Despite being outshot in both games, the Yale women’s hockey team was opportunistic in earning a weekend split.
The Bulldogs (4–8–2, 3–4–1 ECAC) were outshot 27–8 against Princeton (4–10–1, 4–6–1) Friday night, but capitalized on two power play chances to earn a tough 2–1 win. Yale then dropped a 3-1 game to Quinnipiac (13–6–1, 6–5–0) in which they were tied 1–1 after just a few minutes into the second period despite the shot deficit being 14–4 at that point.
The 3–1 loss was the Bulldogs’ last action before January, and as things stand in the ECAC now, Yale is tied for eighth out of 12 teams. Eight teams make the conference tournament.
“I think our team is in a good place.” Hughes said. “We’ve hit some bumps in the road early on, but we are starting to emerge as a group …if we continue to work hard all day, every day in practice and bring that mentality to all 120 game minutes every weekend, I think we can put ourselves in a good playoff position.”
On Friday night Yale jumped out to an early lead, as forward Jackie Raines ’14 scored her fifth goal of the year off a feed from linemate Jenna Ciotti ’14.
The Bulldogs’ production continued two minutes later when a Princeton hooking penalty sent Yale on the power play again. This time the top unit of Bray Ketchum ’11, Aleca Hughes ’12, and Alyssa Zupon ’13 did the job for the Elis, as Ketchum fired the puck on net where Zupon got a piece of it and lit the lamp.
The Tigers were able to halve the lead early in the second period, but a perfect night for Yale on the penalty kill and 26 saves from reigning ECAC Goaltender of the Week Jackee Snikeris ’11 prevented the Tigers from closing the gap, and sent the Bulldogs back to Connecticut with the win.
Saturday’s matchup with Quinnipiac was the second in as many weeks for Yale, who had dropped a 2–1 decision to the Bobcats last Saturday. After its victory on Friday, the Bulldog penalty kill relinquished a goal just seconds into its first power play Saturday. Yale killed off three more penalties, but were able to muster just two shots in that frame.
Still, the Bulldogs headed to the first intermission down just one, and despite the huge shot differential found themselves tied less than three minutes into the second period, as Hughes stuffed a rebound past Quinnipiac goaltender Victoria Vigilante for the equalizer.
Kelly Babstock, who came into the weekend as the nation’s leading scorer, as only a freshman, for the Bobcats, regained the lead for Quinnipiac minutes later, and the Bobcats got some insurance in the third when a shot from the point found its way past Snikeris, who was screened by several members of the Bobcat power play unit.
“In spite of a slow start in the first period, I thought we played much better against Quinnipiac this time around,” defenseman Heather Grant ’12 said. “Even though we played better, the team was still pretty down after the game. Losing to Quinnipiac sucks, but we get another shot at them after Christmas, so hopefully things will go our way next time.”
The Bulldogs had a rough beginning to their season, as it took eight games for the Bulldogs to get their first win, a 4-1 drubbing of Union on November 13. But since that win, Yale has gone 3-3, and gotten a big boost from the return of Snikeris to the net after missing seven games with an injury.
Also contributing to the Bulldogs’ turnaround is the emergence of the freshmen class as an integral part of the Yale offense. Raines is leading the team in goals, and her line — rounded out by Ciotti and Jen Lawrence ’14 — has established itself as Coach Joakim Flygh’s second line.
“I think the freshmen have done a great job adjusting to college hockey,” Grant said. “We hoped they would be able to make an impact right away, and they’ve done just that. They scored our first goals of the year and have continued to generate many of our offensive opportunities. We need them to keep playing with confidence and putting the puck in the net in order for us to be successful.”
The freshmen class and the rest of the Bulldog squad will be challenged right away upon returning from break, as Hockey East leaders Boston College will make the trip to Ingalls Rink for a non-conference matchup before Yale returns to ECAC play. That game will be followed by a home weekend against ECAC leader Cornell and Colgate, and another home game against Brown before the Bulldogs start their second trip through the ECAC.
“In order to make a run at the tournament we need to bring our best effort to every shift, every period and every game.” Hughes said. “If we play 120 minutes of hockey every weekend and capitalize on our chances, I think we are going to surprise a lot of people.”