After dropping four of its last five games, the Yale women’s ice hockey team tallied two exciting victories, shutting-out Cornell (1-13-0, 4-17-1 ECAC) 4-0 Saturday afternoon and coming from behind to defeat No. 14 Colgate (15-12-2, 6-8-0) 3-2 in Friday evening’s overtime thriller at Ingall’s Rink.

The pair of wins puts the Elis (10-11-3, 6-7-0) at their best season record since 1985-86 and moves them into a tie for sixth in the ECAC, while the Big Red drop to ninth in the conference.

Yale forward Nicole Symington ’05 attributed the Eli upswing to the increasing level of comfort on the ice for a number of her younger teammates.

“I think a huge part of it is game experience and time,” Symington said. “When you have eight freshmen come in and play as much as ours do, I think there is an adjustment period for them and everyone else.”

In Saturday’s shutout, Yale came out in a frenzy, still juiced from Friday’s win over a nationally-ranked team. Goalie Sarah Love ’06 warded off an early Big Red offensive push, stopping Cornell’s first nine shots in the early minutes of the game. The Bulldogs began to settle down, and forward Kristin Savard ’07 put Yale on the board fourteen minutes into the first period off an assist from forward Natalie Babony ’06. Yale never looked back.

“All year we knew we were a good team, but we needed to prove to others that we can get it done,” forward Erin Duggan ’05 said. “There are some kids on our team — especially the Spring, Savard, Babony line — that have picked it up and are finding ways to score and getting our team going. They came up huge weekend, and it has really made a difference for us.”

The Bulldogs continued their scoring campaign in the second period when Symington punched the puck past Big Red netminder Flora Vineberg on a rebound from a power play shot from Duggan. Savard scored her second goal of the evening and third of the weekend midway through the third frame. Defenseman Regan Gilbride ’07 increased the lead to 4-0 off a beautiful pass from fellow lineman Sheila Zingler ’07 to complete the blanker for the Elis.

Love recorded 36 saves in Saturday’s win in her fifth shutout of the season.

Despite the strong showing against Cornell, the real story of the weekend was Friday’s overtime comeback over Colgate.

Just three weeks prior, the Bulldogs fell 0-3 to the Raiders on the road. In that game, the Elis were unable to convert on any of their offensive systems. In the first two periods on Friday, it looked as if Yale was on pace for a repeat.

After a two-goal production from Colgate forward Allison Paiano, the Bulldogs found themselves in the third period down 0-2 with less than six minutes to play.

“We knew we needed the two points and no one on the team was going to be satisfied with an effort that fell short of making that happen,” Symington said. “We had been in that position a number of times this year and I think the lessons that we learned from those games really paid off.”

It appeared the Elis were taking notes — Yale began scrapping together a number of solid offensive drives. With 11:56 left in the game, forward Suzanne McGoey ’06 finally put the Bulldogs on the scoreboard off an assist from defender Nina Resor ’07.

“We definitely were paying attention to the clock as it ticked down, but after we got that first goal with 10 minutes left, we knew we were going to come back,” McGoey said. “We had the momentum and we play well with desperation.”

With the clock running down, Yale began to assault the Raider defense with a number of offensive attacks, only to come up just short.

As the final seconds of the game ticked away, the Elis made one final attack on Colgate goalie Rebecca Lahar. In the midst of a jumble of Bulldog and Raider skaters, Spring managed to sneak the puck past Lahar to tie the game up with only 33 seconds remaining to force the overtime.

After failing to win all of their previous overtime matches this season, Yale hung on to defeat Colgate when Savard scored the clincher on an assist from Babony in a picture-perfect breakaway ending.

“Too many times this year, we were in that position and just failed to pull the trigger,” Duggan said. “Finally things went our way and we were able to tie it up. It was extremely exciting to be on that side of the score this time.”

The Bulldogs are looking at five more games in their regular season — four of them against nationally-ranked opponents. After a performance like Friday’s, however, Yale is looking ahead with a new sense of confidence.

“Instead of quitting when we were behind two goals, we made the decision that we were going to come back, there was no other option,” Suzanne McGoey ’06. “When we followed through with that decision and won the game, we proved to ourselves that we have a lot of heart and character. We’ll carry that with us for the rest of the season.”

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