W. hockey heads west to battle Empire State foes

This weekend, the women’s hockey team will strive both to break free of two losing streaks — including one 27-game drought — and to begin to position themselves for a bid in the ECACHL playoffs.

The Bulldogs (5-5, 3-4 ECACHL) will face off against the Clarkson Golden Knights (8-6-2, 3-4-1) tonight at 7:00 p.m. in Potsdam, N.Y., and then against the St. Lawrence Saints (10-5-1, 5-3) in Canton, N.Y., tomorrow afternoon. This pair of games will be the Elis’ last before the break for exams that runs until the home game against the University of Connecticut on Dec. 29.

“I think I am excited for the break, in a way,” Denise Soesilo ’10 said. “We can get some more energy for the games we’ll be playing after Christmas.”

The Bulldogs will be playing for ECAC points this weekend, and are hoping to work toward a slot in the playoffs in February. Currently, Yale is in seventh place, four points behind the fourth-place Saints and trailing the Golden Knights by just a single point. Although it is tempting to start thinking about postseason scenarios now, it is too early to worry about getting the home-ice advantage in the playoffs, head coach Hilary Witt said.

“We have a long way to go,” she said. “We have a lot of regular season games to go, and it’s important that we win all of them. Right now, the most important thing is getting a place in the playoffs, and we have a while before we have to worry about playoff games on home ice.”

Last year, Clarkson defeated the Bulldogs in two separate shutouts with the aid of Kira Hurley, a goalie who would go on to post ten season shutouts. Hurley has been injured since a game against Dartmouth on Nov. 4, when she collided with another skater in the third period. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence is still riding a dominant 27-game unbeaten streak against the Elis after adding four wins to the total last year. But Witt said the Bulldogs have the talent to play competitively against both those teams.

“Clarkson plays very tough in their D-zone,” Witt said. “So we just need to find a way to get some goals off them. St. Lawrence is going to have a lot of offense, so we’ll need to play tough in our own D-zone against them. And, they have one of the best defenses as far as defensive groups go, so if we can floor-check them hard and get off some good shots we can definitely play with them.”

Last weekend, Ansley LaHue ’10 made her first collegiate start as goalie and helped lead the squad to a 3-1 victory over Northeastern. As of last night, Witt said, she had not decided whether LaHue or regular goaltender Shivon Zilis ’08 would be starting tonight’s game.

Associate head coach Harry Rosenholtz said the game against the Huskies was a good beginning to the caliber of hockey the team will need to play tonight and tomorrow.

“[Last weekend] we were very strong in faceoffs and in general we moved the puck well,” he said. “We will need to skate stronger and have greater intensity with the challenging games ahead.”

LaHue said that her team has had a strong start, and the key to contending with these vaunted programs in upstate New York may be capitalizing on power play opportunities.

“I think [better power play] will really take us to the next level, where we can contend with St. Lawrence and the like, and really compete for titles,” she said.

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