This weekend, the Yale women’s hockey team was on opposite sides of 3-0 away performances, defeating Cornell on Friday but succumbing in Saturday’s match to surging Colgate.

In their first ECAC match of 2004, the Bulldogs (4-7-3, 2-3-0 ECAC) jumped out to an early lead against a Big Red squad that stood dead-last in the ECAC standings. At 9:22 in the first period, forward Natalie Babony ’06 scooped up a Kelsey Johnson ’07 pass and redirected it past Cornell netminder Beth Baronick.

Yale put on the pressure in the second period, registering 20 shots on net to Cornell’s four. But despite the Big Red’s defensive lapses, Baronick kept her team in the game until the third period. The Elis got some breathing room with a goal from forward Kristin Savard ’07 at 5:28 to extend their lead to 2-0. Forward Erin Duggan ’05 had an unassisted tally at 12:08 to ice the game 3-0.

A new year and some new lines brought success to the Elis, who out-shot Cornell 41-21 in the contest.

“When we came back from break, the coaches had rearranged the lines slightly,” captain Kristin Kattleman ’04 said. “It just kind of seemed like we found some really good connections between players. People started playing together and started doing the little things right, like communicating, passing, breaking out in the zone.”

One of Yale head coach Hillary Witt’s most effective new line combinations is the “frosh line,” featuring Jenna Spring ’07 at center, Lisa Jacques ’07 at left wing and Savard at right. The trio combined for three points in the win over Cornell.

“Those [lines] are working really well together in practice,” Spring said. “We’re getting really comfortable with each other.”

Though infrequently tested during the Cornell game, Yale goaltender Sarah Love ’06 had to make some difficult saves in recording her third shut-out of the season.

“She played an amazing game,” Kattleman said. “It was 1-0 for a long time … The two saves that I have in the back of my mind were just great saves. If she hadn’t been on her game, those two could’ve been in.”

While Yale has been solid on defense thanks to the brick wall Love erected, the Elis have been dogged by offensive inconsistency this season. Their struggle to put the puck in net was epitomized in a frustrating 3-0 loss to Colgate (12-7-2 overall) on Saturday.

In what turned out to be Colgate’s first-ever home win over Yale, the Bulldogs came out to a sluggish first period performance. A defensive breakdown led to Becky Irvine’s 13th goal of the season as the Raiders took a 1-0 lead at 8:43 in the first.

Despite a better effort in the second period, the Elis fell to 2-0 when Kristy MacDonald’s shot bounced off a Yale defender’s skate and into the net.

In the last period, the Bulldogs made a frantic push to get back in the game, outshooting the Raiders 20-6. But in the end, a brilliant 45-save performance by goaltender Rebecca Lahar, combined with Carly McNaughton’s late goal, iced the game 3-0 for the Raiders.

Kattleman attributed the loss to breakdowns behind the Yale blue line and mistakes during the break-out.  But the team’s struggle to score goals despite outshooting many of its opponents remains another cause for concern.

While the team stands seventh overall in the 10-team ECAC conference, Yale has the lowest goals-for statistic. The Bulldogs’ overall output of 27 goals this season translates to a paltry 1.92 goals per game, meaning the team must rely on its defense every night to keep it in games. Such self-derived pressure may be a reason for the Elis’ inconsistency this season – a problem team members are not shy to talk about.

“That’s the biggest thing right now is we’re trying to figure out how to get consistent,” Kattleman said. “It’s so frustrating to do everything correctly one game and then the next game for some reason we didn’t have that consistency where we don’t do things right that we did the day before. As a team, we’re all trying to dig down and see what that is. Over next week, individual players maybe will try to figure out what to do. As a captain, I will try to figure out things before the game so we’re better prepared.”

As they prepare for Tuesday’s game against Quinnipiac – the fifth and final contest on the road trip that began with their games against Mercyhurst — the Bulldogs are bound to remember this weekend’s polar results and strive for a winning streak.

“I think we just have to focus and go as hard as we can and not let up,” Spring said. “Consistency and effort will be our biggest keys.”

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