The Yale women’s hockey team emerged from Thanksgiving break with two big wins — big because they came against tough teams and because of how much the Bulldogs had been struggling just weeks ago. After starting 0–5–2, Yale (3–7–2, 2–3–1 ECAC) has now won three of its last five games.
The Bulldogs went 2–2 over the break, losing to St. Lawrence before taking down Clarkson — a team that finished second in the ECAC last season — and the University of Connecticut — currently in second place in the Hockey East. After defeating UConn in the Nutmeg Classic First Round on Friday, the Bulldogs fell to Quinnipiac in the championship the next night.
The Bulldogs’ break got off to a tough start, as Yale dropped a 3–1 decision to ECAC foe St. Lawrence (7–6–2, 3–2–0) at Ingalls Rink. The Saints scored two goals in a five-minute span late in the first period, added another in the third, and despite a late goal from Jackie Raines ’14, the Bulldogs’ comeback bid fell short.
Clarkson (6–8–3, 3–1–1) arrived at Ingalls undefeated in ECAC play, and after the Golden Knights got on the board with a goal just six minutes into the first period, it looked like they might depart unscathed as well. But Yale’s first-line center Alyssa Zupon ’13 got a piece of a shot from defenseman Tara Tomimoto ’13 to answer the Clarkson goal and send the game to the first intermission tied up.
A Clarkson power play goal late in the second period gave the Golden Knights the lead heading into the third, but after numerous near misses from Zupon and her linemates Bray Ketchum ’11 and Aleca Hughes ’12, Ketchum finally connected for the equalizer after dodging multiple Clarkson defenders and falling to the ice mid-shot.
Despite a few late chances, Clarkson was unable to get the go-ahead goal, and the game went to overtime where the line of Ketchum, Zupon and Hughes struck again. After the Golden Knights turned the puck over in their own zone thanks to an aggressive forecheck from Hughes, the junior forward deposited a wrister into the top corner of Clarkson goalie Erica Howe’s net for the game-winner.
“The win against Clarkson was awesome,” Ketchum said. “We showed a lot of character by coming back and it gave us great momentum going into the overtime. Overtime is usually stressful, but we outplayed them and showed a lot of poise.”
Among the Bulldogs who impressed was goalie Genny Ladiges ’12. Following the injury to senior Jackee Snikeris ’11 early in the season, Ladiges started seven straight games, including the win against Clarkson, a game in which she saved a stellar 38 shots. In addition to being between the pipes for two of Yale’s three wins so far this season, Ladiges played to a .929 save percentage and averaged over 30 saves per game, giving first-year coach Joakim Flygh and the Bulldogs quite the goaltending tandem in combination with Snikeris, a first-team All-Ivy selection last season.
Yale welcomed Snikeris back to the lineup Friday for its opener in the Nutmeg Classic Tournament — a four-team competition featuring Yale, Sacred Heart, UConn and host Quinnipiac — the four Division I women’s hockey teams in Connecticut. The Bulldogs faced off against the Huskies (6–8–1, 4–2–1), a perennial Hockey East power.
Snikeris was tested right away, as UConn got some tough shots on net right from the get-go, but captain Sam MacLean ’11 made sure it was the Bulldogs who bit first, ripping a slap shot by goalie Alexandra Garcia to give her team the 1–0 lead. After dominating for much of the next 20 minutes, Ketchum scored eight minutes into the second to extend the Bulldogs’ lead, but the Huskies answered with a tough goal on a puck that appeared to bounce out before crossing the red line, but was ruled to have gotten by Snikeris and into the goal to cut Yale’s lead in half.
Raines then capitalized on a rebound off a Tomimoto shot to push the Bulldogs’ lead back to two, and just minutes later Jen Lawrence ’14 (two goals) tipped a Raines shot in to send the score to 4–1. After a power play goal with five minutes to go cut the Huskies’ deficit to two, Ketchum added an empty-netter, her second goal of the game, to seal the 5–2 win.
“Every line played well [against UConn]” Ketchum said. “That’s what we need. A couple of the freshmen really stepped up and helped us out. We used our speed and we attacked the net from the corners, which is what we wanted to do. It was a great team effort.”
With the momentum of that big win carrying them, Yale headed into the Nutmeg Championship against rival Quinnipiac (11–6–1, 4–5–0) hoping to extend their win streak to three. After a back-and-forth first period that featured no penalties, Quinnipiac jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a last-minute goal on a puck that the Bulldogs simply could not clear from Snikeris’ crease, giving the Bobcats one-too-many chances.
Yet early in the second, the line of Zupon, Hughes and Ketchum had their say again, as the puck found its way into the crease of Quinnipiac’s goalie Victoria Vigilanti, and Zupon snuck her way through the Bobcat defense and found herself open on the doorstep and free to convert on a loose puck. The Bobcats started to increase the shot differential throughout the second, but Snikeris made save after save to keep the game tied until just nine minutes were left in the period, when Quinnipiac’s Brittany Lyons found the back of the net on a shot Snikeris tipped, but couldn’t stop.
Yale battled throughout the remainder of the game, but while Snikeris’ 41 saves kept the Bulldog deficit to just one, Quinnipiac controlled the puck for much of the third, outshooting Yale 43-21 overall.
“QPac plays aggressively all over the ice,” MacLean said. “We need to move the puck faster next weekend and keep them out of the front of the net. We can’t give them so many rebounds and shots from the point when they’re all crashing the net.”
Both Bobcat goals came on loose pucks or rebounds that the Bulldogs failed to clear, but, as their captain noted, Yale gets another shot at their cross-town rival next weekend, following their Friday date at Princeton.
“Yesterday’s loss was really tough for us.” MacLean said. “We really wanted to bring the Nutmeg championship home, but I think we learned a lot from that game that will help us prepare for when we face them next weekend.”
The Bulldogs take on the Tigers Friday at 4 p.m., followed by a rematch with Quinnipiac at the TD Banknorth Sports Center Saturday at 4 p.m.