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Freshman forward Melissa Bizzari scores the game-winning goal for the Eagles
DURHAM, N.H. - Kristina Lavoie (Fonthill, Ontario) netted a shorthanded goal with one minute remaining in regulation, but the comeback effort by the University of New Hampshire women's ice hockey team fell short in Sunday afternoon's 2-1 Hockey East loss to seventh-ranked Boston College in both teams' regular-season finale at the Whittemore Center.
UNH, which needed a tie or win to advance to the Hockey East tournament for the ninth consecutive year, ends the 2011 season at 14-16-2 overall and 7-13-1 Hockey East. The Wildcats tied with the University of Maine for sixth place in the final standings, but the Black Bears won the head-to-head tiebreaker to earn the final playoff berth.
Boston College, which had already secured the tourney's second seed, improved to 21-6-6, 13-4-4.
The Eagles took a 1-0 lead at 6:12 of the first period on an unassisted goal by Melissa Bizzari. From a scrum in front of the net, Bizzari's initial shot beat UNH goalie Kayley Herman (Weyburn, Saskatchewan; 30 saves) but was blocked by Wildcat defenseman Courtney Birchard (Mississauga, Ontario) at the goal line. Bizzari then jammed the loose puck into the net, however.
Midway through the opening frame, Hannah Armstrong (Aurora, Ontario) led a UNH rush down the left wing. She snapped a centering pass to Brittany Skudder (Plainview, N.Y.), who was cutting alone down the slot. From close range, Skudder pulled the puck to the right and shoveled a backhander on net that was stopped by BC goalie Mollly Schaus (23 saves).
With just under five minutes remaining in the first period, UNH had a transition attack on a delayed penalty call against the Eagles. Kristine Horn (Utica, Mich.) maneuvered from the right circle to the slot and wristed a shot that Schaus juggled, but the puck was cleared away by a teammate.
In the closing minute of the first, Julie Allen (Brampton, Ontario) led a 2-on-2 rush as she carried the puck down the left wing and shifted to the slot, where she used the two defenseman and Lavoie as a screen but Schaus preserved the 1-0 lead.
BC carried that one-goal lead and a 12-8 shot advantage into the first intermission.
Boston College generated a 13-5 edge in shots during the scoreless second stanza. With five minutes elapsed, UNH generated a dangerous opportunity. The initial shot from the right circle by Arielle O'Neill (St. Catharines, Ontario) was blocked wide of the net by an Eagles' skater. The puck ricocheted off the end boards to the left post, where Allen's attempt to stuff a shot shortside was wide of the post. The puck popped off the cage to the top of the crease and Lavoie swatted it out of midair, but wide of the right post.
Two of the Eagles' top scoring chances in the second period came in the closing minutes of the frame. With three minutes on the clock, Danielle Doherty fired a one-timer from the inner-right circle that was turned aside by Herman. Two minutes later, Kelli Stack led a rush and slid a pass from the top of the slot down low to Blake Bolden, whose redirection was enveloped by Herman.
BC went on its third power play of the game 58 seconds into the third period, but New Hampshire limited the visitors to just one shot during the skater advantage. The Wildcats had their second power play opportunity of the game at 6:13 and recorded two shots, but Schaus kept the 'Cats scoreless.
The Eagles extended the advantage to 2-0 at 12:59 when Bizzari scored a breakaway goal as she skated alone down the slot and wristed a shot into the upper-right corner. Mary Restuccia, with the outlet pass, was credited with an assist.
UNH called time out at 16:01 and, needing at least a tie to advance to postseason play, pulled Herman in favor of an extra skater. The Wildcats were twice denied by Schaus, then went to the penalty box at 17:26 to force Herman's reentry.
BC was content with a perimeter attack and did not record a shot. Lavoie then gained possession behind the defense along the left boards in the neutral zone. She was slashed as she approached the net, but continued forward and pushed the puck underneath Schaus as she crashed the net. After a replay review, the shorthanded goal stood to reduce the deficit to 2-1 at 19:00.
With the teams skating 4-on-4, UNH immediately pulled Herman before the ensuing faceoff. The 'Cats entered the attacking zone and both Skudder and Birchard were denied by Schaus. UNH went on a power play with 34 seconds remaining to gain a 6-on-4 advantage. BC cleared the puck the length of the ice with 20 ticks left, but the 'Cats had one last rush and Birchard was turned aside by Schaus one last time. The Eagles corralled the rebound and iced the puck to kill the waning seconds.
Despite holding a BC offense that was averaging 2.97 goals per game to a total of two goals in the two-game series - and the 11th-ranked power play scoreless on seven power-play opportunities - the Wildcats fell short of advancing to the Hockey East tournament for the first time in the league's nine-year history.
The end of the 2011 season marked the end of UNH careers for six seniors - Allen, Birchard, Herman, Raylen Dziengelewski (Southwick, Mass.), Molly Morrison (South Burlington, Vt.) and Courtney Sheary (Melrose, Mass.) - all of whom were recognized prior to opening faceoff.
This group of student-athletes helped lead New Hampshire to consecutive Hockey East regular season and tournament titles in 2008 and 2009 as well as three straight NCAA tourney appearances that included one trip to the Frozen Four.