In the sixth annual Nutmeg Classic Tournament — a showdown of statewide women’s hockey — Yale’s squad came out second-best.
After defeating Sacred Heart 10–1 on Friday night, the Elis (2–8–1, 1–7–0 ECAC) fell 6–1 to perennial powerhouse UConn in Saturday’s championship game at Ingalls Rink.
The Huskies (7–5–3) have now won the past three Nutmeg Classics and four of the six titles. The Bulldogs and Quinnipiac have each won once.
For Yale, the Friday night opener against the Sacred Heart Pioneers (3–7–2) was all about the offense. Five different players each collected a pair of goals, and they combined for more goals in one night than they had totaled in all of their previous games.
Forward Bray Ketchum ’11 began the scoring spree at 12:14 into the first period, collecting a rebound from a shot by forward Aleca Hughes ’12 and sending the puck into the upper right corner of the net.
Forward Becky Mantell ’12 added her first goal of the season less than three minutes later.
“My line has been working really well together so I think things were final clicking,” Mantell said of herself and teammates Caroline Murphy ’10 and Danielle Moncion ’13, adding that the Pioneers were also not as strong as past teams Yale has faced.
The Bulldogs closed the period leading 2–0, having outshot Sacred Heart 17–6.
Eli head coach Hilary Witt said the first few minutes of play were significantly better than they have been in past games. A weekend earlier, Harvard and Dartmouth grabbed early leads in their games and Yale was unable to close either gap.
But against Sacred Heart, something seemed to change.
“You just never know how people are going to come out and start,” Witt said. “We didn’t really do much differently, we just decided to get it together a little bit more in the first shift.”
Goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11 made six saves in the first period and prevented the Pioneers from scoring any goals.
But Yale did not let up its pressure in the second period — notching five goals in the 20-minute stretch.
Captain Murphy struck less than two minutes in, scoring an unassisted, shorthanded goal to make the lead 3–0.
Forward Berit Johnson ’10 added to the tally four minutes later and again at the 9:15-mark. Mantell and Ketchum also notched their second goals of the night during the second period. Snikeris kept the shutout going with another three saves.
“It’s always nice when we can score a lot of goals and it’s certainly nice to see kids get rewarded,” Witt said.
Yale’s dominance continued in the third period.
Goaltender Erin Callahan ’13 saw her first playing time of the season that period, relieving Snikeris and making four saves.
“She did a great job,” Witt said of Callahan’s debut performance. “She had a couple breakaways and she stood tall and did a good job. We had a big lead and we wanted to give her an opportunity.”
The Elis tallied another three goals and almost secured a shutout, but the Pioneers slipped the puck past Callahan at 19:10 to make the final score 10-1.
Unfortunately for Yale, the offensive burst did not last in Saturday’s competition.
The Huskies had taken a 3–0 lead by the 16th minute of the first period, putting the Eli squad back in the familiar position of falling behind early.
Defender Jody Sydor struck first for UConn, capitalizing on a power play at 8:39 to slide the puck past Snikeris.
“We gave up three goals in the first period and that was pretty tough,” Witt said. “The bottom line that it comes down to is that we don’t pay with enough aggression and we don’t sacrifice our bodies in the defensive zone. We don’t block shots when we need to.”
The Elis settled down in the second period, and forward Aleca Hughes ’12 scored a goal for Yale after a scoreless 17 minutes of play.
But UConn responded at 19:07 to make the score 4–1. The Huskies then capitalized twice more in the third period, both times on power plays.
Witt said the 6–1 final score was not a reflection of Snikeris’ performance, as the goalie at times received little help from the rest of the team.
“We kept up with [UConn] really well at moments, but if we don’t play every shift the way we can, then we won’t be as successful as we want to be,” Snikeris said, noting that the Huskies had quality scoring chances and successfully converted on many of their power plays. “We couldn’t really get anything going offensively because we were spending our time in the defensive zone.”
The Bulldogs will be back on this ice this weekend when they travel to Cornell to face the Big Red on Friday night at 7 p.m.