The Yale women’s ice hockey team will continue its final push towards the playoffs this weekend with contests at No. 10 Quinnipiac and at Princeton.
The Bulldogs (7–13–5, 5–8–5 ECAC) are still seventh in the ECAC and risk falling out of a playoff spot if they lose their two-point advantage in the standings over ninth-place Dartmouth in the last four games of the season.
Yale fell 3–2 to Princeton (12–9–4, 8–7–3) on Nov. 8, and tied nearby rival Quinnipiac (17–5–8, 8–4–6) in a scoreless matchup the next night. Later that month, the Bobcats got the best of the Bulldogs, 3–2, in the finals of the Nutmeg Classic tournament.
“Whenever we play Quinnipiac, it’s always a really fun game, and everyone always works really hard because it’s extra special,” said defenseman Madi Murray ’15. “For Princeton, I just really hope that we show up, because it should be a fair game and we should have a good chance of beating them.”
That first Princeton-Quinnipiac weekend was early in the season, and the Bulldogs have gone 7–8–4 since then. Recently, however, the team is back in a slump, with no wins in the Elis’ past four games.
Last weekend, Yale lost to Union and tied Rensselaer, two opponents that it had beaten earlier in the season.
Murray attributed the losses to the Bulldogs’ recurring problem of playing worse against weaker teams than they do against more talented opponents.
“Often when you know you’re playing one of the top-ranked teams, you have a little bit more stress and a little bit more pressure to perform well,” Murray said. “When you play a team that’s not as highly ranked, you might feel less inclined to prepare carefully. That’s one of our biggest issues right now.”
Forward Jackie Raines ’15 added that Yale’s penalties have created problems over the past two weeks.
Last weekend, the team accumulated 26 minutes of penalties over the two games, three minutes per game above its average, and allowed Union to score two power play goals.
“Five-on-five we’ve been doing well, but as soon we get penalties it’s really hard to recover,” Raines said.
Heading into the weekend, Quinnipiac and Princeton have the advantage both offensively and defensively over Yale. The Bobcat defense ranks fifth in the country with just 1.47 goals allowed per game.
Yale’s offense will be challenged even further without its two leading scorers, forwards Phoebe Staenz ’17 and Jamie Haddad ’16.
Staenz is at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, playing for Switzerland, where she scored her first Olympic goal on Wednesday against Finland. Haddad will serve a suspension on Friday following a penalty in last week’s game against Rensselaer.
Those two have not been the exclusive offensive contributors, however: 10 Eli skaters have scored three or more goals this season.
“[The forwards] will have to go to the net more than they usually do,” defenseman and captain Tara Tomimoto ’14 said. “But that’s definitely something they can accomplish.”
Forward Janelle Ferrara ’16 is second on the team in points with 23, and Raines has scored four times in the eight games she has played since returning from injury.
Murray, Tomimoto and Raines all said that they were confident in Yale’s ability to secure a playoff spot by placing in the top eight of the ECAC.
Raines said the team’s current goal is a fifth place finish, which would require overcoming a six-point deficit between Yale and St. Lawrence.
“In general, we’re confident going into this weekend and ready to bounce back from the past two weekends,” Raines said. “With four games left in the regular season, everyone’s out and hungry for points.”
The puck will drop tonight at 7:00 in Hamden, Conn., and at 4:00 p.m. tomorrow in Princeton, N.J.