Erratic w. hockey finds extremes

It was a typically contradictory weekend for the women’s hockey team — oscillating between being one of the strongest teams in program history and one plagued by mental mistakes and lost leads.

Coming off a strong performance against the Bears (10-5-2, 7-5-1 ECAC) Friday, the Elis (10-11-1, 8-4-1 ECAC) walked into Harvard’s Bright Center prepared to complete the sweep of the two-game series they started with a 3-2 win Nov. 12. But despite the weekend’s early success, Yale could not hold out against archrival No. 6 Harvard (11-6-2, 10-1-1). The Bulldogs jumped out to an early 2-1 lead, which they maintained through the halfway point of the second period. But Harvard was not ready to suffer another loss at Yale’s hands, and scored four goals in less than four minutes to kick off a 10-0 Crimson run that left the Elis shellshocked and defeated, 11-2.

The Bulldogs also broke the school record for ECAC points with a 3-3 draw against Brown. The single point garnered from the tie — Yale’s first against Brown in 17 years — pushed the Bulldogs to 17 conference points on the season, surpassing last year’s 16 points on eight wins.

It was the Harvard game, though, that had the greatest impact on the squad.

“[It was] another embarrassment of the season,” captain Erin Duggan ’05 said of the loss. “I think our team is going to refocus this week and come back this weekend looking for a couple of wins. We need the points for the standings obviously, but it has been a long time since we have won.”

Against the Cantabs, forward Nicole Symington ’05 opened the scoring just 1:40 into the first period, assisted by forwards Sheila Zingler ’07 and Jenna Spring ’07.

Harvard’s Nicole Corriero, who is ranked fourth in the nation in points per game, countered with a goal of her own just five minutes later. Spring knocked a goal past Harvard goaltender Ali Boe at 8:39 to finish out the first period scoring. The Elis went into intermission confident, composed and leading the Crimson, 2-1.

“We felt great — our team was focused,” Duggan said. “I think our team came out more physical than Harvard. We definitely took the play to them in the first period.”

It was halfway through the second period when the game’s momentum shifted drastically from Yale to Harvard. At 14:46 into the period, Crimson forward Jennifer Sifers scored the first of four goals that Harvard would tally in less than four minutes. The goals helped the Crimson recover the deficit and grab a 5-2 lead going into the break. Harvard went 2-for-3 on its power play during the second period, making the most of Eli penalties.

“In the second period, some of the same mistakes that have been costing us lately crept into our game and they took advantage of that,” Symington said. “They are far too good of a team to play shorthanded against. A lack of discipline in all parts of the game cost us.”

The third period saw the Bulldogs’ play disintegrate even further as the Crimson notched two more power play goals and two even-handed goals before Yale head coach Hilary Witt replaced goaltender Sarah Love ’06 (30 saves) with Shivon Zilis ’08 (8 saves). Even the goalie switch could not energize the Elis’ defensive efforts, as Harvard scored two goals on Zilis to reach the final score of 11-2.

“The Harvard game was disappointing because we led the game for the first half and demonstrated that we could skate with them,” forward Kelsey Johnson ’07 said. “In the second half we made a series of mistakes that a good team like Harvard will capitalize on.”

Even if Yale could not salvage much pride after Saturday’s rout, its success against Brown should be a confidence-builder for the team. Friday night, Symington also opened the scoring, this time 2:54 into the first period.

Brown answered back with three consecutive goals — two from forward Jessica Link — to lead the Elis 3-1 after one period. But for the Elis, seventeen years of losing to the Bears was enough.

Stepping back onto the ice for the second period, the Bulldogs showed renewed energy and poise. Forward Deena Caplette ’06 scored just three minutes in, and Yale kept the pressure on throughout the period, outshooting Brown 12-11. Christina Sharun ’07 knocked in a third period goal off assists from forward Kristin Savard ’07 and Caplette to force the game into overtime.

Neither team was able to get an edge during the extra five minutes, with Brown outshooting Yale 3-2. Love finished with 33 saves, including a number of crucial blocks in the third period and overtime, to deny the Bears a chance at the win.

“We showed a lot of character in the Brown game,” Johnson said. “The team was determined to come back — there was an overwhelming desire that made us all forget our fatigue and pains.”

The Brown game also served as a good opportunity to test new lineups. Sharun, who had been playing defense since she arrived at Yale, moved up into the forward position. A forward throughout high school, Sharun was excited at the decision and made a seemingly effortless adjustment to playing an attacking position.

“Sharun did a great job transitioning back up to forward,” Duggan said. “I think her intensity is definitely an asset for us up front. She has a defensive mindset so she complements her linemates great in that aspect.”

Friday night also marked the return of defender Nina Resor ’07 to the ice. She suffered an injury Dec. 7 against Mercyhurst, and was recently cleared for competition. Her 5′ 11″ build and her ruthlessness in front of the goal are invaluable to the Elis, who went 9-3 with Resor in the lineup and 1-7 while she was injured.

“Having Nina back was an enormous help to the team,” Sharun said. “She is an excellent defenseman and we have missed her presence on the ice since she got injured. Her smart, strong play is always a great help to our team.”

Despite their success against Brown, the Elis are not content with where they stand. Now ranked fourth in the ECAC, the Bulldogs are fighting to hold onto the fourth spot, which allows a home-rink advantage for the conference tournament. The Bulldogs are also anxious for a win — a thrill they have not experienced since Jan. 7 against Clarkson.

“Although it is awesome to get the school record for ECAC points, we are not satisfied yet,” Sharun said. “We need to keep pushing for more wins and working hard to secure a home-ice advantage for the ECAC playoffs.”

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