Wrapping up before Christmas
Although most teams have entered the holiday break and are focused on exams and Christmas shopping rather than hockey, we still had four games to entertain us. While not the quantity of action to round up per a usual Monday, it provides a chance to discuss some lower-ranked squads a bit more. Plus, one of the teams competing, Maine, always seems to provide an abundance of story lines.

Union records historic sweep
The Dutchwomen began playing at the Division I level in 2003-04. Since that time, Union had not swept a two-game series from a true D-I opponent … until this weekend. The asterisk is that Union had a number of sweeps over Sacred Heart, sometimes even twice in a season. Not to pick on the Pioneers, but though their official designation is D-I because of other sports in their athletic department, the intent is not to be competitive at that level in women’s hockey.

Claudia Asano Barcomb’s charges traveled to Orono and did nothing to make Maine’s holidays any happier, coming away with victories of 4-3 and 3-2 by winning the third period in each contest. In Friday’s first game, the Dutchwomen came from a goal down. Courtney Turner tied it up on a power play, and Jessica Kaminsky gave Union the lead 42 seconds later. After Brittany Huneke scored to draw the Black Bears even, senior Nicole Bartlett notched her first goal of the season with two and a half minutes remaining to decide the tilt. Freshman Rebecca Babiak had the other Union goal, her first.

Saturday’s finale was scoreless entering the final 20 minutes. Christine Valente tallied unassisted 27 seconds into the frame and Bartlett found the net again at the 8:56 mark. Brittany Dougherty put Maine on the scoreboard, halving the deficit, but sophomore defenseman Kelly McGrath scored her first goal as a collegian to bump the lead back to two. That proved to be the game-winner after Dougherty closed the scoring with an extra-attacker goal while on a power play.

Union’s Shenae Lundberg made a total of 67 saves on the weekend in improving to 4-6-3. The Dutchwomen head into 2013 already possessing five wins, matching the program high for an entire season. Given none of those wins came over Sacred Heart, it’s safe to conclude that this is their best start ever.

Looked at from a Maine perspective, little has gone right in the opening months. The Black Bears had more than double the shot total of the visitors in both games, but came away empty. Brittany Ott started in net on Friday, but left in favor of Kylie Smith after surrendering the third goal. Smith was tagged with Bartlett’s goal and took the loss. Coach Maria Lewis turned to Meghann Treacy on Saturday, and she was perfect through 40 minutes, but got the hook after allowing the second goal. It was Ott’s turn once more, and she was charged with the defeat. Nothing sums up Maine’s first half, that saw it go 2-14-1, better than the fact that the Black Bears had a 14-3 advantage in shots in the final stanza, but lost when every Union shot lit the lamp.

RIT takes three points from first clashes with Lindenwood
The weekend’s other series host fared better, as the Tigers pulled away to a 5-1 triumph on Saturday, and then rallied for a 1-1 tie Sunday. In the opener, RIT won every period on the scoreboard, as evidenced by the shot chart. Celeste Brown had two goals plus an assist, and Ariane Yokoyama, Jess Paton, and Kourtney Kunichika also scored, offsetting the lone Lions’ tally from Lyndsay Kirkham. Ali Binnington recorded 19 stops for the victors.

The goalies won nearly all of the battles on day two. Binnington turned aside 27 shots, while Nicole Hensley saved 43 out of 44 for Lindenwood. The only attackers to have success were the Lions’ Alison Wickenheiser and RIT’s Teneica Hiller, the latter via an early third-period power play.

An interesting subplot lies in the game’s penalties. The Tigers skated to the box for five of the first six infractions; the last six calls went against the Lions. Included in the penalties on RIT was a bench minor followed by a checking call seconds later. That whistle, 15:10 into the game, was the final charge against the Tigers. One explanation would be that the teams took turns not quite understanding the rules. Another would be that the officials were taking part in the long-rumored tradition of trying to even out the marbles in each pocket. Or maybe, just maybe, if a coach thinks his team is getting the short end of the calls, he has to voice that opinion, even if it proves costly in the short term.

Lakers skate for charity
Just because student athletes don’t have any games scheduled, that doesn’t mean they aren’t representing their programs. One example came Friday, as Mercyhurst held its third annual Skate with the Lakers, giving children and other fans a chance to get on the ice with some of their favorite players, plus obtain some autographs. Coach Mike Sisti and his captains also presented $500 donations to Toys for Tots and the Erie City Mission. The team’s effort is typical of the selfless giving in which most programs take part throughout the year.

More signings
The Lakers were also one of the teams that have released news of their National Letter of Intent signings, joining Minnesota State, North Dakota, and Wisconsin, which were listed in a column last month.

Bemidji State:
Carly Esse, D, Cloquet, Minn./Cloquet-Esko-Carlton HS;
Madison Hutchinson, D, Manitou, Man./Pembina Valley Hawks;
Lauren Miller, F, Brockville, Ont./Napean Wildcats;
Brittni Mowat, G, Glenboro, Man./Pembina Valley Hawks;
Ciscely Nelson, F, Roseau, Minn./Roseau HS.

Taylor Accursi, F, Ancaster, Ont./Burlington Barracudas;
Paige Horton, D, St. Thomas, Ont./London Jr. Devilettes;
Brianna Kennelly, F, Dundas, Ont./Stoney Creek Jr. Sabres;
Megan Whiddon, F, Redondo Beach, Calif./National Sports Academy.

Dani Cameranesi, F, Plymouth, Minn./Blake HS;
Kelsey Cline, D, Bloomington, Minn./Bloomington Jefferson HS;
Kate Flug, F, Roseville, Minn./Roseville Area HS;
Paige Haley, D, Red Wing, Minn./Red Wing HS;
Sidney Peters, G, Geneva, Ill./North American Hockey Academy;
Kate Schipper, F, Brooklyn Park, Minn./Breck HS;
Megan Wolfe, F, Eagan, Minn./Eagan HS.

Lina Backlin, D, Gavle, Sweden/Brynäs IF;
Ashleigh Brykaliuk, F, Brandon, Man./Westman Wildcats;
Demi Crossman, F, Livonia, Mich./Honeybaked;
Maria Lind, F, Ornskoldsvik, Sweden/MODO Hockey Club;
Sidney Morin, D, Minnetonka, Minn./Minnetonka HS.

Ohio State:
Breanne Grant, D, New Liskeard, Ont./Toronto Jr. Aeros;
Claudia Kepler, F, Verona, Wis./Madison Capitals;
Katie Matheny, F, Chesterfield, Mo./St. Louis Lady Blues;
Alexa Ranahan, D, Salmon Arm, B.C./Okanagan Hockey Academy;
Haley Studler, F, Gross Isle, Man./Balmoral Hall.

Penn State:
Laura Bowman, F, Minnetonka, Minn./Minnetonka HS;
Sarah Nielsen, F, Edina, Minn./Edina HS;
Amy Peterson, F, Minnetonka, Minn./Minnetonka HS;
Kelly Seward, D, Williamsville, N.Y./Buffalo Bisons.

Cassidy Carels, F, Bruxelles, Man./Pembina Valley Hawks;
Kendra Goodrich, F/D, Rosemount, Minn./Rosemount HS;
Liv Halvorson, D, Richfield, Minn./Benilde-St. Margaret’s HS;
Ari Reid, F, Lakeville, Minn./Lakeville South HS.

Taryn Baumgardt, D, Innisfail, Alb./Warner Hockey School;
Emma Greco, D, Burlington, Ont./Toronto Aeros;
Danielle Marmer, F, Dorset, Vt./Connecticut Polar Bears;
Mika Nervick, F, Lakeville, Minn./Shattuck-St. Mary’s;
Sydney Rossman, G, Excelsior, Minn./Minnetonka HS;
Meghan Turner, F, Bedford, N.H./Assabet Valley;
Emma Woods, F, Burford, Ont./Cambridge Rivulettes.

St. Cloud State:
Lauren Hespenheide, F, Shakopee, Minn.