Last season, No. 2 Boston College beat the Yale women’s hockey team in a 5–0 shutout. History did not repeat itself in the Bulldogs’ season opener last Saturday.
After crushing Sacred Heart 6–0 in a scrimmage on Friday night, the Elis (0–1–0, 0–0–0 ECAC) narrowly succumbed 4–3 to the Eagles (5–1–0, 1–1–0 Hockey East) on BC’s home ice in Newton, Mass. Yale held a 2–1 lead after the second period, but BC ramped up its offense in the third to come away with the victory.
Freshman forwards Phoebe Staenz ’17 and Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 both scored in their first game for Yale, and forward Jamie Haddad ’16, last season’s top scorer, also tacked on her first goal of the season.
“It was definitely disappointing to lose, knowing that we had come so close,” Haddad said. “But I think the main feeling was just excitement. … It sends a message to all the other teams in the league that we’re a different team this year.”
Goaltender Jaimie Leonoff ’15, who ranked fourth nationally in saves last season, stopped 43 of the 47 shots fired at her.
Midway through the first period, Haddad scored to take an early lead off assists by forward Hanna Åström ’16 and defender Aurora Kennedy ’14. Just a few minutes later, an Eagle forward shot the puck from behind the net, deflecting it off Leonoff’s back and into the goal.
For the next one and a half periods of play, both defenses held strong and the game remained tied. Facing a penalty kill with just over a minute left in the second period, Staenz broke the tie with a shorthanded goal, assisted by defenseman Kate Martini ’16.
After the second frame, the Bulldogs entered the locker room excited to hold a 2–1 lead. The Eagles, however, would not let them get away with a win.
“I don’t think we came out in the third period with the same intensity that we had in the first two because we were winning and didn’t really expect that to happen as easily as it did,” Haddad said. “We relaxed, and BC was still going full throttle as hard as they could.”
Yale allowed a power-play goal five minutes into the third and another just four minutes later. With 10 minutes left in the period, the Elis were facing their first deficit of the game.
The goal that gave the Eagles the lead was controversial; Leonoff attempted to cover the puck in the middle of a scram in front of the net, but the puck was eventually pushed in.
“As much as it sounds horrible to blame a ref, the puck was covered and the ref didn’t blow the whistle,” Leonoff said. “If the goalie gets pushed in the net and they call it a goal, is it really a goal?”
Motivated to make up for the goal a minute later, Yip-Chuck ripped a shot on net, got the puck back on the rebound and finished the goal. Forward Janelle Ferrara ’16 and Staenz assisted the goal, giving Staenz her second point of the game.
The Eagles responded with four minutes left in the game, scoring a shorthanded goal of their own to take another one-goal lead. The score would hold steady for the remainder of the game, and Yale returned home with a 4–3 loss.
The Bulldogs finished with 28 shots, less than the Eagles’ 47 but significantly more than the 17 they had against BC last year.
“We’ve gotten a lot better at controlling the puck in the offensive zone and making quick decisions with the puck and moving the puck quickly,” Leonoff said. “We’ve been using our speed in the offensive zone to set the pace of the game.”
Both Haddad and Leonoff said that the freshman class, including Staenz and Yip-Chuck, will help to create a more successful season than last year’s 5–21–3 performance.
This weekend was especially encouraging for the Bulldogs because BC and other non-Ivy teams are able to begin official practices and games much earlier in the year. Saturday was Yale’s first game, but BC began its season two weeks earlier and has already played six games.
“I’m actually really excited that we played BC this early in the season,” Haddad said. “I didn’t know how it was going to go. … Even being this fresh and still a little bit underprepared, I think we did really well.”
The Bulldogs are already seeing the benefits of their new strength and conditioning coach Emil Johnson, who also serves as director of strength and conditioning at Yale.
“The one thing that we really took away from our off-ice training this season has been that you can always do better,” Haddad said. “We were faster than [BC] the entire game, which tires them out more than us. We’re in better condition than a lot of [our opponents].”
The Bulldogs will test themselves against another tough Hockey East opponent as they travel to No. 7/8 Boston University (2–1–1, 0–0–0 Hockey East) on Saturday.