It’s all coming down to this weekend.
The women’s hockey team has two games left in the regular season: a pair of away contests, against Quinnipiac on Friday and Princeton on Saturday. With 17 points apiece, Yale and Dartmouth are each vying for eighth place in the league — the final spot that earns a berth to the ECAC playoffs later this month.
The Elis (10–14–3, 8–11–1 ECAC) need to pull ahead of the Big Green to secure that playoff ticket. Dartmouth beat Yale in head-to-head competition and will take the spot if the squads remain tied after this weekend. There’s no two ways about it for the Bulldogs: They have to win.
“I think everybody knows what the games mean because that’s in the standings,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “It’s our job to just keep it level this weekend and attack the games like we have any others.”
After starting the season with five consecutive losses in the first three weekends of conference competition, the Bulldogs spent the remainder of the season playing catch-up. The team jump-started its positive momentum with a 2–2 tie against Cornell and a 3–0 victory over Colgate right before winter break, and then pulled out a series of wins in mid-January to turn things around.
But that hot-streak ended abruptly early this month, when the Elis dropped a pair of games on the road against No. 6 Harvard and Dartmouth.
Yale most recently split a pair of games with a 3–1 win against Colgate and a 1–0 loss to Cornell.
Witt said the team has developed noticeably since the season began.
“We knew going into the season that we had to get better every day and to be patient,” she said. “I think the team we have today versus the team we had on Oct. 9 is very different.”
Witt said the Elis have improved in confidence, puck possession and in what she called “all the little things” a team does to be successful.
Veteran forwards Bray Ketchum ’11, Aleca Hughes ’12 and Caroline Murphy ’10 have led the Bulldogs on offense, accounting for 29 of the team’s 56 goals this season. Goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11 also ranks fifth in the conference with a .936 save percentage.
But younger players have stepped up their game as well. Forward Alyssa Zupon ’13 has tallied five goals and 11 assists to earn 16 points — the third most on the team.
“I think we have more chemistry,” Witt said. “People have stepped into roles they didn’t have in the past.”
As for this weekend’s contests, both Quinnipiac and Princeton beat Yale earlier in the season.
The Tigers (12–11–4, 10–6–4) have excelled on special teams this season — their power play ranks fifth nationally with a 20.2 conversion rate. The Bobcats (16–8–8, 9–4–7) boast the foremost scoring defense in the country, having allowed only 46 goals this season. Quinnipiac netminder Victoria Vigilanti’s .955 save percentage also ranks her second in the ECAC.
“The best part is to have a reason to play this weekend,” Witt said. “To know that we have a chance to be in the playoffs and to fight is gratifying. I know we’re going to do the best we can.”
The away game against Quinnipiac is slated for a 7 p.m. start. The Elis will take on Princeton on the road at 4 p.m. the next day.