A pair of losses in OT sends w. hockey packing

One heart-wrenching loss is more than enough for any team. But this weekend, the women’s ice hockey team ended its season with two in a row.

The Bulldogs (11-14-6, 8-11-4 ECAC) fell to No. 6 St. Lawrence (27-8-1, 18-3-1) in the first two games of the ECAC quarterfinals this weekend, dropping Friday’s matchup 2-1, and Saturday’s 3-2. The two matches were agonizingly close — both required almost 10 minutes of overtime before the victors were finally decided.

With so much at stake — a trip to the semifinals and the chance to beat the Saints for the first time in the two teams’ shared history — to come so close and lose so narrowly was painfully disappointing, captain and defender Ann-Renee Guillemette ’08 said.

“Our team really connected this weekend,” she explained. “We played together and trusted each other more than ever. The fact that we lost both games in overtime is frustrating since we dominated most of the game during the first three periods.”

“However,” she added, “we played our hearts out, and that is one thing I’ll always remember from this weekend.”

The puck dropped Friday with the Bulldogs at a historical disadvantage: At the time, they were 0-30-1 against the nationally ranked Saints, and it didn’t help that St. Lawrence was coming off a 9-1 victory over Quinnipiac (5-24-5, 2-16-4) the Saturday before. But the Elis showed no signs of letting past stats intimidate them — they fought the home team to a stalemate in the first two periods. That was thanks, in no small part, to the performance of goaltender Shivon Zilis ’08, who made 16 saves in the first stanza and another eight in the second, even through a brief five-on-three St. Lawrence power play at 11:43 in the first. Meanwhile, Bulldog offense struggled to gain its bearings, managing a comparatively small tally of five shots in the first stanza and only three in the second.

But in the third, the Elis broke onto the board after a smooth transition following one of Zilis’ saves. After a pass from forward/defender Caroline Murphy ’10 found forward Mandi Schwartz ’10 wide open, Schwartz got off a wrist shot that found the back of the net at 7:48 to give the Bulldogs the 1-0 edge.

The lead was short-lived, though, as the Saints finally found a way past Zilis to tie it up at 9:15. It wasn’t until 8:39 in overtime that St. Lawrence took its first lead of the game — and, in doing so, the victory — when Saint forward Marianna Locke knocked in a rebound to make it 2-1 St. Lawrence.

“We had some unfortunate penalties called and that put us into defensive mode,” said Zilis, who made 55 saves in the game. “St. Lawrence is an offensive powerhouse, and we weren’t able to slip a puck in before that came to hurt us.”

When Saturday came, the Bulldogs once again matched their Canton foes in intensity and skill, even edging out the Saints in shots for the first period, 9-8. And, once again, they took the first lead of the game when defender Helen Resor ’09 put away a power play goal at 7:52 in the second period, assisted by forward Bray Ketchum ’11. Resor made another contribution less than six minutes later, getting the puck to forward Crysti Howser ’09, who snapped one past St. Lawrence goalie Meaghan Guckian to give the visiting squad a 2-0 lead.

But the third period proved tougher for the Elis when the Saints finally managed to solve netminder Jackee Snikeris ’11. A pair of St. Lawrence goals at 8:02 and 18:32 knotted up the game and, in a replay of the previous day, sent the match into overtime. As the clock neared the 10-minute mark, Snikeris batted away a rebound that bounced into the air and was deflected into the net by Saint forward Alison Domenico, who was positioned behind Snikeris. The 9:42 goal gave St. Lawrence their second close victory and knocked the Bulldogs out of the tournament. Snikeris made a commendable 46 saves for the game.

“It was a very difficult weekend,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “But at the same time, I’m very proud of my kids’ effort and will to be successful. They left it all on the ice, and they should be really proud of themselves.”

The pair of losses ends the Bulldogs’ season on a hard note, especially for seniors Guillemette and Zilis, who made their final appearances in the Yale blue and white. And after the incredible achievements in net by both Zilis and Snikeris, it was tough not to hand either of them a win, Howser said.

“I think that we did a good job defensively all weekend, mostly due to the amazing performances by our goaltenders,” she said. “Both Shivon and [Jackee] stood on their heads and gave us a chance to win both games, and it was unfortunate that we couldn’t close out either game for them, because they both deserved the wins.”

“I really wanted to beat St. Lawrence during my time at Yale, and it’s frustrating not to have accomplished that goal,” Zilis added. “It was a frustrating way to end my career, but I’m extremely proud of the effort that my teammates put into those two games. We showed a lot of heart.”

With a hard weekend behind them, the Bulldogs now look back over a season filled with ups and downs, disappointed at its conclusion but proud of progress made. After some heart-pounding wins and heart-rending losses, all in all, the team should have no regrets about the effort they gave, Witt said.

“We played our best when our backs were against the wall,” she said. “We made it difficult for ourselves at times, but it’s a very long season, and I am very proud of my kids.”

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