After months of ups and downs, the Yale women’s hockey season has come down to this — one final road trip to determine both the Elis’ ECAC finish and the Ivy League champion.
If the Bulldogs (10-12-5, 7-7-4 ECACHL) can beat Quinnipiac (10-17-5, 3-12-3) Friday and No. 6 Princeton (17-6-4, 13-3-2) on Saturday, they will clinch their first Ivy League title outright and finish fifth in the ECAC. If they lose to Princeton, they will miss out on the Ancient Eight title, and two losses could bump them as low as eighth in the ECAC.
Defender Carlee Ness ’09 said winning the Ivy League and moving up in the playoffs would be incredible.
“This weekend is definitely, definitely huge,” Ness said. “To win the Ivy Championship would be historic and great for our program. It would be great to prove we can compete with other programs like Harvard and Dartmouth, and prove we can come out on top. And to move up like that in the playoffs — before, people didn’t even think we’d make it. To move up to fifth would be great.”
With no chance at home-ice advantage in the playoffs, the Elis will have to win both games this weekend to ensure as favorable a road matchup as possible. If they lose, the Bulldogs could find themselves playing No. 2 St. Lawrence on the Saints’ home ice. But if they win, the Bulldogs would have a chance to play at Princeton or Colgate, two teams they have beaten in the past.
All-American goaltender Sarah Love ’06 said that before looking ahead to the Princeton game, the Elis will have to deal with a hungry Bobcats team.
“This is Quinnipiac’s last weekend, since they aren’t making the playoffs, so they have nothing to lose,” Love said. “They are going to come out hard, and we have to be prepared for that. It’s important that we get our offense going against Quinnipiac and play a solid game all around so we’re confident going into Saturday’s game.”
Quinnipiac shocked the Elis in the Bobcats’ first ECAC game earlier this season, when they won in a shootout at Ingalls Rink after a 2-2 tie.
But even the calm, collected Love has not put the Ivy League title totally out of her mind.
“The chance to win Ivies is extra motivation for Saturday’s game,” she said. “It should be a great finish to the regular season.”
There is no doubt that the Tigers present a major challenge for the Bulldogs. The two teams played to an exhausting 5-5 tie in overtime earlier this season, a dramatic change from the two-game sweep with which the Elis knocked the Tigers out of the playoffs last March.
Princeton has a powerful offense, led by Kim Pearce, one of the top scorers in the nation, and by freshman powerhouse Annie Greenwood. The Tigers have a good keeper, too, in senior Roxanne Gaudiel, but Love has consistently gotten the better of Gaudiel when the two have met during the past few seasons. In their past five regular season and playoff meetings — all wins or ties for Yale — Love’s save percentage has been 91.3. Gaudiel’s has been 86.5, almost 8 percent lower than her normal percentage. Love’s goals-against average in the past five Yale-Princeton games is 2.6, while Gaudiel’s is 3.8.
The Bulldogs have not lost to Princeton in more than two years, despite the fact that the Tigers have been ranked and the Elis unranked in almost every meeting of the two teams over that time. The last Yale loss, on Nov. 28, 2003, was a 3-2 squeaker. If Love can keep up her dominance of Gaudiel, and Crysti Howser ’09 and Deena Caplette ’06, the team’s scoring leaders, can put the puck on the net with any consistency, the Bulldogs will stand a good chance of bringing home their first-ever Ivy title Saturday night.
But most of all, the Elis remain focused on the postseason, where they will find themselves no matter what happens this weekend. Forward Christina Sharun ’07 said the team is excited to have its fate in its own hands.
“We are definitely in playoff mode,” Sharun said. “This weekend is so huge for us. Obviously there is the Ivy League game, but it also means a lot in terms of placement for playoffs and also for our overall record and getting back to .500. Everyone is definitely stoked to play this weekend.”