The women’s hockey team will travel north this weekend in search of its last two road wins of the 2004-2005 season.
The Elis (12-13-1, 10-6-1 ECAC) will meet up with No. 3 Dartmouth (21-3-0, 14-2-0) Friday and Vermont (5-22-3, 3-13-0) Saturday for two league contests. With just three games left in the regular season, Yale is looking to rack up a few more wins and close out its season on a high note.
“We feel great,” captain Erin Duggan ’05 said. “Everyone is excited for the last three games; we’re getting ready to head into playoffs, and people are pretty pumped about it.”
The Elis split last weekend’s games, falling 4-1 to Colgate and defeating Cornell, 3-0. The win against Cornell gave the Elis their 12th win this season, tying the school record set in the 1985-1986 and 2003-2004 seasons. Yale is looking to carry over its momentum from the shutout of Cornell into this weekend, particularly in its matchup against the Big Green, which is solidly ensconced in second-place in the ECAC.
“Our win against Cornell has given us confidence which will be really important against Dartmouth,” goaltender Sarah Love ’06 said.
The Bulldogs are in the hunt to make even more history this weekend. A single victory will not only break the program record for single-season wins, but it will also make head coach Hilary Witt the winningest coach in Yale women’s hockey history. The Elis currently rest in fourth place in the league, four points above No. 9 Princeton. If Yale can hold onto its precarious position, the Bulldogs will have home-ice advantage in the playoffs for the first time in program history.
“We have played all year to put ourselves in a position to have home-ice advantage in the playoffs,” forward Nicole Symington ’05 said. “It is extremely important that we do everything to finish off strong so that we can maintain that advantage.”
Friday night’s matchup against Dartmouth is shaping up to be extremely competitive. Though the Big Green has consistently been one of the top-ranked teams in the nation and holds a 52-3-1 series advantage over the Elis — including a still-running 38-game winning streak — Yale has a tradition of taking it to Dartmouth.
The Bulldogs met the Big Green in the ECAC quarterfinals last March in Hanover, N.H. Yale dropped both games in the series, but in the second matchup, the then-No. 2 Dartmouth squad barely slipped by the Elis, 4-3. Forwards Christina Sharun ’07, Kelsey Johnson ’07 and Kristin Savard ’07 tallied goals in the near-upset.
“Last year we played Dartmouth in the playoffs and had two very close games,” Love said. “If we come ready to battle for 60 minutes, anything is possible.”
The Elis’ last meeting with the Big Green, on Nov. 6, was less promising than last season’s attempts. Dartmouth’s offense dominated the Bulldogs, resulting in a 9-1 rout. Savard had Yale’s only goal, and Love and Shivon Zilis ’08 combined for the loss in goal.
Witt said the Bulldogs can avenge the loss with increased defensive focus and mental sharpness.
“We need to play with more energy,” she said. “We also have to commit ourselves to playing very hard on defense. They have an explosive offense, and we cannot give them an inch.”
The phrase “explosive offense” may be an understatement when considering a team that contains five of the top 10 scorers in the ECAC. Forwards Cherie Piper, Katie Weatherston, Tiffany Hagge, Gillian Apps and Meagan Walton all have over 30 points each this season. Piper’s points-per-game average of 2.33 is good for fifth in the nation, while Weatherston is sixth with 2.20 ppg. Weatherston played a major part in Dartmouth’s previous win over the Elis, scoring four goals and collecting two assists.
Part of Yale’s potential success this weekend relies on whether or not the Elis can keep Dartmouth’s perpetual dominance out of their minds and focus on the playing the kind of hockey that has made this year’s team so successful.
“Obviously, they are a great team,” forward Ali Turney ’05 said. “But we can’t worry about them. We need to focus and play our game. If we do what we have been working on, then we can stay with Dartmouth’s offense.”
Led by Duggan, Johnson, Helen Resor ’08 and Nina Resor ’07, the Eli defense will need to be in top form to knock off the Big Green. Dartmouth’s power play is ranked second in the nation, with 45 power-play goals this season and a .243 success percentage.
After taking on Dartmouth, the Elis will meet Vermont, which is in second to last place in the ECAC standings. The biggest obstacle the Catamounts present is senior goaltender Kami Cote, who notched Vermont program-records last season for most saves in a game (66) and a season (1,332).
The Bulldogs faced off against the Catamounts Nov. 5 and came away with a 2-1 win. Symington and forward Jenna Spring ’07 had goals in the win, and Love made 30 saves.
Yale is looking to its seniors for big performances this weekend. With the season winding down, the upperclassmen are eager to leave a lasting impression on Yale and make their last few games wearing blue and white memorable.
“I think for the seniors — [we] know the time is limited, so there is definitely a sense of urgency,” Duggan said. “For the entire team, just the fact that we hold our future in our hands, that we can clinch home-ice advantage for the first time in history for our program is something that is very important to us.”