There’s no denying it: The women’s hockey team is on a roll.
The Bulldogs (9–11–3, 7–8–1 ECAC) have recorded five wins in their last six games and have a 6–1–0 tally to show for the past seven conference contests. But the Elis’ spurt of positive momentum will face a real test this weekend when Yale travels to Dartmouth and No. 6 Harvard.
Yale fell its first time out against both the Big Green (8–12–2, 5–10–1) and the Crimson (13–5–4, 9–5–2), losing each game by decisive four- and five-goal margins, respectively. The Elis fell behind big in the opening minutes of the Harvard contest, giving up three goals by the 4:48 mark in the first period.
Still, head coach Hilary Witt said things have changed for Yale’s squad.
“Last time we played them we didn’t start the game well — we played a little nervous,” Witt said. “We’ve certainly started games a lot better in the recent past than we did earlier in the season, and I think that’s just a growing part of the game.”
The Elis have also risen in the league since those initial contests against Harvard and Dartmouth, and they currently rank eighth in the conference with 15 points. The Big Green, four points behind Yale, is in 10th place, making tonight’s game especially important as the results could swing the standings in either team’s favor. Only the top eight teams qualify for the postseason ECAC playoffs, which begin in late February.
“A win would really help us, and a loss would not kill us,” Witt said. “Right now any point we can pick up is vitally important, but it’s not a make-or-break weekend.”
The Hanover, N.H. game promises to test the Elis’ abilities — the Big Green split their last four games 2–2, but boast the league’s second-best point scorer in forward Sarah Parsons and the third-best scoring offense in the ECAC.
The bigger challenge will come in Boston when the Bulldogs take on the team that tops both of those categories: archrival Harvard.
Crimson forward Kate Buesser leads the ECAC attackers with 1.56 points per game, and teammate Jillian Dempsey is not far behind, with a fourth-place ranking and a 1.12 ppg. Harvard also has the conference’s foremost scoring offense with 52 goals in 16 games.
“Their intensity and their aggressive play is just outstanding,” Witt said of the Crimson. “They’re really tough to play against because of it.”
Lately, though, the Bulldog defensemen and goaltenders have held up against opposing teams’ strong attacking lines.
Goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11 has posted a .927 save percentage so far this season and just broke Yale’s all-time record for career shutouts when she collected her 13th after last weekend’s 3–0 blanking of Brown.
The line of forwards Aleca Hughes ’12, Bray Ketchum ’11 and Alyssa Zupon ’13 has also been producing offensively in recent games. The trio has notched 12 goals and 12 assists in the past eight ECAC hockey games they played together.
“We’re getting scoring from different people, which is important, but I think Hughes, Ketchum and Zupon have been scoring a lot recently and doing a really nice job,” Witt said. “It requires a full team effort to win, and I think everyone’s contributing in their own way right now.”
The Elis will take on Dartmouth at 7 p.m. tonight before facing off against Harvard at 4 p.m. Saturday.