With just five regular season gamesleft, the women’s hockey team knew it had to break out of its recent 1–4 slide if it wanted to secure an ECAC playoff berth. A win and a tie over the weekend kept the team’s hopes alive, and the Bulldogs are now within two points of a coveted eighth-place finish.
After two tough losses to Harvard and Dartmouth last weekend that saw the Bulldogs play well, but still fall short, Yale broke out in a big way Friday night at Union, receiving a hat trick from forward Jenna Ciotti ’14 en route to a 5-0 rout of the Dutchwomen (2–25–3, 1–15–2 ECAC). The Bulldogs (7–14-3, 6–9–2) followed up that win with a third-period comeback at RPI (10–12–7, 8–8–2) to earn a 2–2 tie, a point in the ECAC standings, and keep their playoff hopes alive.
Friday night’s game at Union was a rematch of the Bulldogs’ first win of the season at Ingalls earlier this year. The first 20 minutes saw both teams go scoreless, a period that would not foreshadow anything to follow in the second two. Just two minutes into the second period, Ciotti got her team on the board off a feed from forward Lauren Davis ’12. Eight minutes later, forward Jackie Raines ’14 and defenseman Emily DesMueles ’13, who has stepped up in the absence of injured defensemen Tara Tomimoto ’13 and Aurora Kennedy ’14, combined to set up Ciotti for another tally, giving the Bulldogs a 2-0 lead.
A Yale power play then turned into a special moment for Davis, who got her first career goal to put the Bulldogs up three and round out the scoring for the second frame.
“I can’t even describe what it meant to me to score that goal,” Davis said. “I knew that if I kept working hard, chances would come and eventually it would happen.”
Defenseman Heather Grant ’12 scored the first of her two goals on the weekend just 59 seconds into the third, helped by one of Ciotti’s four points (three goals, one assist) and Raines’ three (three assists). Ciotti then rounded out the Bulldogs’ offensive onslaught with a goal at 13:52.
“Over the past few games, we’ve been forechecking more aggressively and putting more pressure on our opponents in the offensive zone,” Grant said. “As a result, we’ve been able to generate a lot of turnovers and scoring opportunities, which has finally started to show up on the scoreboard.”
The dominating win gave Yale much-needed momentum as they headed to RPI to take on a team ahead of them in the ECAC standings for a game in which it effectively needed a point to keep its playoff hopes alive.
Those hopes fell into peril early, as just 91 seconds into the first period, the Engineers’ Toni Sanders gave her team a 1-0 lead with a goal past goalie Jackee Snikeris ’11. Ten minutes later, Sydney O’Keefe lit the lamp, as well, and the Bulldogs headed to the first intermission down two against the seventh-place team in the ECAC.
The second period was scoreless for both teams, a product of the good goaltending boasted by both sides in the form of Snikeris for Yale and Sonja van der Bliek for RPI. The Bulldogs took seven shots in that period, but all were turned away, and they headed to the third needing a comeback to get that crucial point.
A comeback is precisely what they got. Four minutes into the third, a Grant slapper found its way past Van Der Bliek, cutting the deficit in half, and just 40 seconds later, it was Ciotti who capitalized on a helper from classmate Patricia McGauley ’14 to tie the game.
“Ciotti has worked hard all year and has definitely come into her own over the last few games.” Grant said. “She has really bought into our new forecheck and has capitalized on some great team efforts to put the puck in the net. It’s been great to see all of her hard work pay off.”
The score remained deadlocked at two the rest of the way, and neither team was able to muster any offense in the overtime period, sending Yale back to New Haven with a clutch tie and a huge point in the ECAC standings.
“We just need to keep playing the way we have been,” Davis said of the Bulldogs’ charge toward the playoffs. “When we play a full 60 minutes of hockey, we are a very good team. We need to come ready every day to give everything we have for a chance at the playoffs.”
As the playoff picture stands now, the Bulldogs are just two points behind St. Lawrence for the eighth and final playoff spot. Making up that difference will not be easy, as Yale travels to Cornell (formerly the nation’s No. 1 team and a squad that beat the Bulldogs 5-0 in the teams’ last meeting) and Colgate, who is tied with Yale with 14 points in those standings. The Bulldogs will then return home for their last three regular-season games, a midweek matchup with 11th-place Brown, and a big weekend against sixth-place Princeton and fourth-place Quinnipiac, a team that has already taken down the Blue and White twice this year.
“We’ve been in this situation many times before when it comes down to the last game or two and we need to win to hold onto a playoff spot,” captain Sam MacLean ’11 said. “In the past we’ve waited [until] it was too late … and had to depend on other teams to lose to make a playoff spot. This year I think we were more aware of how close it would get towards the end of the season. It’s going to be a challenge, but this is what we play for, so if we can continue to work hard and get a consistent effort from everyone, then it’s definitely something we can accomplish.”
The Bulldogs next take to the ice at Colgate on Friday at 7 pm.