The women’s hockey team hopes to break out the brooms this weekend.
Yale has yet to win two games in a row this season, following each of their three victories with a loss. But with two games against ECAC bottom-dweller Union, the Bulldogs arguably have their best chance for a sweep yet.
The Elis (3-3, 2-2 ECAC) face the Dutchwomen (3-5-1, 0-4) Friday and Saturday in Schenectady, N.Y.
The Bulldogs are coming off a win over No. 3 Harvard last Friday — a feat the Bulldogs had not accomplished since 1984 — and a loss to Brown. The keys to the Elis’ success in their upcoming games will be maintaining focus and intensity and improving their offensive dynamism.
“I think the key for us right now is to find a way to stay focused and motivated for 60 minutes of every game,” defender Christina Sharun ’07 said. “We know that we can play with any team in the league if we do that.”
The Bulldogs’ statistics for their last six games are indicative of an improved offense since last season. Six games into the 2003-2004 season, the Elis posted 188 shots on goal, compared to this year’s 196, which includes 153 shots against conference opponents. Although Yale scored more goals in its opening six games last season — 13 compared to this season’s 12 — the Elis believe that improved offensive action, dependent on chasing down rebounds and attacking the net, will lead to success.
“We need to skate more,” Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. “We need to move without the puck better and we need to finish when the rebound’s sitting in front of the goalie.”
Sharun echoed Witt’s sentiments, adding that the Elis have shown signs of improvement during this week’s practices.
“We need to get a lot of shots on net and crash hard to put the rebounds away,” Sharun said. “It’s something that we have been working hard on in practices lately, so we are ready to take that momentum into the upcoming games and make the most of the opportunities that we get.”
On the defensive end, the Elis, led by captain Erin Duggan ’05, know that a strong performance is crucial to the team’s success. Yale has been struggling to limit opponents’ scoring chances and hopes to improve on that weakness this week.
“Improving our defensive zone coverage is essential if we want to keep on winning,” Kelsey Johnson ’07 said. “We also need to work on staying out of the penalty box — man-down situations have been hurting us.”
Union, which was ranked last in the ECAC preseason polls, has proven to be a better team than expected. The Dutchwomen, though still trying to post a conference win, have made strong showings against Sacred Heart and Rensselaer this season, and have not given up a loss at their home rink. Forward Ashley Kilstein leads the team with five goals and 12 points. Last season, the Elis took both games against Union, but Witt said the Bulldogs are not taking the Dutchwomen lightly.
“In women’s hockey, if you have a bad day, a team that’s not supposed to be that good could beat you,” Witt said. “We need to come out and play our game. If we do that, we’ll have a pretty successful weekend. But if we don’t come out ready to go, Union could take it to us.”
After Union, the Bulldogs will travel down to Princeton to face the No. 8 Tigers (3-2-1, 2-2) Wednesday. The Tigers traditionally have a strong, fast team and the Elis are expecting an extremely competitive game. Like Yale, Princeton played Brown and Harvard last weekend, but with opposite results — the Tigers downed the Bears but lost to the Crimson. The Elis and the Tigers played to a 4-4 tie in a preseason scrimmage, but the Bulldogs are anticipating a much tougher challenge this time around.
“Princeton’s always going to be a strong team, going to be fast,” Witt said. “If we go out there and play strong defense and get good goal tending and score some goals, we can win. If we don’t do that, it could be a long night.”
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