W. HOCKEY | Attendance record broken at Yale women’s hockey game

The first home conference weekend of the year may have been just a split for the Yale women’s hockey team (1–5–2, 1–2–1), but it felt more like a clean sweep for players and fans alike. Rallying to support Mandi Schwartz ’11, the Yale crowd broke the women’s hockey attendance record during the Bulldogs’ 4–1 loss to RPI (4–7–2, 3–3–0). The next night, the Elis earned their first win of the season with a 4–1 victory over Union.

The Bulldogs’ “White Out for Mandi” Friday night was a resounding success, as 1,066 fans attended Ingalls Rink, breaking the former women’s hockey crowd record — thought to be 825 for a 2005 playoff showdown with Princeton. With such prolific attendance, pledges for the event racked up more than $9,000 for Schwartz and her cause, a number that is as high as $15,000 when including T-shirt sales and the silent auction that took place during the game, according to an e-mail from forward Aleca Hughes ’12. Schwartz has been battling leukemia since late 2008, and in the two years since, her women’s hockey teammates have worked tirelessly to spread the word — efforts that have, if the support for Friday night’s event is any indication, touched an entire community.

“It was amazing to see the support we had at Friday night’s game,” senior forward Bray Ketchum said. “Mandi’s story has truly impacted a lot of people in the Yale community and beyond, and we are so grateful that we could celebrate her courageous battle. It was a great event and our team was very appreciative to all the students, faculty, employees and friends and family who came out.”

As for the game those 1,066 fans saw, the Bulldogs came out firing, as Hughes drew a penalty on an early scoring chance, but couldn’t find the net with a wrister on Engineer goalie Sonja Van Der Bleik. Despite a few good chances in the first, Yale could not get on the board, giving RPI the chance to seize the momentum early in the second when a Bulldog penalty gave freshman Jordan Smelker a power play chance that she capitalized on, giving the Engineers the 1–0 lead.

More penalties followed for Yale, setting RPI up on a 5-3 for over 1:30, and Smelker struck again to give her team the 2–0 lead. Goalie Genny Ladiges ’12, filling in for the injured Jackee Snikeris ’11, made save after save, but the Engineer pressure proved too much, and Sydney O’Keefe capitalized on a rebound to send the Bulldogs to the third down 3–0.

Even when Smelker tallied her third goal of the game just seconds into the third to increase the lead to four, the Bulldogs failed to relent, continuing to apply significant pressure — and to receive support from the dedicated Ingalls Rink crowd — and five minutes in, Hughes fed Ketchum to get the Bulldogs on the board.

Yale seemed to grow more in sync after the tally, but couldn’t beat Van Der Bliek — RPI’s all-time leader in nearly every goaltending statistic — to chip away at the deficit.

“Although we were disappointed not to get the win for Mandi and our team on Friday, it really meant the world to all of us to see all of the support the community showed for Mandi and her cause,” Ladiges said. “Looking back on this game years from now, I think that our team will remember not the result, but rather the ways in which the Yale community rallied behind our sick teammate and the amount of love and support they showed for her.”

If they will always remember the things that happened off the ice, the Bulldogs may also remember Friday night as a major turning point on the ice. Yale outshot the Union (1–10–1, 0–5–1) 10-4 in the first, capitalizing early as Danielle Moncion ’13 sent a shot on Kate Gallagher that bounced around the traffic in front of the crease and in. A quick penalty gave the Dutchwomen a chance to take the momentum right back, but defenseman Heather Grant ’12 came up with a blocked shot to finish off the kill, postponing the equalizer.

“It was critical that we scored early [Saturday], because that set the tone for the rest of the game,” Grant said. “Our lines have been clicking and getting more offensive opportunities, but we need to capitalize on more of our scoring opportunities and do a better job helping out our goalies to be successful for the rest of the season.”

Yale couldn’t help out Ladiges against a wrister from Stephanie Thomson, which found its way past Ladiges for the equalizing goal. But Ladiges and the Bulldogs shut the girls from Schenectady down from there, and were able to put this season’s struggles on the power play (2-26 coming into Saturday’s contest) behind them, as Jackie Raines ’14 tipped in a slap shot from captain Sam MacLean ’11 to give Yale a lead they would not relinquish.

Ladiges shone the rest of the way, as did the Yale penalty kill, which turned away three power plays in the third — one of which turned into an unexpected offensive opportunity for the Bulldogs.

With just under two minutes to go, Union pulled their goalie in order to gain an extra skater, and then drew a penalty to gain a six-on-four advantage. But Ketchum tracked down a loose puck and fired it down the ice and into the Union net for some insurance.

But the Bulldogs were not done yet. With the Dutchwomen’s net still empty — and Yale still on the penalty kill — defenseman Tara Tomimoto ’13 found herself with the puck deep in the Yale defensive zone and flicked a seeing-eye shot down the ice and in for a shorthanded tally.

Those shorthanders, along with the goals from Raines and Moncion, gave the Bulldogs a much-needed win, and provided a confidence for a team that says it is still establishing its identity.

“Our team is young, but we have a lot of talent in the freshmen and sophomore classes,” Ketchum said. “Our game needs to be concentrated on playing tenacious and winning battles. When we do that we create turnovers and good scoring opportunities. The goals will come, but we have to work for them. I’m excited to see the team take off now that we have a win under our belts.”

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