The University of Connecticut women’s hockey team was swept by the University of Vermont in their best-of-two game series at the Mark Edward Freitas Ice Forum on Friday, Jan. 8 and Saturday, Jan. 9.
The Huskies (3-5-1, 3-5-1 Hockey East) went into the contest having not played in nearly four weeks; they were set to open up the new year with a two-game series against the Northeastern University Huskies, but that was subsequently cancelled due to COVID-19 concerns. On the other hand, the Catamounts (5-1-0, 5-1-0 Hockey East) came in with momentum, having just swept Holy Cross in their best-of-two game series on Friday, Jan. 1 and Saturday, Jan. 2.
UConn’s inability to put away chances in the final third would ultimately be the difference in Friday’s 2-0 shutout loss to the Catamounts. Forward Danielle Fox conceded a penalty two minutes into the first period due to a tripping violation, but Husky goaltender Sam Carpentier-Yelle was able to come up big for the team by blocking the penalty to prevent an early Vermont lead. The Huskies would get a power play opportunity of their own seven minutes into the period, blasting three shots toward opposing goaltender Jessie McPherson, who was able to make herself big and prevent the UConn from scoring.
Despite UConn’s ability to wreak havoc in Vermont’s defensive half, the real hero for the Huskies was Yelle, who had an outrageous 13 saves in the first period to keep her team in the game. Even though her heroic efforts were appreciated by the team, she was simply delaying the inevitable.
Vermont would finally and unsurprisingly find the back of the net one minute into the second period. They took advantage of a tripping violation by forward Jada Habisch to strike on the power play; defender Maude Poulin-Labelle would get on the end of a passing combination by forwards Theresa Schafzahl and Corinne McCool, putting them up 1-0.
UConn got its fair share of chances in the second period to tie it up at one. Specifically, the Huskies were awarded two power plays in the seventh and 12th minutes, respectively. Whereas they were able to put the pressure on opposing goaltender McPherson in the first period, they were not able to do the same in the second, getting off a total of two shots from both of the power plays.
The Huskies got another golden opportunity in the third period, as — five minutes in — they were awarded another power play. However, it was the same old story, as UConn was only able to get one shot off. Head coach Chris MacKenzie’s offense simply lacked the offensive prowess that has been seen from them this season.
Ultimately, the Catamounts would make the Huskies rue their missed opportunities. Defender Camryn Wong’s interference violation would spark a Vermont power play 17 minutes into the third period, with forwards Kristina Shanahan and McCool linking up to find defender Ellice Murphy, who smashed the puck into the net to make it 2-0, assuring a Vermont victory.
Saturday saw UConn make a statement in the first period: Nine minutes into the contest, the Huskies were awarded a power play, which they would take advantage of to the fullest effect. Viki Harkness got on the end of build-up play by forwards Danika Pasqua and Savannah Bouzide to make it 1-0. Defensively, the team was much more solid, with goaltender Tia Chan only having to make four saves in the first period.
Less than ten minutes into the second period, the Huskies would get another power play. Forwards Fox and Coryn Tormala combined to find forward Morgan Wabick, who found the back of the net and made it 2-0. But Vermont would respond just before the conclusion of the period, as forward Amy Landry’s cross-checking violation would be the catalyst for McCool’s goal off the power play in the 18th minute. Although UConn still held onto a 2-1 lead going into the third, trouble was brewing; Chan had to make a total of 17 saves in the second period, meaning that the Catamounts were putting the pressure on the Huskies backline, and if something was not done about it, they’d be able to tie it up or possibly win it.
While the situation called for maximum effort and concentration, the Huskies simply could not stop, or even slow down, the Vermont offense. UConn had the worst possible start to the third when they conceded one minute into the period. Labelle found Schafzahl to make it 2-2. Once again, Chan had to keep out an enormous amount of shots; this time, it was 13. Despite regulation ending at 2-2, it felt as if the Huskies lacked the necessary momentum to pull out a win in overtime.
That would ultimately be the case, as the Huskies conceded three minutes into overtime, with Schafzahl scoring her second of the contest off a Natalie Mlynkova assist to secure the 3-2 win.
This result moves both teams around in the Hockey East standings. The Huskies now find themselves in sixth with 12 points, while the Catamounts sit in third with 14 points. Despite the two losses, the Huskies did snatch a point due to the fact that Saturday’s contest saw regulation end in a 2-2 tie.
UConn is now getting set for a home-and-away series against the University of New Hampshire on Friday, Jan. 15 and Saturday, Jan. 16.