BOSTON - Kristina Lavoie (Fonthill, Ontario) broke a 3-3 tie with 5:30 remaining and netted an empty-net goal in the final minute of the game to lift the fourth-ranked University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team to Friday's 5-3 victory against ninth-ranked Northeastern University in the opening game of the Sun Life Frozen Fenway doubleheader at Fenway Park. It marked the first outdoor game in women's college hockey.
UNH, which had been idle since its 4-1 win Dec. 12 at Dartmouth College, won its third consecutive game - and 26th straight in the series vs. the Huskies - to improve to 13-2-4 overall and 7-1-1-0 in Hockey East. NU, which had already won two January road games, falls to 12-5-2, 6-4-2-1.
Lavoie, who tied her career high of two goals, was one of three Wildcats with multiple points against the top-ranked defensive team in the nation. Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) set up the last three goals of the game to finish with a career-high three assists, and Micaela Long (South Boston, Mass.) tallied a goal and an assist to extend her point-scoring streak to 12 games.
UNH goaltender Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan) entered the game at the start of the second period and earned the victory by stopping 12 of 13 shots in the last 40 minutes. It marked the 50th career win for Herman, who is the seventh UNH Wildcat goalie to reach that milestone. Lindsey Minton (Richardson, Texas) started the game between the pipes and was credited with three saves; she exited the game with the 'Cats trailing 2-1.
Northeastern netminder Florence Schelling stopped 28 shots and the Huskies' offense was led by Brittany Esposito (two goals) and Annie Hogan (two assists).
NU took a 1-0 lead on its first shot of the game when Esposito wristed a shot under the crossbar from the slot at 1:29. Hogan, with the centering pass, was credited with an assist.
The Huskies struck again at 3:41 to extend its advantage to 2-0. On the forecheck, Casey Pickett curled behind the net and lifted a UNH defenseman's stick to steal the puck at the left post. She quickly fired a shot cross the goalmouth that caromed off the far post into the net.
UNH pulled within 2-1 just 18 seconds later, however, with pressure deep in the offensive zone. Sarah Cuthbert (East Falmouth, Mass.) kicked the puck out of the right corner to the circle, where Shannon Sisk (Pipersville, Pa.) skated into open space and one-timed a shot inside the right post.
In the 15th minute, Cuthbert fired a one-timer that Schelling turned aside, and moments later the NU goalie denied Kelly Paton (Woodstock, Ontario) on a wraparound bid at the left post.
Northeastern took a 2-1 lead into the first intermission despite UNH's 9-5 shot advantage.
The Huskies went on a power play at 1:52 of the second stanza but the Wildcats killed off that opportunity and sprung Julie Allen (Brampton, Ontario) on a breakaway as she exited the penalty box. Allen skated down the slot, pulled the puck to her forehand and was denied by Schelling. Allen followed the rebound to the right post, but she once again was turned away by Schelling.
Two minutes later, Paton corralled an outlet pass in the neutral zone to lead a break down the right wing, where she wristed a shot that ricocheted off Schelling's helmet.
NU went on another power play in the seventh minute and capitalized on the skater advantage to build a 3-1 lead at 7:28. From behind the net, Hogan shoveled the puck to the front of the net and Esposito redirected a shot into the goal. Kristi Kehoe was also credited with an assist.
New Hampshire entered the third period with a 3-1 deficit with a 19-13 edge in shots.
The Wildcats struck early in the third period to pull within one goal. Kristine Horn (Utica, Mich.) moved the puck from the high slot to Allen on the right wing. Allen's initial low shot was stopped by Schelling's left leg pad, but Allen swept the rebound inside the right post to make it a 3-2 game at 1:30.
UNH continued to pressure and cycle the puck in the offensive zone, which limited NU's scoring chances. A Wildcat went to the penalty box at 8:18, but an NU skater followed 44 seconds later.
And with pressure from that power-play opportunity, UNH netted the game-tying goal. Allen initiated the flurry of shots with a dangerous opportunity deep in the left circle. Schelling couldn't control the rebound, and a pair of Wildcats whacked at the loose puck in the crease. The NU goalie preserved the one-goal lead, but the 'Cats retained possession and Paton swung the puck from the right circle to Birchard at the high slot. Birchard's pass to the right wing found Long, whose shot from the faceoff dot trickled between Schelling's leg pads as the power play expired at 11:02.
Then it was time for Lavoie's heroics. UNH's offensive pressure generated a shot by Long in the slot that Schelling blocked towards the right circle. Lavoie corralled the puck and quickly fired a shot into the open right side of the net to give the Wildcats their first lead of the game, 4-3, at 14:30.
NU pulled Schelling in favor of an extra skater with 39 seconds remaining. The Huskies could not sustain possession, however, and Birchard advanced the puck to the neutral zone for Lavoie. She skated down the right wing and, while fending off a defender, pushed the puck from the circle into the open net with 15 seconds remaining in the game to secure the victory.
New Hampshire returns to action next weekend for a home-and-home series against longtime nemesis Providence College. The Wildcats play host to the Friars in the opening game of the series Jan. 16 (2 p.m.) at the Whittemore Center. The game is part of Hockey East's Skating Strides Against Breast Cancer fund raising initiative.