The women’s hockey team’s bid to build on last year’s record-breaking season started off well Saturday only to see that momentum lost by Sunday.

The Bulldogs (1-1) opened their season with a 4-2 victory over Quinnipiac (2-6) in North Branford, Conn. Saturday in the inaugural Nutmeg Classic. The Bulldogs, however, fell in heartbreaking fashion in the championship game to rival UConn (2-3) 2-1 Sunday at Ingalls Rink. The Nutmeg Classic was composed of the three Connecticut teams.

“Overall we played well,” Nicole Symington ’05 said. “Our scoring chances and shots on goal were a positive for us, but we need to concentrate harder on defense and not make those small mistakes that can cost us the game.”

While Quinnipac had already played seven regular season games to Yale’s zero, the Elis showed little signs of rust or first-game jitters. The Bulldogs did start off slowly, spotting two goals to Quinnipiac, both scored by forward Gillian Gallagher. But the Elis rallied back and scored four unanswered goals, three in the third period. Although known for her passing skills — she is tied for third on the school’s all-time assists list with 45 — captain Erin Duggan ’05 powered the Bulldogs with a dominating hat trick performance. Goalie Sarah Love ’06 contained the Bobcat offense with 19 saves, including stopping all seven shots in the critical third period. Forward Kristin Savard ’07 tallied Yale’s fourth goal with a little less than a minute left to play.

Duggan and her teammates could not help but display emotion and excitement in the home-opener. After going a combined 18-39-5 the previous two seasons, the Bulldogs set the school record last season for conference wins with eight and tied the school record for overall wins with 12. Led by seniors Duggan, Ali Turney ’05 and Symington, Yale has hopes of emerging as a legitimate contender in the ECAC.

One of the goals during the off-season was to better an offense that produced just over 2.3 goals per game last year. The home-opener against Quinnipiac displayed the Bulldogs’ revamped offensive potential, but the Elis could not build on Saturday’s offensive fireworks, as Yale was only able to muster a single goal against UConn Sunday.

The Bulldogs started off strong Sunday, taking a 1-0 lead in the second period off a power-play goal by center Jenna Spring ’07 with 12 minutes to go. Spring was assisted by forward Deena Caplette ’06 and Savard. But the Huskies tied it up on a Tiffany Owens goal with only a minute left in the second frame.

Despite their offensive woes, the Bulldogs stayed in the game for the majority of the third period with a strong defensive performance, led by Love’s 22 saves. Although only scoring one goal, the Yale offense did plan and perform well, getting 38 shots on goal. Yale also caught two bad breaks early on when shots by Regan Gilbride ’07 and Christina Sharun ’07 hit the post. The Bulldogs simply could not penetrate the wall known as UConn’s goalie Shannon Murphy, who stopped 37 shots. The hard-fought game came down to the final seconds, when defender Jennifer Houlden slapped the game-winning goal past Love with only 39 seconds remaining, breaking the hearts of the Bulldogs and their fans.

“It was tough loss for us,” Symington said. “But we can take positives out of it and hopefully we can move on and get better in the season.

While unable to complete the sweep, the Bulldogs left satisfied and excited by their strong performance this weekend.

“We had a good weekend of hockey,” Love said. “It showed us that we need to play the full 60 minutes. We can’t afford to have any mental lapses.”

In both games, Yale’s defense held strong, and its offense showed signs of promise for the rest of the season. While unable to repeat their four-goal performance against Quinnipiac versus UConn, the Bulldogs did execute well offensively. The Elis were simply outperformed by a dominating Murphy. The Bulldogs were also happy with the strong penalty killing displayed in these two games. It was only two late-period mental lapses Sunday that cost the Bulldogs a 2-0 record and dampened an otherwise solid weekend of hockey.

Yale looks to build on its efforts with a pair of home games this weekend against Vermont and Dartmouth.