With the regular season winding down, this may be the most important weekend yet for the women’s hockey team.
The Bulldogs (4–18–2, 3–12–2 ECAC) will play RPI and Union with the hopes of gaining ground in the conference playoff race.
“We’re still eyeing playoffs, and in order to [make them], we have to come out this weekend and win both games,” defender Kate Martini ’16 said.
Yale is currently in 10th place in the conference, three points behind Colgate and two points behind Princeton in the chase for the final playoff berth.
First up for the Bulldogs is RPI (9–17–4, 7–9–4 ECAC). In the Elis’ last meeting against the Engineers on Dec. 8, a third period goal with just over a minute remaining broke the tie and left the Bulldogs broken-hearted, 4–3.
“Whenever you lose a tight game, it gives you more motivation the next time you play a team,” Martini said.
One of the biggest flaws that the Engineers have are their propensity to draw penalties. RPI averages 11.39 penalty minutes per conference game, which is highest in the ECAC.
“The biggest thing for us is taking advantage of the chances we do have,” forward Lynn Kennedy ’15 said. “We have two strong units on the power play, and our defense does a good job getting the puck up the ice and giving us opportunities.”
On Saturday, Union will travel (7–20–3, 0–15–3 ECAC) to Ingalls Rink. The Dutchwomen, who have yet to win a conference game this year, have scored eight goals in their previous nine games, all losses.
The Bulldogs tied Union in their last meeting in December 1–1. While the Dutchwomen scored their lone goal on a power play, penalty killing has proven to be a team strongpoint for Yale as of late. Yale has successfully stopped its last 23 penalties in a row.
“[Penalty killing] is hugely important to the team’s success,” Kennedy said. “When successful, our penalty killing has been great for momentum and energy.”
This year’s freshman class has also excelled throughout the season, with the top three scorers on the team all freshmen. Martini tops all Bulldogs with 13 points, while forward Jamie Haddad ’16 and Janelle Ferrara ’16 have 12 apiece.
Martini said that while she knew she would come in and be expected to produce, she “definitely [did] not” expect to be leading the way.
Another key to this weekend will be the play of goaltender Jaimie Leonoff ’15. Leonoff, whose save percentage places her fifth in the conference, has 801 saves this year. After a 45-save effort against Dartmouth, she may be needed to buttress the defense again.
Yale’s games, both at Ingalls Rink, are Friday at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday at 4:00 p.m.