were the seventh different team (out of eight league squads) to participate in the Women's Hockey East Championship. Since the inaugural 2003 tournament, no team has been victorious in its debut contest at the league's annual showcase. BU ends its 2007-08 campaign at 15-17-3 overall after going 11-9-1 on its regular season league docket to earn the No. 4-seed.
The eight-goal margin of victory ties for the most lopsided win in Women's Hockey East tournament history, matching Providence's 9-1 victory over Boston College in a 2005 semifinal tilt. It is the biggest margin of victory in a Hockey East semifinal game of any gender since Maineís men downed Providence by an 11-2 count at Alfond Arena in Orono in 1988.
The contest remained scoreless for 9:55 before Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) scored on a brilliant individual effort for the Wildcats, stick-handling around three Terrier defenders before sneaking the puck past BU netminder Allyse Wilcox (Grand Blanc, Mich.) on the doorstep. The Wildcats would outshoot the Terriers 10-5 in the opening stanza but tight BU defense down-low and solid work in goal by Wilcox prevented further UNH tallies. BU did produce a pair of solid scoring opportunities of its own but Herman turned them away for UNH. Herman denied Jonnie Bloemers (Brooklyn Center, Minn.) from the top of the crease off of a feed by Julie Poulin from behind the Wildcat cage. Herman also made her presence felt with a glove save on a Lauren Cherewyk (St. Albert, Alb.) power play scoring bid with 1:35 left in the first period.
UNH wasted no time in expanding its lead to 3-0, scoring on each of the second period's first two shots on goal en route to a dominating 5-0 period that would eventually see the teams return to their respective locker rooms 20 minutes later with the Terriers in a 6-0 hole. Skating with a power play just 1:17 into the frame, Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ont.) recorded her seventh strike of the year. Birchard's high wrist shot from the point was deflected downwards and past Wilcox. Just 36 seconds later the Wildcats would light the lamp again as Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.) skated the puck down the right win on a 2-on-1 and deftly slid a pass across to an open Jenn Wakefield (Pickering, Ont.) at the top of the crease for an easy redirection past Wilcox.
The Wildcat cushion grew to 4-0 at the 8:32 mark when Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ont.) skated towards the net from the side boards and precisely lifted a 15-foot wrist shot over Wilcox's glove side shoulder yet under the crossbar and into the net. BU had a quality chance to chip away at the lead late in the second period when the Terriers had a 1:44 5-on-3 advantage but Herman let nothing get past her, including a point-blank bid by Laurel Koller (St. Paul, Minn.). UNH turned on the jets after the penalty kill and scored a pair of sleek-skating goals in the periodís waning moments. The first came at 17:38 off of the stick of Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) who circled through the heart of the BU zone before slipping the puck between Wilcox's pads. Just 35 seconds later, Long dangled around a Terrier blueliner and beat Wilcox far side on an eerily similar strike to Faber's and equally skillful.
The Terriers had a great chance to get on the scoreboard early in the final period but Sarah Appleton's (New Canaan, Conn.) shot rang off of the post after eluding Herman's glove. UNH tallied another pair of goals in the final stanza to account for the 8-0 final. Faber scored her second of the game, unassisted at 7:56, much like her first, skating through the heart of the Terrier defense, blasting a snap shot top corner past backup BU goaltender Melissa Haber (Toronto, Ont.), shorthanded. Late in the period, Wakefield capped the game's scoring with her team-high 25th strike of the season when she knocked home a loose puck on a Wildcat power play.
Herman made 14 saves in the UNH net to pick up her eighth clean slate of the season. For the Terriers, Wilcox made 19 saves over the first 40 minutes of action, yielding six goals, while Haber stopped nine shots over the final 20 minutes of the contest while allowing a pair of UNH scores.
UNH advances to face the winner of this afternoon's matchup between No. 2 seed Connecticut and No. 3 seed Providence College for the Hockey East Championship on Sunday at 12:30 p.m. in Storrs. The game will be broadcast on NESN at 6:00 p.m. Sunday evening following the conclusion of the network's coverage of the Boston Bruins' 3:00 p.m. matchup with the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden.