Hockey splits a week before quarter finals

A split against Merrimack College on senior weekend sent Vermont women’s hockey on the road for the Hockey East quarterfinals.

The Catamounts scored first Feb. 17, striking in the last minute of the second period.

Junior defender Katherine Pate took a shot from the top of the face-off circle that beat Merrimack goaltender Lea-Kristine Demers and put the Cats up 1-0.

Vermont doubled their lead 97 seconds into the third period, as senior forward Bridget Baker took advantage of a bad Merrimack line change and beat Demers glove-side.

Merrimack cut the lead in half about a minute later. Forward Emily Volpe’s pass from behind the net found forward Paige Voight, who beat senior goaltender Madison Litchfield blocker-side to shrink the UVM lead to 2-1.

The Cats restored the two-goal cushion not long after that, as first-year forward Ève-Audrey Picard pounced on a rebound to extend the lead to 3-1 Vermont.

Picard’s goal set a new program record for goals by a first-year: 12, breaking the record held by senior forward Victoria Andreakos, who scored 11 her first year.

Merrimack would not go away, and scored just under two minutes later when forward Katelyn Rae beat Litchfield off a rebound. The Warriors would tie the game less than five minutes later, as defender Chloe Cook beat a screened Litchfield on the power play.

The tie didn’t last long, as the Catamounts netted the winner just 30 seconds later. Senior defender Rachael Ade took a shot from the point, and the puck banked in off the blocker of Demers to put Vermont up 4-3, a lead they would not relinquish.

“We didn’t play well the first 10 minutes of the game, but I really liked the way we played after,” head coach Jim Plumer said.

After a tough loss the previous weekend, the win restored confidence in the team, Plumer said.

“We needed to prove to ourselves that we could play well again,” he said. “It really had been some inconsistent play dating back to UConn Jan. 27 and 28.”

Though Saturday was Senior Day, it was a first-year, Merrimack goaltender Demers, who stole the show.

The Cats jumped out to an early 2-0 lead, as Baker scored off a rebound and senior forward Cassidy Campeau tipped a shot by junior defender Taylor Willard past Demers.

However, the Warriors fought back. About two minutes after Campeau’s goal, Voight took a shot from the face-off dot that beat Litchfield high glove side to cut the lead in half.

Merrimack would then tie the game in the last minute of the first, as defender Dominique Kremer scored on a delayed penalty to tie the score at 2.

The Cats did everything they could to get the go-ahead goal, but Demers thwarted their attempts time and time again. She finished the game with 48 saves, and Merrimack would get the winner with just over four minutes to go.

Forward Madison Morey tapped it past Litchfield after a wraparound attempt by Rae, and the Warriors held on for a 3-2 win.

Vermont now travels to Providence, R.I. for the Hockey East quarterfinals against Providence College. The best-of-three series begins Feb. 24.