BURLINGTON, Vt. - Senior tri-captain Kate Lesniak (Buffalo, N.Y.) scored her first career hat trick and freshman Teddy Fortin (Brunswick, Maine) added a goal and two assists to lead the Vermont Catamounts past Sacred Heart, 5-1, in season opening action for the women's hockey team.
"It was a pretty pleasing start for us," said Vermont head coach Tim Bothwell. "I liked the way we moved and shared the puck and battled through some adversity in the first period. They scored early and we had a tough time around the net in the first, but we just kept sticking with it and got rewarded. We have talked about being resilient as a team and were showed it today."
Kristina Hankins connected on a low slap shot four minutes into the game to put Sacred Heart up 1-0. The Pioneers would take that lead into the intermission despite being out shot 12-3 by the Catamounts and Vermont having several chances at the net.
Vermont quickly erased the one-goal deficit and exploded for four tallies in the second period. Freshman Saleah Morrison (Selkirk, Manitoba) scored her first career goal with a slap shot from the point at the 2:37 mark. Teammate Brittney Nelson (Shelburne, Vt.) assisted on the play to pick up her first point as a Catamount after transferring to UVM from Providence.
Fortin gave Vermont the lead with her first career goal at the 12:54 mark. She picked up the loose puck in front of the net and poked it in to give UVM a 2-1 lead. Nelson and Molly Morrison (South Burlington, Vt.) assisted on the play.
One minute later, Lesniak started her scoring streak. She teamed up with Melanie Greene (Queensbury, N.Y.) on a two-on-one breakaway and finished off the scoring play for her first goal of the year and gave UVM a 3-1 advantage.
Lesniak netted her second goal of the game just before the end of the second period at the 17:39 mark. She took a pass from Fortin, skated around behind the net and stuffed it by SHU goalkeeper Jessica Little on the wrap around attempt.
Lesniak accounted for the only goal in the third period to wrap up the scoring for Vermont and her hat trick. She one-timed a pair of passes from Fortin and Celeste Doucet (Memramcook, New Brunswick) for the final tally at 12:20.
Vermont finished the game out shooting Sacred Heart 43-20 in the contest. Little finished the game with 38 saves, while Kristen Olychuck (Kelowna, British Columbia) made 19 stops in her first start as a Catamount to pick up the win.
Vermont improves to 1-0-0 on the year, while Sacred Heart falls to 0-2-0 on the season. Both teams will meet again on Sunday at 6:45pm in the second half of a hockey doubleheader at Gutterson Fieldhouse. The UVM men's hockey team hosts Acadia at 4:00pm in a preseason contest and the women will immediately follow the men's game.
The Catamounts hope to surpass the Hockey East regular season women's attendance record of 1,498 fans, set by New Hampshire on January 11, 2003 when the Wildcats hosted Northeastern at the Whittemore Center. Fans with a ticket to the men's hockey game will receive free admission to the women's contest.
GAME NOTES: Lesniak's hat trick is the first in the program's history at the Division I level. It was also the first hat trick by a Vermont player since February 8, 1998 (Torrey Dennis at Amherst). She entered the 2007-08 season with four career goals. Olychuck is in her first season with the Catamounts after transferring to UVM from Sacred Heart. Nine newcomers made their debut in the Vermont uniform in the game. Vermont's five goals were the most scored in a season opener since the 2000-01 season and are the most in a Division I opener.