By David F. Pendrys [Official Box Score from SHU Athletics]
SHELTON, CT – The Sacred Heart University women’s hockey team picked up their second win in a row Friday night defeating the St. Catherine’s Wildcats 2-1. The two teams were tied at 1 as the third period wound down, but a persistent effort from the Pioneers attackers resulted in a payoff. Haley Payne skated around the back of the SCU net and then sent it back the other way. It ended up on the stick of Taylor Moreland at goaltender Kristen Pechacek’s left and she flicked it in at point blank range at 18:51.
St. Catherine’s pulled Pechacek for the rest of the period more or less, but Sacred Heart’s defense held them, including a moment when Moreland dived in front of an SCU shot attempt, denying them their last major chance of the game. The victory was welcomed by Sacred Heart, but with the win came a clear message that there was more work left to do to reach their full potential.
“I thought we played a good game, but not a great game,” SHU Head Coach Thomas O’Malley said after the game, noting that while it sounded cliché, it was the truth. “We’d just come off a huge win against Brown last Saturday night, and I know every game cannot be a Brown level game, and maybe with them looking at our opponent’s record tonight, maybe they thought it was going to be an easier night. Those games are actually the tougher ones because you’re playing against a desperate opponent in some cases…We played well enough to win, but we didn’t play our basic fundamental, hard nosed, well-oiled machine game…We’re 14 and 4, very very happy with that, but we need to be better.”
The Brown victory certainly was a big one, as the Pioneers had bounced back from a loss the night before, but as O’Malley had stated, SHU was capable of beating the Bears, and they did with five goals to defeat an ECAC foe that had played them very hard.
If SHU can continue the momentum built in the third period and the opportunities it generated they could very well deliver on the goal of improving as their play really kept SCU from being able to do much while they tried to deliver the dagger again and again.
The scoring had begun at 9:29 in the first when Jayne Lewis scored assisted by Moreland. Neither team would be able to tally any more goals until the third when Emilee Anderson scored the equalizer at 24 seconds. That would be the only time SHU’s Devan Kane gave up a goal as she made 23 saves on the night. Pechacek made 35 on SHU’s 37 shots.
Kane represents the flexibility the Pioneers have in net, as she and Sarah Erban are the two primary netminders who have all of SHU’s wins this season, though the team has also given time to Kayla Walewski and Gina Moriello on a more limited basis. Both Kane and Erban have a GAA under 2 so far this season. “We have four very gifted goaltenders, they work very hard in practice, it’s a pleasure to coach them,” O’Malley said.
Moreland and Lewis are two of Sacred Heart’s most dangerous scoring threats though Coach O’Malley, as is his custom, is quick to spread the credit around throughout the team when asked about individual performances.
“We have a lot of those players in the room, both on forward, and on defense, and in the net. We’re very happy with the team that we have. We have a really good group of people in that room. It’s one thing to have a great team of really really good hockey players, but we have good people that are also good hockey players,” O’Malley said. While that was is his primary message he was generous enough to speak to the contribution of the two goal scorers.
“Taylor Moreland, brings it every night, there’s a reason she’s the Captain. There’s a reason she is mentioned in the same breath with a lot of the other top players in the NCAA. She brings it every night, she’s a gifted player, she works hard, she likes to score goals which is a great thing,” O’Malley said adding that. “Since the day she [Lewis] stepped foot on the campus, and on the ice, she’s been a contributor,”
SCU had put up 8 shots in the first to SHU’s 9 before the Pioneers launched 15 on net in period 2, to only 6 for SCU. The two teams had a relatively even shot total in period 3 of 13 for SHU and 10 for SCU though the Pioneers largely shut down the Wildcats in the last half to the third.
Moreland had led the Pioneers with 8 shots, Megan Kebalka had 5, Brittany Smith 4, and Lewis, Victoria Grimmer, and Taylor Shelden each had 3 apiece, and the rest of the shots were filled in by numerous other SHU players. For SCU, Laken Muller led the team with 4 shots, Lexi Muller, Karly Nelson, Brede Postier, and Anderson all had 3.
The power play has been a struggle for the Pioneers of late as they posted an 0-5 mark which continues a trend. SCU entered the game as the underdog and giving SHU 10 minutes of penalty time to play with was not an ideal way to even the odds, but they survived the skater disadvantage.
“We’ve sort of gotten a little stale with it. We were at 25% there for a little, while and we’re 0 for 13, 14 right now in our last 3 games. So we have to do something about that. Special teams are huge, special teams help win games,” O’Malley said.
Moreland led the team with 2 blocks, and Carly Radovich and Shelden had 1 apiece. SCU’s Veronica Gruett, Laken Muller, and Nelson all had 2 blocks a piece. Mackenzie Ess, Morgan Tentis, Postier, Anna Carman and Anderson all had 1 apiece
SHU and SCU will face off Saturday afternoon in the rematch.
Full Coach O’Malley Interview