The women’s hockey team played 40 minutes of strong hockey Sunday against Ivy League and ECAC rival Princeton, but a lackluster first period cost them the chance to win the game.

The Elis (6-11-2, 2-6-0 ECAC-N) fell to Princeton (11-6-2, 7-3-0) 4-1 at Baker Rink two days after playing Middlebury (12-1-1) at home to a 3-3 tie.

“We looked like we just came out really lackadaisical [against Princeton],” head coach John Marchetti said. “The first period set them up for their success.”

In their first game in 2002 because of Princeton’s exam schedule, the Tigers came out with a vengeance, scoring three goals in the opening period.

First, Lisa Rasmussen scored four minutes into the game after she received the puck from Wanda Mason. Princeton goalie Megan Van Beusekom was also credited with an assist on the goal.

At 13:45 Melissa Deland scored what would end up being the game-winning goal, and Gretchen Anderson notched Princeton’s third goal less than two minutes later to open the Tigers’ lead to 3-0.

“We weren’t reacting quickly; they were reacting quicker than we were,” Marchetti said. “We just didn’t play well in our own zone defensively.”

In addition, Yale’s power play, which has been strong of late, suffered, as they had two consecutive man-up chances that came early in the game, before the Elis had developed an offensive rhythm.

“That first period killed us because we couldn’t get back into it,” forward Deanna McDevitt ’03 said. “It’s hard when you’re down three goals.”

In the second period, Yale began to find its offensive touch, with Wallis Finger ’04 seeing two breakaway chances. Finger came out of the penalty box to walk in alone, but was stopped by Van Beusekom.

Then, a pass from Erin Duggan ’05 resulted in Finger’s second breakaway, which she put in the net to narrow the Tiger lead to 3-1.

“I had just gotten stuffed, so I kind of lucked out getting a second chance,” Finger said.

The Bulldogs continued to compete well with Princeton, but the loss was cemented when at 1:09 into the third period Rasmussen scored her second goal of the game on a power play. The Yale penalty had been carried over from late in the second.

“We’re still small in numbers,” Marchetti said. “But so was Princeton, so we were on a level playing field for this game — we knew we had the opportunity, but it slipped through our fingers.”

Captain Katie Hirte ’02 finished the game with 27 saves in goal for the Bulldogs, including 13 in the second period.

Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs faced Middlebury, arguably the best Division III squad in the country. The Panthers have won 136 straight Division III games, as well as six NESCAC titles and two national titles in the past six years.

“We may have been a little guilty of looking past Middlebury,” Marchetti said. “Everyone knows it’s a very competitive program.”

Yale was taken by surprise when the Panthers scored first, with Angela Kapus capitalizing on a scramble in front of the net to rebound the puck into the right side of the goal.

“I think we weren’t as ready to play as we should have been in the first period,” Finger said. “We got ourselves in a hole.”

Yale climbed back into the game at 8:45, when Erin Duggan ’05 passed from the left to Rory Neuner ’03 who one-timed the puck under goalie Kati Madouras to knot the score at 1-1.

Three minutes later, a shot by Panther Catherine Elkins hit the crossbar and found its way to Molly Turco, who beat Yale goaltender Nicolette Franck ’04 on the right side to bring Middlebury back to a 2-1 advantage.

For the rest of the period, the line of Sara Wood ’02, Nicole Symington ’05 and McDevitt had several close calls, but Madouras came up big to stop the trio several times.

A scoreless second gave way to a back-and-forth third period. First, McDevitt picked off a Panther breakout pass in the neutral zone and hit a streaking Symington, who faked the goalie and put the puck in on the right, tying the game again at 2-2 at 7:01.

That same line struck again just 30 seconds later, when Symington passed from behind the net to Wood, who lifted the puck high over Madouras for the Bulldog’s first lead.

“We came out slow in the first period and took a while to get going,” McDevitt said of her line. “Then we scored those two goals to go ahead, but we haven’t really been all that consistent.”

Middlebury fought back and used a late power play to their advantage, as Meghan Stone scored from the left side to bring the game back to its third tie.

After the five-minute overtime in which Yale outshot Middlebury 4-0, the game ended with the 3-3 score.

“It’s a shame we had to work back from being down 2-1,” Finger said. “Their goalie played tremendously, standing on her head and such, and if bounces had gone the other way, who knows what might have happened.”

Marchetti echoed these sentiments.

“She made some acrobatic stops that I’ve never seen in women’s college hockey,” he said.

Madouras finished the game with 31 saves.

This weekend, the team will travel north to play two games at St. Lawrence University. Last season, the team made it to the NCAA finals and so will prove to be a formidable foe. While the Bulldogs’ breakout, forecheck and speed have been improving, they will need to maintain their focus throughout the game and stay alert in the defensive end.

“Preparing for the physical side is one thing, but preparing for the mental side is another,” Marchetti said. “We have to prepare to play 120 minutes against the same opponent,”

McDevitt added that the team can have success “if we can find a way to work on being ready to play for the first drop.”