The women’s hockey team’s playoff hopes are dangling by a thread.
After splitting a weekend of home games with a 3–1 win against Colgate but a 1–0 loss to Cornell, the Elis (10–14–3, 8–11–1 ECAC) are tied with Dartmouth for eighth place in the conference — the final spot that earns a berth to the ECAC playoffs in late February. With two games left in the regular season, Yale must pull ahead of Dartmouth to claim a postseason ticket. If the squads remain even after next weekend’s contests, the Big Green will receive the automatic bid because they beat the Bulldogs twice in head-to-head competition. Cornell jumped to first place in the ECAC after winning both its games.
But at least Yale still has a shot.
“We’ve had a playoff atmosphere for the past month,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “It’s exciting to go into next weekend knowing that we have a great chance to continue our season.”
The Elis also knew this weekend’s games had the potential to make-or-break their ECAC standings and made that clear by quickly taking control against Colgate (10–18–4, 6–10–4) on Friday.
Forward Caroline Murphy ’10 scored at 9:24 in the first frame when she slipped the puck into a gap just inside the left post of Colgate’s net.
The Red Raiders responded with an immediate counterattack, forcing the Bulldogs into defensive mode seconds later. Colgate nearly scored on goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11, but the Elis got a lucky bounce on the rebound and were able to clear the loose puck.
A body-checking penalty called on the Bulldogs at the 13-minute mark gave the Red Raiders another chance to up their offensive momentum — and they took it. Colgate’s forward Evan Minnick scored the equalizer less than 20 seconds into the power play to make it a 1–1 game.
Colgate continued to test Snikeris extensively throughout the period, tallying 15 shots to Yale’s five, but was unable to bypass the Eli goalie again.
The Red Raiders started the second frame off in similar fashion, raining shots upon the Bulldog net and forcing Snikeris to respond with a slew of kicking, sliding and diving saves within the first three minutes of the period.
Right winger Aleca Hughes ’12 finally generated some attacking momentum for the Elis in the ninth minute, and forward Bray Ketchum ’11 continued the offensive push with a breakaway seconds later only to see her wrist shot stopped by Colgate goaltender Lisa Plenderleith.
The next one was not, though. Defenseman Samantha MacLean’s ’11 blue-line slap shot sailed right past Plenderleith at 6:51 to give Yale the 2–1 lead.
The third stanza drew gutsy performances from both sides. Yale continued to hang onto its 2–1 advantage for most of the period. Colgate crashed the Eli net with about 10 minutes remaining, but the puck did not quite cross the line so the Bulldogs remained on top. The Red Raiders pulled their goalie with 1:20 left and Yale fought to clear the puck.
And then with two minutes left, the Bulldogs managed to dump the puck down into Colgate’s defensive zone, Ketchum crossed it in front, and Hughes tapped it into the open net to seal Yale’s 3–1 victory.
The win kept the Bulldogs on track as a playoff contender, but that bid looked less certain after the Elis fell to Cornell (13–8–6, 12–2–6) in the following afternoon’s competition.
Saturday also marked Senior Day at Ingalls Rink — the final home contest of the regular season for class of 2010 players — and families and friends gathered to honor team captain Murphy, defenseman Alyssa Clark ’10, and forward Berit Johnson ’10. Among the spectators was Murphy’s father, Colonel David Murphy, who had returned from service in Afghanistan to watch his daughter’s last few games.
Both sides engaged in fast-paced play from the moment the puck dropped, and neither managed to capitalize in the first period. The Big Red had a good chance in the ninth minute when an attacker wove around Yale’s lone defenseman and flipped the puck toward the net. But Snikeris deflected the shot.
The Elis had their own opportunity in the 16th minute, though. Center Danielle Moncion ’13 intercepted the puck in Cornell’s defensive zone and broke toward the crease, but her hard shot whipped wide of the net.
Cornell continued to crash Yale’s net in the second frame, and the Big Red’s resolute attackers finally saw their attempts pay off when defenseman Lauriane Rougeau recorded the only goal of the day. Rougeau scored on a power play from directly in front of the crease at 19:26 in the period, knocking the puck over a crouching Snikeris to put her team ahead, 1–0.
The Elis had several chances to tie it up in the third period but were repeatedly unable to capitalize.
“We had some chances to score and didn’t finish,” Witt said. “[Cornell] got an opportunity on the power play and was able to score.”
But Snikeris and the Elis did keep the Big Red from widening their lead in the last 20 minutes. Cornell got a series of rapid-fire shots off in the 10th minute which Snikeris repeatedly blocked. When the buzzer sounded to cement Yale’s 1–0 loss, Snikeris had recorded 46 saves for the day.
“I think she definitely stood on her head for us, and especially in the second period she came up with some huge saves that kept us in the game,” Johnson said of Snikeris. “When she steps up like that, I think it really motivates the rest of the team to pick up our play.”
The Elis will take the ice for their penultimate ECAC game at Quinnipiac this Friday, before traveling to Princeton on Saturday for their final regular-season contest. And in both games, each second will matter.
“Every shift counts,” Murphy said. “It means a lot, and it’s anyone’s game.”