With its improving offensive production, especially on the power play, the women’s hockey team hopes to cool down two hot teams this weekend in a home and away series.
The Bulldogs will be home at Ingalls Rink to take on Division III powerhouse Middlebury College Friday at 4 p.m. before traveling to Baker Rink in Princeton for a rematch with the Tigers Sunday at 3 p.m.
The games come on the heels of last week’s solid trip in which Yale defeated Boston College 3-2 in overtime before losing to No. 3 Northeastern despite having only twelve skaters.
“If we could just get a couple more people healthy it would be great,” head coach John Marchetti said after last weekend’s play. “I think everyone would say the same if they were in our predicament, but we’ll represent Yale as best we can.”
This week, the Bulldogs have turned their focus to improving their team defense and defensive marks, as well as working on the breakout, in order to face two teams that have had great success thus far this season in their respective leagues.
Yale may be taking on a Division III opponent this Friday against the Panthers, but don’t be fooled — Middlebury has gone unbeaten against Division III opponents in its last 136 games and has won the ECAC Division III Championship every season since the tournament was inaugurated six years ago.
In addition, the Panthers captured their second consecutive Division III National Championship last season. Yale is one of several teams on the Middlebury schedule that are in higher divisions.
This season, the Panthers have outshot their opponents 63-4 en route to their current 12-0 record. Junior defender Amber Neil has been named NESCAC Player of the Week twice, amassing 11 goals and 13 assists for 24 points this season. Her sister, Erin, is second on the team in scoring with 20 points.
“They are known for being competitive with D-I teams,” said goaltender Nicolette Franck ’04 of the Panthers. “We have to focus on playing solid defense and use the game to practice our systems.”
One system that has been working well lately for Yale has been its power play. In its past five games, the team has scored an impressive five power play goals.
“I think it is because we don’t rush it,” said Erin Duggan ’05, who assisted three of those goals and leads the team with 11 assists. “Everyone is now comfortable with their role on the power play, and we’ve gotten used to each other, so we know how each of us is reacting in different situations.”
Princeton head coach Jeff Kampersal noted that the Tigers are working on ways to stop the Elis’ hot streak.
“It sounds like Yale’s power play is doing really well over the last three or four games,” he said. “We’re working on our specialty teams, trying to kill that.”
The last time the Bulldogs faced off against Princeton was Nov. 18, when the Tigers scored four goals in the third period to blank Yale 4-0.
“We really do have to go into the game ready to play for a whole 60, possibly 65, minutes,” said Franck, who shut out Princeton for two periods during the first game. “I am confident that if we focus on playing defensively, beating them to the puck, using our power play efficiently and finishing our offensive plays, we will come out of the game with a win.”
The Tigers are coming off a 14-day break, and Kempersal added that he is worried they may be a little rusty.
“Yale defends well and plays hard and it was a battle last time and I expect Sunday to be a battle as well,” he said.
In addition, the Tigers are hindered by injuries much like the Bulldogs, with their most recent loss being co-captain Aviva Grumet-Morris. Grunnet-Morris’ absence leaves Princeton with only three defenders on its roster for it’s narrow loss to Brown.
The Tigers are having a solid season, however, capped by an overtime victory over Harvard and an upset of powerhouse Dartmouth. Sophomore goaltender Megan Van Beusekom was named the ECAC Goalie of the Week for the second straight time and the third time this year.
“She’s a pretty solid netminder, there’s not much room to shoot on her, so she’s playing with some confidence right now,” Kempersal said.
Despite having lost to Princeton in their previous matchup, the Elis are preparing for the game as they always do, according to Duggan.
“They are like any other opponent,” she said. “The only difference is we know what we are up against. That helps prepare us mentally, and we know what type of hockey we will have to bring to the rink.”