After a week off from action, the women’s ice hockey team finds itself steaming headlong into one of its biggest weekends of the regular season.
To wrap up conference play, the Elis (12-12-3, 8-8-0 ECAC) will travel to Cambridge and Providence to take on No. 1 Harvard (23-3-1, 13-3-0) and Brown (15-9-2, 11-4-1) on Saturday and Sunday, respectively. With a chance for Yale to shake things up for the post season, defeat a school rival and end up with a .500 record going into the playoffs, the outcome of the games this weekend is highly significant.
The Bulldogs are well aware of all that is at stake here.
“We are taking this weekend very seriously,” forward Natalie Babony ’06 said. “We really want to finish with a .500 record. Harvard is also our biggest rival, and it would be awesome if we could knock them out of the Frozen Four.”
This week in practice the Elis have pulled out all the stops. The Bulldogs have worked hard at playing aggressively while simultaneously cutting out all the mistakes. Endurance has also been a key component of the Yale’s training regimen heading into Saturday.
“This week we have really been concentrating on moving,” defenseman Erin Duggan ’05 said. “We need to be ready to go and we need to have legs for both the games. These are two very tough teams, so we are going to have to have our best game against them.”
Duggan, who leads the team in assists, has been a major factor throughout the season in the Bulldogs’ success. Pairing up with goalie Sarah Love ’06, who also has been a mainstay for Yale this season, the Eli defensive duo should be able to deflect much of the Bears’ and the Cantabs’ offensive drives.
The last time Yale faced Harvard, the Elis fell 1-5 to the nationally ranked team at Ingalls Rink. Despite the earlier season loss, however, much has changed on the ice for the Bulldogs.
“Even since our last game against Harvard we have developed so much as a team,” Babony said. “We have a really good chance to win both games this weekend as long as we keep playing the way we have been in the last few weeks.”
Against the Crimson, the Bulldogs will need to concentrate on their defense and shutting down some very key Cantab players. Harvard forwards Nicole Corriero and Julie Chu are among the top four points-holders in the country, with 57 and 46 respectively. Teammate Angela Ruggiero is only a few spots back, at sixth. Yale will need to isolate these players and significantly diminish their collective offensive threat in order to come out on top on Saturday.
The game plan against Brown will be a similar one. Defensive zone coverage will have to be solid, and on the offensive end the Elis will need to take hard shots on the net and then crash for rebounds. If they can take care of the main parts of the game, everything else will follow.
“We have been working on cutting out all of the fancy stuff and just getting down to basics,” Babony said. “We need to be aggressive, gritty and tough, and everything else will come from there.”
The most important thing for Yale this weekend will be to maintain its intensity through all three periods of play. The Bulldogs have had trouble with either slow starts or fatigue in the third period, costing them a number of close games. If the Elis can hold on all the way through, their chances of winning will increase dramatically.
“I think one thing our team lacks is playing for the full 60 minutes of a game,” Duggan said. “We need to do that this weekend — play for the whole game, especially since these two wins would mean a lot for us.”