Women’s hockey outskated by No. 1 Mercyhurst
Just before 7 Saturday evening, the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team took to the ice for the first time in their new home. Across the rink, the top team in the nation looked on. But even a new building and 1,714 screaming fans couldn’t provide enough magic for the Bobcats on this night, as they fell to Mercyhurst, 3-1.
The Mercyhurst Lakers stand atop both the USCHO.com and USA Today polls with a 23-1-2 record and are riding a 14-game winning streak.
The Lakers feature freshman star Meghan Agosta, who scored a hat trick on her 19th birthday against the Russian National Team en route to earning a Gold Medal at last year’s Olympics in Torino.
Yet, the Bobcats were determined to defend their new home ice. “This is our arena. It was our crowd. The place was absolutely rocking,” Quinnipiac head coach Michael Barrett said.
Through the first period the game stayed tied as a result of solid Quinnipiac defense and a series of excellent saves by senior Bobcat goaltender Janelle Wolitski.
Quinnipiac successfully killed three power-plays in the opening period. During one power-play, freshman Janine Duffy nearly recorded a short-handed goal on a breakaway.
The Bobcats kept the game scoreless until 4:05 into the second period when Agosta beat Wolitski for an unassisted goal.
Undeterred, the Bobcats buckled down and held the score at 1-0 as the second period wound down.
With two Lakers in the penalty box at the end of the second period, Quinnipiac had its best chance to tie the game, but couldn’t convert.
Through two periods the Bobcats’ defensive philosophy worked effectively against the explosive Lakers. “At any cost we’ve got to line ourselves up with the puck,” said senior defender and team captain Kristin Alcorn.
The Bobcat defense began to show some cracks 8:27 into the third period when Mercyhurst opened up a 2-0 lead as sophomore center Valerie Chouinard scored from the left face-off circle. Junior left wing Jackie Jarrell was credited with an assist.
Four minutes later, junior right wing Stephanie Jones snuck the game’s final goal past Wolitski with the help of assists from Jarrell as well as senior center and team captain Julia Colizza.
Even facing a 3-0 deficit, the Bobcats kept skating hard. “Even when they got three we didn’t go down,” Barrett said.
The Lakers’ 3-0 lead held through the remainder of the game. Yet, the Bobcats left the ice with the knowledge that they had played well against the nation’s top team.
In only her ninth game of the season, Wolitski took the loss, but stopped 33 shots. Her record fell to 1-4.
“Janelle Wolitski came up huge for us, kept us in this game,” Barrett said.
Wolitski spoke highly of the defensive effort that took place front of her. “I think we did really well. We blocked a lot of shots,” she said.
Junior Laker goaltender Laura Hosier earned a win with 13 saves, improving her record to 19-1-1.
Barrett was pleased with the effort his team put forth after a lackluster effort the previous night in a 5-0 loss to Niagara. “The overall effort was much better than Friday night,” he said.
The Bobcats successfully killed all eight power plays that they faced. All three Mercyhurst goals were scored even strength.
In a special treat for the fans and players, hockey legend Gordie Howe participated in the pre-game ceremonies.
The experience is one that the Bobcats will not soon forget. “I can’t even put into words how absolutely amazing it is,” Wolitski said.