The women’s ice hockey team really saved the best for last.

The Elis (11-12-3, 7-8-0 ECAC) ended their home campaign on a sweet note this weekend, defeating Vermont 3-1 Saturday afternoon in Yale’s final home game of the season, after falling 1-4 to No. 4 Dartmouth (18-4-2, 10-3-1) in a tough contest Friday night.

The win over the Catamounts (6-21-2, 2-12-0) was an added bonus for the three senior Bulldogs on the team — captain Kristin Kattleman, goalie Nicolette Franck and defender Erika Hockinson — who all contributed to a Yale victory in their last contest in front of an Eli crowd.

In Saturday’s game, Yale dominated from the get-go, out-shooting the Catamounts 15-3 in the first period. Eli goalie Sarah Love ’06 fielded only a single shot-attempt in the first 10 minutes. She would, however, get her fair share of action as time wore on.

With the scoreboard still untouched midway through the second frame, Love stopped a breakaway from Vermont forward Hilary Johnson to keep the Bulldogs out of a come-from-behind situation.

“No one is worried when the other team goes down on a breakaway,” forward Suzanne McGoey ’06 said. “To have that confidence in our goaltender allows us to be more aggressive in the offensive zone, putting more pressure on the other team and being a bit riskier.”

Forward Erin Duggan ’05 quickly responded to the Catamount threat by slapping a shot past Vermont netminder Kami Cote from behind a screen of Bulldog skaters at 6:18 of the second to gain the first lead of the game for Yale.

Forward Deena Caplette ’06 increased the lead to two at 12:53 of the third period off assists from Ali Turney ’05 and Sheila Zingler ’07.

Vermont kept the game interesting by scoring shortly after Caplette’s goal to bring the game within one. The Catamounts then opted to pull Cote for an extra skater in the final minute of the game. Yale, however, capitalized on Vermont’s gamble, as Kristin Savard ’07 scored on an empty net with only 15 seconds remaining to seal the win for the Elis.

In Friday’s game against Dartmouth, the Bulldogs exhibited the same style of play they showed against Colgate a week prior. Yale managed to keep the Big Green at bay for most of the game, keeping it tied at one point apiece through the first period after Jenna Spring ’07 answered a Dartmouth score 10 minutes into play.

After allowing one more Dartmouth goal in the opening minutes of the second period, Love managed to deflect the remainder of the attacks until the final period. Despite her 36 saves and what head coach Hilary Witt called a “phenomenal performance,” Love allowed two more goals in the final period, from which the Bulldog offense was unable to recover.

Despite falling to Dartmouth, Witt was positive about the way her team responded to the loss.

“The good news is that we were bummed that we lost,” Witt said. “In the past, it would have been not that bad to lose 4-1 to a team like that. Now the players are bummed because they know they had it within their grasp.”

Heading into the tail end of their schedule, the Bulldogs are in the best position they have been in for years. They have won four of their last five games, including a stunning 3-2 overtime victory against Colgate (15-12-2, 6-8-0) Feb. 13. With a school-tying record of seven ECAC wins and a penalty kill ranked No. 8 nationally, Yale is looking more and more like the program it has been striving to become all season.

Bulldogs agree, however, that the major focus for the remainder of the season needs to be intensity throughout all 60 minutes of play.

“This weekend, our third periods suffered because we were unable to keep up,” Duggan said. “We were just exhausted, and it showed. We have to focus on keeping our feet moving because when we move, we are able to create great things. It is only when we stand still that our team suffers.”

Yale faces a loaded line-up of nationally ranked competitors in its final three regular season games. The Elis will travel to New Jersey to face Princeton (18-6-0, 11-4-0) Wednesday, and will then close out with games against Harvard (22-2-1, 12-2-0) Friday and Brown (14-8-2, 10-3-1) Sunday. Each of these will be crucial for determining the Elis’ positioning come playoff time.

“At this point, we need to focus on resting up, finding energy, and just be willing to put it all on the line every game,” Love said. “At this point in the season, we are fighting for a playoff spot, which makes every game that much more important.”

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