Goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11 is quiet in the locker room, in class and almost everywhere else. But on the ice, it’s a whole different story.
“Her personality kind of changes when she’s at hockey,” defenseman Alyssa Clarke ’10 said. “She becomes much more talkative. I think it’s because she kind of knows it’s her role as goalie — she sees the ice and forces herself to be loud and talk a lot so that she can help us play better.”
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With a quiet demeanor and a fierce work ethic, Snikeris has rapidly emerged this season as one of the best goalies in Div. I college hockey with a .927 save percentage that ranks her ninth in the nation. And after earning her 13th career shutout Saturday to shatter Yale’s all-time record, Snikeris has made her mark on Bulldog history as well.
The junior goalie overtook former record-holder Sarah Love ’06 with a 3–0 blanking of Brown at Ingalls Rink this past weekend. Love set her record during a span of 113 games, while it only took Snikeris 49 contests to secure her spot in Yale’s Heritage Hall.
But the netminder is taking it all in stride.
“I’ve never really thought about it, but that’s my goal — to not let any goals in,” said Snikeris. “Of whatever I can do to help my team, that is probably best.”
That determination to help her team — and always put the team first — is just part of what defines the blonde, 5-foot-6-inch goalie.
“I think her character is intense and quiet,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “She’s constantly focused, she goes hard every time, and she pays attention to details. Goalies get to see the whole game, and she worries about everyone — not just herself.”
And it’s in those high-pressure games when Snikeris, normally a quiet and reserved Branfordian, truly becomes a leader on the ice.
“I just love being able to help my team that way,” Snikeris said. “It’s a really mental position, and I’ve come to enjoy that — being able to make any kind of impact.”
And she certainly has made an impact. The record-breaking blanking marked Snikeris’s fourth this season — capping off a week in which she was named ECAC Hockey Goalie of the Week and adding to the array of accomplishments she has racked up at Yale. Snikeris set the program’s all-time mark for single-season save percentage (.934) last year and amassed five shutouts to tie that single-season record. She and teammate Bray Ketchum ’11 were named to the ECAC Hockey All-Star Team this season, and the Eli duo took on Team USA in an exhibition game in early January.
Yet it hasn’t all been smooth skating for Snikeris.
After easing into her freshman year by splitting time with then-senior Shivon Zilis ’08, Snikeris hit a rocky stretch her sophomore year. She broke her nose in the first game of the season — fracturing the bone in two and putting her out for a solid two weeks while she recovered from surgery. Snikeris returned in time to play a few games before the winter holidays, but still was not 100 percent as vacation approached. She constantly felt tired and suffered from a painfully sore throat.
During the break, Snikeris found out she had mononucleosis. The illness cost her another four weeks.
Things have turned around this season, though, with a healthy Snikeris playing and starting 19 of 23 games so far. The Bulldogs (9–11–3, 7–8–1) had a rough start to the season despite Snikeris’s efforts but have recently gained some positive momentum, with a 5–1 tally in their last six games.
“I think in the past they relied on her too much, and I think in the beginning of the year it made it very difficult on Jackee,” Witt said. “They are playing a lot better in front of her now and recognizing that she is human.”
Snikeris first started playing hockey at age 5, but the Downingtown, Pa., native didn’t know back then that goaltending was her calling.
“I was actually pretty terrible the first time I played,” Snikeris said, noting that she tried out different positions until entering the squirt level at age 9.
Snikeris participated in boys’ hockey all through elementary school and middle school and made time for pick-up games of street hockey with neighbors whenever possible. Still, the level of play in Pennsylvania just did not cut it, so by the time high school rolled around Snikeris had entered the Taft School in Watertown, Conn., for stiffer competition. She also joined the Connecticut Polar Bears club team — where she played with current teammates Caroline Murphy ’10 and Becky Mantell ’12 — and was All-New England for Taft in 2006–2007.
After being heavily recruited by Cornell, Yale and the University of New Hampshire, Snikeris opted to join the Bulldog squad. She said she fell in love with the Eli team after just one visit.
And Snikeris’s teammates are certainly glad that she did.
“We’re just so lucky to have her,” forward Aleca Hughes ’12 said. “She keeps us in games time after time, and she just has a consistent, steady, quiet demeanor that is so reassuring. She comes up big when she needs to.”
Snikeris and her teammates next take the ice Friday in Hanover, N.H., against Dartmouth at 7 p.m.