DULUTH, Minn. - The second-ranked University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team received goals from Jenn Wakefield (Pickering, Ontario) and Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) and recorded a 43-15 shot advantage, but the third-ranked University of Minnesota-Duluth defeated the Wildcats, 3-2, in an NCAA Frozen Four semifinal game Thursday night at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center.
UNH, which entered the game with a 12-game winning streak and 19-game unbeaten streak (18-0-1), ends its season at 33-4-1. UMD extended its win streak to nine games to improve to 33-4-1 and advance to the championship game for the second consecutive year.
UNH goaltender Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) recorded 12 saves. UMD counterpart Kim Martin tallied double-digit saves all three periods (14-12-15) to finish with 41.
The Wildcats controlled play from the opening faceoff in the first period. In the opening minute, an assertive UNH forecheck generated a UMD turnover down low and Sam Faber (Mt. Sinai, N.Y.) chipped a close-range shot into Martin's torso. At 3:15, Martin gloved down a shot by Julia Marty (Nussbaumen, Switzerland) from the right point, but Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) collected the rebound in the slot and fired a shot that was knocked aside and then Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) was denied at the right post.
New Hampshire took a 1-0 lead at 4:00 on Wakefield's team-leading 27th goal of the season. Wakefield's stickchecking forced a Bulldog to retreat from the neutral zone to the left point and the Wildcat poked the puck away in the circle. Wakefield then shifted to the slot and flicked a quick shot that beat Martin between the leg pads.
UMD recorded its first shot on goal at 6:15 and later tied the game, 1-1, at 9:01 on a rush in which Sara O'Toole side-stepped a defenseman in the slot and fired a point-blank shot that hit Herman and trickled across the goal line.
The Bulldogs went on the first power play of the night at 11:31 and immediately tested Herman with a screened shot from the right point and, off the rebound, another from the top of the left circle. The home team took a 2-1 lead with a power-play tally at 12:48 when Laura Fridfinnson, positioned at the top of the crease, redirected Heidi Pelttari’s shot from the right point inside the left post.
With four minutes remaining in the opening stanza, UNH's Sadie Wright-Ward (Durham, N.H.) and Jennifer Hitchcock (LaSalle, Ontario) generated a 2-on-1 rush. Wright-Ward carried the puck on the right wing and floated a pass across to Hitchcock, but it didn't connect.
In the last minute, the Wildcats generated two more scoring opportunities. On a quick counterattack, Faber was found alone in the slot but her wrister was snared by Martin's glove. Then in the waning seconds, Kacey Bellamy (Westfield, Mass.) skated in from her position at the point to collect a pass in the right circle and she blasted a shot wide right of the cage.
UMD went on its third power-play opportunity of the game at 2:46 of the second period, but the Wildcats' penalty-kill unit drew a Bulldogs' penalty at 4:04 to give the 'Cats their first power play chance. Steph Holmes (Rye, N.Y.) charged off the bench and received a pass as she cut through the slot. Martin stopped that shot, then had to dive to the low slot to cover the puck before Holmes' arrival.
New Hampshire went on another power play at 8:09, and in the closing seconds of that extra-skater advantage, Martine Garland (Toronto, Ontario) blasted a shot from the right point that beat Martin but ricocheted off the left post.
UNH needed just 10 seconds of its third power-play opportunity to tie the score, 2-2, at 13:19. Following the faceoff win, Faber moved the puck from the left circle to the far point, where Garland's slapshot was stopped by Martin. Leah Craig (Seaforth, Ontario) corralled the puck at the right post, however, and backhanded a shot under the crossbar for her 13th goal of the season.
With 3:33 to play, Wakefield shifted her way into the slot and her wrist shot was snared by Martin. Less than a minute later, the 'Cats generated a 3-on-3 rush in which Faber connected with Garland, whose high shot from the right side of the slot sailed into Martin's glove. With 25 seconds remaining in the second stanza, UNH again gained possession off an offensive-zone faceoff and Nicole Goguen's (Truro, Nova Scotia) shot from the high slot was denied by Martin.
UNH continued to control play from the outset of the third period. Less than two minutes in, Wakefield again maneuvered to put herself in shooting position in the slot but once again Martin was in position for the save.
The Wildcats went on the power play at 4:26 and Martin stopped Garland's initial screened shot from the high slot and Craig, who waited patiently deep on the right side.
The Bulldogs, who were held without a shot on goal the entire second period, finally put a shot on net while on the power play at 10:22 of the final frame, then scored five seconds later on a shot by Fridfinnson.
UNH gained a 5-on-3 power play for 50 seconds midway through the stanza, but Martin once again denied the 'Cats on shots by Garland - again through a screen from the high slot - Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) at the right circle and Faber from the opposite circle.
As UNH's extended power play expired, Martin stopped Holmes at the top of the crease and covered up the loose puck.
Herman kept the Wildcats' deficit at 3-2 when she denied Karine Demeule on a power-play breakaway with 2:20 remaining.
The Wildcats went on another power play with 1:31 to play and, with just under a minute to play, Bellamy's blast from the high slot sailed wide right. The Bulldogs were able to ice the puck and UNH reentered the offensive zone with an extra attacker on the ice and 15 seconds on the clock. UMD was able to limit the 'Cats to behind the net until Garland's blast with two seconds remaining caromed off a teammate and to the left boards as time expired.
This game marked the first time that UNH allowed two goals in a period since Jan. 26, when Northeastern University tallied a pair in the third period. The Wildcats had not yielded two first-period goals since Dec. 7, 2007, a 4-3 loss at Mercyhurst College; that was the last time UNH lost prior to the Frozen Four.
UNH held an opponent without a shot for an entire period for the third time this season. The Wildcats also accomplished the feat Nov. 3 at Vermont and Jan. 10 at Northeastern.
The game marked the end of a UNH career for six seniors – Craig, Garland, Goguen, Hitchcock, Wright-Ward and Diana Saly (Edina, Minn.). This class won four Hockey East regular-season titles, three league tournament championships and made three straight NCAA tourney appearances, including Frozen Four appearances in '06 and '08.