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Minutewomen split with Rhode Island

After four consecutive wins, the Massachusetts women’s hockey team could not keep the streak alive with a 7-2 loss to Rhode Island Friday night, followed by a 2-1 win Saturday night to wrap up the two-game series.

Friday’s game began evenly played, with neither team scoring for the majority of the first period. With six minutes, 36 seconds remaining, the Rams opened up scoring with a goal from Johanna Leskinen. Later she came through again as she assisted Kayla Robidoux with a goal to give URI the 2-0 advantage with 43 seconds remaining in the period.

Leskinen proved to be an offensive challenge to the Minutewomen’s defense as she scored three more times throughout the game. She took advantage of a power-play opportunity at the 9:05 mark in the second period, along with another goal in the final 40 seconds of the period. Danielle DiCeglie and Kaitlin O’Donnell also contributed to the Rhode Island (7-3) offensive attack, giving the Rams four of its seven goals in the second period alone.

UMass coach Chris Cobb spoke highly of Leskinen and her puck-handling skills.

“Johanna is a good player, and if you give her time with the puck, she’s going to put it in,” Cobb said.

Freshman Brittany Resendes tried to spark UMass’ (5-3) offense with a goal at the 6:52 mark. Despite two power-play opportunities, UMass could not get by a strong Rhode Island defense.

The Minutewomen defense held off URI for the majority of the third period, however, Leskinen came through again to provide the seventh goal for her team with two minutes remaining. Sophomore Alysha Arnold took a pass from captain Hayley Kuhn to score with 39 seconds left, but it was too little too late for UMass.

“Every time Alysha got on the ice, she energized the team” Cobb said. “I was impressed with her work effort”.

Cobb felt his team did not put forth a great effort and was mentally unprepared to play. However, he felt his team stepped it up in third period and rallied behind goalie Katie Avery to end the game on a positive note.

With a change in goaltending and a boost on offense, the Minutewomen came back from Friday’s loss with a victory on Saturday.

After changing around the three starting lines, Cobb felt his team, built on momentum, gained from the final period of Friday’s game.

After an inactive first period of no goals allowed on either side, it took just five minutes of the second period for Rhode Island forward Justine Ducie to score and give the Rams its only lead of the game.

Captain Catherine O’Brien stepped up for UMass and tied the game at the 11:09 mark of the second period. Both defenses played strong to keep the score at 1-1 for the remainder of the second period and majority of the third period.

With 17 seconds remaining and overtime on their heels, Caitlin Ellis cut into the center and took a shot at Rhode Island’s goal. The puck was kicked back into play, where Resendes spun the puck around and set up an easy goal for freshman Stefani McGrath for the 2-1 win.

“Stefani and Brittany had their best game of the season” Cobb said. “A lot of freshman are starting to mature in their hockey play.”

UMass goalkeeper Kelsey Magrane had a strong showing, stopping 50 shots from the Rhode Island offense.

“We got great goaltending from Kelsey, along with the forward line backchecking and playing well defensively” Cobb said.

The Rams dominated offensively throughout the series, outshooting Massachusetts 87-24. Despite Saturday’s loss, Rhode Island remains in first place of the Eastern Collegiate Women’s Hockey League with 14 points. UMass is not far behind in third place with 10 points.

The Minutewomen are set to face undefeated Northeastern this upcoming weekend. Northeastern’s perfect record puts them in first place of Division II East. On top of an impressive 74 goals, the Huskies have allowed only one goal. An offensive threat sure to pose another challenge to the Minutewomen defense is forward McKenzie Powers. She is ranked top 5 in Division II with 12 goals and eight assists.

Cobb compares Northeastern to Rhode Island, with both teams having veteran players and a lot of talent. UMass hopes to build not only on momentum from last weekend’s game, but also last year’s faceoff in which Northeastern was defeated.

UMass will host the Huskies Friday night at the Mullins center, and then will travel to Matthews Arena Saturday.

“We have a young team and needed that win on Saturday to upset a team [Northeastern] that could win the national tournament,” Cobb said.

Geena Lombardi can be reached at glombard@student.umass.edu.

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