The women’s ice hockey team won’t be hanging up its skates just yet, thanks to a pair of wins in the final two games of the regular season.
After a few tense weeks, the Bulldogs (11-12-6, 8-10-4 ECAC) pulled out of a three-week winless streak in which they went 0-4-2 to defeat Union (3-27-2, 0-20-2) in a nervewracking 2-1 showdown at Ingalls Rink. The win gave them an edge over eighth-place rival Rennselaer (13-15-5, 6-12-4), who lost their own Friday game.
The Elis used that momentum to take down the Engineers on Saturday in a 3-2 victory that not only reserved the home squad a place in the playoffs but also propelled them up another slot, to seventh place — which means they will not have to face No. 1 Harvard (27-1-0, 22-0-0) in the first round.
“This weekend, we played good team hockey, especially against RPI,” forward Sarah Tittman ’09 said. “This past week, we focused on going back to the basics and simply having fun, and that’s exactly what we did over the weekend.”
The match against Union did not start promisingly for the Bulldogs. A scoreless first period saw the two teams very closely matched for shots on goal — seven for the Dutchwomen and 10 for the Elis — but goaltender Shivon Zilis ’08 and Union netminder Lundy Day stopped everything that came their way.
It wasn’t until the second period that the Dutchwomen finally broke onto the scoreboard, when forward Suzanne Ostrow sent a backhand past Zilis at the 13:14 mark. Despite a substantial 13 shots for the period, the Bulldogs could not solve Day, and they entered the third stanza still trailing the Dutchwomen by one.
But things finally came together midway through the third, when defender Helen Resor ’09 stayed with the puck even after Day blocked her first attempt. Her second try was successful, and the Bulldogs knotted the score 1-1 at 13:55. The home squad, now back in the game, did not stop there.
Forward/defender Caroline Murphy ’10, assisted by forward Bray Ketchum ’11 and Resor, got off a slapshot that ricocheted into the net at 16:40. It proved to be the gamewinner for the squad, as Union could not beat Zilis again, despite pulling Day for the extra attacker in the game’s final seconds. The buzzer sounded on an Eli victory, giving them two points and some breathing room going into Saturday’s game.
“The players stayed composed, believed in each other and got the job done,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “We found a way to win, and everybody contributed one way or another.”
The stakes were high heading into the final game of the regular season — a loss to RPI could have put the Bulldogs out of the playoffs despite Friday’s victory. Although RPI forward Allison Wright knocked one past goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11 at 11:18, the first-period setback did not daunt them for long.
When the second stanza began, it only took 54 seconds for Tittman to notch her 12th goal of the season when she deflected in a shot by defender Berit Johnson ’10. Defender Alyssa Clarke ’10 notched a power-play slapshot six minutes later to put the Elis in the lead for the first time in the game. And at 2:05 in the third, defender Samantha MacLean ’11 put away the gamewinner, assisted by forward Danielle Kozlowski ’09.
The Engineers would score again at 11:31, but Snikeris held them to just those two goals for the game. She made 17 saves in the 3-2 victory that sent the Bulldogs up past Cornell (12-15-1, 9-12-1) to take seventh place in the conference, while Rennselaer finished ninth, out of the playoffs altogether.
“With the Saturday game being a must-win for both teams, it really produced an ultra intense playoff-like atmosphere that we were able to respond to,” forward Crysti Howser ’09 said. “I think this weekend we played some of our best hockey in certain stretches of both games, so heading into next weekend we are going to need to sustain that high level of play in order to get wins against a good St. Lawrence team.”
As the seventh-place finishers, the Bulldogs will face second-place St. Lawrence (25-8-1, 18-3-1) in a best-of-three series next weekend. While it will be tough, they dodged a bullet in avoiding a matchup against first-place Harvard, who neither lost nor tied a single conference match this year. And although Yale has never beaten St. Lawrence, there is a first time for everything, Tittman said.
“St. Lawrence will be a tough opponent, as always,” she said. “But I think our team is very confident in the fact that we can beat them. In our last game against them, it was a very balanced matchup, but we just had a few mental lapses that ended up costing us. If we can avoid making the little mistakes, we have a chance at making history.”