Kicking off the regular season with the first of three series on the road, the women’s hockey team headed to Storrs, Conn., to battle the University of Connecticut Huskies. In a matchup of two programs that have grown in recent years, the teams battled to a 3-3 tie in Friday’s game, while Rensselaer was able to stage a comeback with a 1-0 shutout victory on Saturday.
The first of two matches on the weekend saw the two teams exchange scores throughout the game. Just when the Huskies thought they had the lead, the Engineers would bounce back with a goal of their own—including two unassisted tallies from junior Taylor Horton.
UConn opened the game with a goal from the point at 10:25 of the first period from freshman Caitlin Hewes. Although that was the only goal of the first frame, the Engineers bounced back in the second period to knot the game at one. Down a skater due to a penalty, senior captain Alisa Harrison corralled a pass from classmate Jill Vandegrift. Harrison was able to bury the puck to the back of the net to make it a one-all game at 5:34.
Nearly eight minutes later, Connecticut regained the lead with freshman Sarah MacDonnell’s first of the season. The Engineers weren’t ready to give up, outshooting their opposition 10-4, with one of those shots making it past senior goaltender Alexandra Garcia to knot the game once again. With just over two minutes remaining before intermission, Horton collected her first of two on the night while on the man advantage.
It didn’t take long for UConn to jump ahead once again, as senior defenseman Rebecca Hewett beat RPI freshman netminder Brianna Piper just 37 seconds following the puck drop. Hewett’s tally was assisted by senior Sami Evelyn and Horan. With four minutes remaining in regulation, Horton would score the final goal of the evening at 16:22 to make it a three-all match. Despite outshooting the Huskies 11-5, the Engineers were not able to get another past Garcia before the end of the period. Connecticut managed to keep the Rensselaer offense from registering a single shot during the extra frame, while Piper turned away the three shots she faced to maintain the tie.
Piper finished with 14 saves in her collegiate debut, and Garcia posted 21 stops through 65 minutes of play.
With two talented freshmen goalies on the roster and no clear winner, the next night saw Kelly O’Brien between the pipes for the Engineers. O’Brien stopped all 20 Connecticut attempts to earn her first career shutout and to give visiting RPI its first win of the season.
Following two scoreless and penalty-less periods that saw the two teams post an even 14 shots on net each, it came down to the final seconds of regulation to decide the victor. Harrison collected a pass from junior defenseman Andie Le Donne in the neutral zone and rushed down the ice. From the stop of the far circle, Harrison ripped a slap shot that beat UConn sophomore goaltender Nicole Paniccia with only nine seconds left in play.
O’Brien finished with five saves in the first period, nine in the second, and six in the third to preserve the shutout, while Paniccia posted 18 stops on the day.
The women’s hockey team travels to Burlington, Vt., this weekend to take on the University of Vermont Catamounts. Friday’s game is slated to begin at 7 pm, while Saturday’s match is set for 4 pm.