ORONO, Maine - The University of Maine women's ice hockey team scored a dramatic third period goal to earn a tie against #9 Connecticut on Saturday afternoon, but lost a Hockey East shootout 1-0. The tie moves the Black Bears to 5-22-4 overall and 3-14-2 in conference play. The Huskies become 19-9-4 on the season and 12-6-1 in Hockey East. Maine was led by senior captain Vanessa Vani in her final home game as she assisted on both Black Bear goals.
Connecticut jumped on the board first as Monique Weber scored midway through the opening period. Brianna Uliasz's pass to Jennifer Chaisson was sent over to Weber for her ninth score of the season at 11:21 into the first.
Dueling penalties created a four-on-four situation several minutes later and Maine took advantage of the open ice. Elyce Thomas (Port Coquitlam, British Columbia) set up Vanessa Vani (St. Catharines, Ontario) for a shot that Huskies' goaltender Brittany Wilson stopped, but the rebound found it's way to freshman Myriam Croussette (Baie-Comeau, Quebec). Croussette put the rebound where it belonged for her sixth score of the season at 14:15 into the first, tying the game at 1-1.
The lead and momentum took a jarring turn on a fluke play midway through the second period. After a dump pass behind the Black Bear goal landed on the edge of the netting, Maine skaters swarmed to protect it. With no whistle blown and approaching Connecticut players, the puck was flipped into the air, mistakengly sent over the top of the net and directly to Chaisson who knocked it passed a shocked Genevieve Turgeon (Lac Beauport, Quebec). The goal resumed the Huskies' lead and was Chaisson's third of the season at 12:09 into the second period.
With their backs to the wall, the Black Bears responded loudly. Lexie Hoffmeyer (Grand Blanc, Mich.) chipped a pass into the Connecticut zone that Vani picked up. As though she had eyes in the back of her head, the Maine captain spun around immediately to fire a pass to freshman Ashley Norum (Fairbanks, Alaska) waiting on Wilson's weak side. Norum put the beautiful pass into the net for her second goal of the year and tied the game at 2-2 with 12:12 remaining in regulation.
After a scoreless overtime the Black Bears secured the tie and prepared for the Hockey East shootout to try and earn an extra point in the standings. The Huskies' first skater, Amy Hollstein, deked just right to slightly split Turgeon's legs and sneak the puck through in the opening round. Maine's Croussette, Jennie Gallo (Castlegar, British Columbia) and Thomas were each stifled in their attempts to score giving Connecticut the shootout victory.
Turgeon had her second outstanding game of the weekend, stopping 25 shots and allowing just two goals as she moved to 4-21-3 on the season. With just 14 more saves over the final two games, Turgeon will break the single-season save record of 907, a mark she set last year. The Huskies' Wilson saved 22 shots and became 15-6-3 on the season. The Black Bears were outshot 27-24.
After the contest, Maine honored its two record holding seniors who have been the backbone of the program for the last four seasons. Both Vani and Turgeon received standing ovations by the adoring crowd as they received plaques and hugs from their teammates.
The University of Maine women's ice hockey team will travel to Vermont next weekend for the final two games of the 2008-09 season. The first puck drops on Saturday, Feb. 21, at 2 p.m.