The women’s hockey team needed only 41 seconds to make its biggest statement of the season.

Yale (8-15-2, 8-4-0 ECAC) scored three goals on five shots, including two in a span of 41 seconds, for the 3-1 win against nationally ranked No. 8 Princeton (15-7-2, 4-8-0) Saturday at Ingalls Rink.

The win was the Bulldogs’ first against a ranked opponent this season.

“We finally made it over the hump and pulled out a big win,” Nicole Symington ’05 said. “We’ve been waiting for this.”

Such a decisive victory has evaded the upstart Elis all season, who have had countless opportunities to defeat a top-tiered team, including Friday.

In the first half of this weekend’s home and home series on Friday, Yale fell to Princeton 6-2.

The Elis had trouble clearing the puck from the defensive zone, and the Tigers scored three goals off put-backs.

“We tried out some new systems, which somewhat worked,” Symington said. “But we had a few mental lapses, and you can’t afford those against a good team like Princeton.”

Defensive lapses have hurt the Bulldogs all season, but on Saturday, they showed no signs of slowing down.

Play was fairly even in the first period; neither team could produce a goal. Princeton got on the scoreboard first when Angela Gooldy beat goaltender Sarah Love ’06 at 9:21 in the second period. But Yale came out fast and furious in the third.

“We were where we wanted to be,” Erika Hockinson ’04 said. “We were only one goal down and two goals can be scored in 30 seconds.”

The Elis, led by their stellar freshman contingent, scored three unanswered goals in the final period. Lisa Jacque ’06 tied the game at 6:20 and 41 seconds later, Natalie Babony ’06 tallied her 11th goal of the season for the game-winner.

Deanna McDevitt ’03 added an empty-net goal with eight seconds remaining on the clock to clinch the win.

“We were playing on pure adrenaline,” Hockinson said. “In the third period of the second game in two days, all the energy is sapped.”

Princeton doubled Yale’s total shots, 38-19, but Love made 37 saves, including double-digit saves in each period. Love, who did not have one of her best performances Friday, was brilliant Saturday, single-handedly stopping breakaways and keeping Yale in a game it had no business being in.

“Sarah [Love] really came up big for us when we needed her most,” Symington said.

Love has been integral to recent Eli success. Their Saturday win marks the latest and greatest stride in the team’s transformation.

“We played a full 60 minute game for the first time this season,” Hockinson said. “It gives us the confidence we need. We are a rebuilding team, and we know we are getting better.”

Saturday’s win also all but secures Yale of a sixth-place seed in the season-ending ECAC tournament, where they could face Princeton again in the first round. The Elis clinched sole possession of sixth place with last weekend’s 4-2 win over Colgate.

Although the Bulldogs, who are five points behind fifth place, may be hard-pressed to make any more headway in the conference standings, they relish the role of spoiler.

“We’ve been disappointing some teams — tying Providence and beating Princeton,” Hockinson said. “And it’s fun.”

The Bulldogs look to surprise a few more squads when they go on the road next weekend to face two of the Ivy League’s best, Brown and Harvard.