ONCE Taylor Wenczkowski found her stride this season, so did the University of New Hampshire women’s hockey team. Wenczkowski, a redshirt junior from Rochester, said she mentally put everything together when the Wildcats visited Holy Cross on Nov. 17.
The forward scored in a 4-1 victory over the Crusaders, which began the program’s longest unbeaten streak since the 2007-08 season.
UNH (8-9-4, 5-8-1 Hockey East) enters its two-game series at Connecticut this weekend with a 7-0-2 mark over its last nine contests. The Huskies (11-9-1, 6-7-1 Hockey East) host UNH Friday at 6 p.m. and Saturday at 3 p.m.
“For me, at least, I remember before that game, Marie-Jo (Pelletier), our captain, said, ‘Look, we have seven games until break. We’re not losing another game,’” Wenczkowski said. “After the Harvard game, which was right before break, we were getting off the ice and we hugged each other like, ‘Wow, we did it.’”
The Wildcats, who beat Yale 4-3 Tuesday behind Wenczkowski’s game-winning third-period goal, were 1-9-2 entering the Holy Cross game.
“It was a really good lesson for us even though it was a tough stretch for us,” Wenczkowski said of UNH’s first 12 games. “We’re willing to do even more than we thought in order to win.”
Wenczkowski has recorded 11 of her team-leading 14 points (10 goals, four assists) during the team’s nine-game undefeated streak. Wenczkowski started skating alongside freshman Lauren Martin and junior Meghara McManus just before the unbeaten stretch.
The Virtual Learning Academy of Exeter graduate credited her success to gaining confidence throughout the season and her emphasis on studying shot charts to learn where she has the most and least success scoring from.
“Going back to my confidence, I feel like I just play,” Wenczkowski said. “I don’t think. I just go into the game like, ‘All right, let’s go.’ I think maybe my patience on the ice as well has gotten better. Instead of my mind going as fast as my feet, I’m able to slow my mind down and it’s helped me a lot.”
Wenczkowski logged her first multi-goal game of the season in the Wildcats’ 3-2 victory over then-No. 10 Boston College last Saturday, scoring both the game-tying and game-winning goals in the third period. Her game-winner came with 5:39 left on a shot she launched while falling down after she was hooked by BC’s Serena Sommerfield.
Wenczkowski was named the Hockey East player of the week for her efforts against the Eagles.
“It was one of the biggest games of the year for us and BC has three Olympic defensemen so we knew going into that game it was going to be tough in the offensive zone just because they were going to try to shut us down,” Wenczkowski said.
While it is not something they talk about, the Wildcats’ collective confidence is “pretty high” right now, Wenczkowski said.
“We’re having fun out there and smiling,” Wenczkowski said. “The best part of it is everyone is having fun.”
The UNH men’s team has only Hockey East opponents remaining on its schedule, starting with its bout at Boston University (6-8-3, 5-5-2 Hockey East) Friday at 7:30 p.m. The Wildcats (6-7-6, 2-4-3 Hockey East) then host Boston College (6-9-2, 6-1-2) Saturday at 7 p.m.
UNH coach Mike Souza is looking forward to this 15-game stretch solely against conference foes.
“I think it’s exciting because each and every point matters,” Souza said. “It’s a built-in playoff race, if you will, for all of us — for all the teams involved. Every single team in our league has an opportunity to make the playoffs right now. There’s no one that’s out of it and there’s no one that’s a lock to be in it other than the some of the teams that are up near the top.”
The Wildcats currently sit in eighth place in the 11-team conference. The Eagles are tied with UMass Amherst for the top spot while BU is in fifth place. Only eight teams will qualify for the conference postseason this year.
As UNH enters this conference-only slate, junior forward Brendan van Riemsdyk said he thinks the team is in a “really good spot.” The Wildcats have gone 5-1-3 over their last nine games.
“I think our consistency has really been a staple of ours lately and that’s the main difference now and the beginning of the season,” van Riemsdyk said. “I think we were just inconsistent in the way we wanted to play. Now we’ve kind of found a good rhythm and we’re sticking to it.”
Sophomore defenseman Max Gildon missed UNH’s two games last weekend with an upper-body injury. Souza is unsure if Gildon will return to the lineup this weekend.
Souza said the NCAA has ruled Filip Engaras, a freshman forward from Sweden, ineligible to play this season. Engaras practices with the team and assured the program he plans to stay at UNH despite the NCAA’s ruling, Souza said.
Souza said Engaras’ situation was regarding his amateur status.
“It has to do with how the NCAA deemed some games that he had played while in Sweden,” Souza said. “It’s unfortunate because there’s some other cases in the NCAA very similar which were ruled on differently, to be quite honest with you, but it is what it is and we’ve addressed it with him.”
Franklin Pierce University sophomore Haley Parker was named the New England Women’s Hockey Alliance player of the week and Saint Michael’s College senior Madison Nichols was selected to the conference’s weekly honor roll.
Parker, a forward from Londonderry, recorded six points (three goals, three assists) in the Ravens’ home series sweep of SUNY Potsdam last weekend. The Proctor Academy of Andover graduate leads Franklin Pierce (11-7, 4-5 NEWHA) in scoring with 11 goals and 14 assists.
Nichols, a forward from Gilford, logged a goal and an assist in the Purple Knights’ two games in the Delta Hotels Burlington Ice Hockey Classic last weekend, earning a spot on the all-tournament team. The Tilton School graduate has tallied all of her seven points (six goals, one assist) on the season over her last eight games.