Local rivalries can be the fiercest competitions. Regardless of talent, ranking or records, both teams come into the game with an attitude unlike that of typical games. The adrenaline-powered underdog scraps and fights for a chance to topple its nemesis, while the team on top attempts to pull out all the stops and crush the pest nipping at its heels. The women’s ice hockey team faces such a contest tonight at 7 p.m. at Ingalls Rink in a traditionally loaded match with Quinnipiac.

So far, the series between the two teams is tied at two apiece, with the teams splitting their two-game series in each of the past two years. The Bulldogs (4-7-3) have won two of their last three games, while the Bobcats (6-14-2) remain winless over their last six. Despite being mired in a severe slump, Quinnipiac will be geared up for an upset, and Yale cannot afford to take the Bobcats lightly.

“Quinnipiac is a deceptive team,” assistant coach Harry Rosenholtz said. “They have a tendency to get up for the big games, and they treat the game against us every year like the Super Bowl. We need to play excellent hockey to stop them from even getting a chance to get into the game.”

Yale’s defense this season is a major reason for much of the Bulldogs’ recent success. The strong performances in goal by Sarah Love ’06 have been huge; she has kept Yale in a number of close contests time and again. Love has already shut out three of Yale’s opponents, and the ECAC has honored her three times thus far this season with weekly honors.

On the flip side, one of the biggest pitfalls for the Bulldogs this season has been an inability to put the puck in the net. Yale will need to use the contests against Quinnipiac and Union later in the week to transform its offense into a more potent scoring machine.

“We haven’t been scoring many goals this year, but that should change in the next few games,” Love said. “We need to crash the net and bury the rebounds. We have to play tough around the net with or without the puck.”

According to players, one of the biggest challenges the Bulldogs will face against Quinnipiac will be to continue the intensity they have shown in recent games.

“Our biggest challenge will be not to take Quinnipiac lightly,” Natalie Babony ’06 said. “Mentality and intensity will be huge in the next three games, and we cannot let up if we want to be ready for Harvard and Brown next week.”

Despite the looming match against a local rival, both players and coaches seem to be keeping their eyes set on their bigger match-ups down the road. Harvard, who consistently sits at the top of the Ancient Eight, will be a formidable foe for the Bulldogs.

“The next three games against Quinnipiac and Union are games that we should win,” Rosenholtz said. “We need to play well in them in order to set the tone for the Harvard-Brown weekend.”