The women’s hockey team looks to shake things up this weekend as the season winds to a close and the fight for playoff births heats up. Twelfth place Yale may not be moving on to the postseason this year, but that doesn’t mean the Bulldogs cannot dash someone else’s playoff hopes.
Yale (3-19-2, 2-17-1 ECAC) looks to be a spoiler this weekend when it hosts No. 8 New Hampshire (15-14-0, 11-9-0) Saturday and Maine (13-12-1, 8-11-1) Sunday, in the Eli’s last home games of the season.
“We’re in a good position to make a good impact on this league,” goalie Nicolette Franck ’04 said.
In ECAC play, the top eight teams in the conference qualify for the playoffs. While the nationally ranked Wildcats sit at a comfortable sixth, the ninth place Black Bears are clawing for a spot. A Yale victory would put a serious road block in Maine’s hopes of extending its season.
“There are a lot of teams now competing for that last playoff spot, and we’re in a good position to take that away,” Franck said. “We’ve been playing really well against top teams lately.”
But neither opponent will travel to the Elm City unprepared.
New Hampshire’s best weapon is its captain and Patty Kazmaier candidate Michelle Thornton, who is fourth in the nation in assists. The Wildcats are 8-3 when Thornton puts one on the board.
But Yale learned a lot from the teams’ last meeting Jan. 7.
The Elis know to expect a New Hampshire team that plays the perimeter, and Franck knows she can expect a flurry of shots from the point against this physical and quick team.
But the Bulldogs know if the Wildcats have one weakness, it is their penalty kill. The Wildcats are a dismal 10th in the conference, stopping their opponents only 82 percent of the time. Yale’s power play has not been strong recently, but if Yale can excel at special teams this weekend, a win could be in order.
On Jan. 6, the last time Yale faced Maine, the contest ended in a heartbreaking loss. The Elis fell 4-2 in what was one of the Bulldogs closest games of the season. Team captain Lisa Meyers ’01 narrowly missed threading the needle late in the third stanza before the Bears sealed the victory with an empty-netter.
“[Because of last month's game] we have a lot of confidence against Maine,” Meyers said.
But this fickle Maine team has shown marked improvement in the past two weekends. The Bears are on a three-game winning streak, which includes a shocking 3-2 upset of No. 4 St. Lawrence.
Maine’s offensive strategy, unlike New Hampshire’s, focuses on capitalizing on opportunities — like tips in front of the net and second chances — rather than relying on outside shots.
“If we can tie up Maine in front of the net and play UNH by blocking shots and being quick on our feet when they play the perimeter, I think we’ll have a lot of success,” Franck said.
Like Saturday’s match, the Bulldogs will need to come up big on special teams Sunday if they want to be successful. Maine is very vulnerable when down a player, having already let in 15 power play goals this season.
Not only will the Bulldogs try to play the role of spoiler this weekend, but they will play for pride.
“Since we’re not fighting for a playoff spot, we want to win these games for ourselves and each other,” Meyers said.
This weekend will hold a special place for the five skaters from the Class of 2001, who will be honored in their last game in Ingalls Rink — Meyers, Lauren Gulka ’01, Kate McAdams ’01, Jane Resor ’01 and Ashley Campion ’01.
“It’s important to leave a lasting impression,” Gulka said. “We have the ability to go out and do something promising for the future of the program.”