The women’s hockey team’s smooth-riding season hit a rocky patch last night against Mercyhurst.

The No. 10 Bulldogs dropped the first game of a two-game series to the No. 6 Lakers, 4-1, at Ingalls Rink. The Elis (9-4, 7-2 ECAC) gave up three goals in a devastating first period, and despite strong second and third period efforts, were unable to recover from the deficit. Forward Jenna Spring ’07 hit a power play goal for Yale’s only score, and captain Erin Duggan ’05 and defender Helen Resor ’08 assisted on the play.

Yale was coming off a breakout weekend during which the Elis tied the school record with a six-game winning streak, appeared in the national rankings for the first time in program history, and recorded the best start (9-3) in school history. Friday’s 2-1 win over Cornell and Saturday’s 2-1 defeat of Colgate also boosted Yale to the top of the conference standings.

Goaltender Sarah Love ’06 was named the ECAC Goalie of the Week for her efforts last weekend, which included a 1.00 goals-against-average mark and a .965 save percentage. Love owns Yale’s single-season records for both statistics.

Forward Sheila Zingler ’07 earned ECAC Player of the Week honors for hitting the game-winning goals in both contests. Zingler has five goals and six assists on the season, good for a share of a third-place tie in team statistics.

“Sheila played a couple of great games,” Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. “She definitely deserves those accolades.”

The Lakers (9-4-2) were the Bulldogs’ third challengers in five days, and the Elis came onto the ice flat and fatigued. Mercyhurst scored three goals during the first period, in which the Lakers outshot the struggling Bulldogs 16-5.

“We just didn’t come out to start the game well, and they took advantage of that,” Witt said.

The Lakers hit their first goal at 8:40 into the first period. The Lakers attacked the Yale net, and the Elis’ defensive line struggled with the clear. Mercyhurst forward Samantha Shirley snagged the puck out of the melee and knocked a shot past Love to open the scoring. Forward Sherilyn Fraser assisted on the play.

Forwards Chrissy Yule and Teresa Marchese each added another first period goal to open the Lakers’ lead to 3-0 at the break.

The Elis came out of the locker room energized and looking for the come-from-behind win. During the second period, Mercyhurst only outshot the Bulldogs 9-8, and the Elis kept the Lakers scoreless for the entire 20 minutes. Unfortunately, the Bulldogs were unable to convert their newfound energy into goals, and the second period buzzer rang with Mercyhurst still leading 3-0.

“The second and third periods showed we had the energy,” Duggan said. “We need to find a way to start that way.”

The Bulldogs scored their only goal at 13:45 of the third period. Mercyhurst defender Michelle Bonello received a two minute penalty for roughing, and the Elis turned up the heat on their power play. Spring managed to find the net on assists from Duggan and Helen Resor.

The Eli defense struggled throughout the entire game to handle Mercyhurst’s three-pronged scoring attack of forwards Stefanie Bourbeau, Stephanie Jones and Marchese. The trio have combined for 27 points on the season, and the intense attack proved too much for the Elis to handle. Yale defender Nina Resor ’07 was forced out of the game early in the first period with a shoulder injury, and the Bulldogs had a difficult time adjusting to her absence.

“We had one of our regular defenders go down in the first period,” Duggan said. “So we had to work hard. Our defense needed to pick up, and that’s something we’re going to work on tomorrow. We just didn’t do the little things we usually do in front of Sarah.”

Yale also struggled last night with their penalty kill. Mercyhurst has an exceptionally strong power play, and prior to last night, were 17 for 95 on the season. The Elis entered the contest having killed off 34 consecutive power plays, but their streak ended at 36 as McDonald nailed a power play goal during the 10th minute of the third period.

“Tonight was one of the first nights we didn’t outplay the other team on special teams,” Eli forward Nicole Symington ’05 said. “We need to work on that tomorrow.”

The Bulldogs are looking forward to a second chance to beat the Lakers tomorrow at 12:30 at Ingalls Rink. According to Witt, the Elis will focus tomorrow on playing with more energy, skating harder, and on making good passes.

“We have to play our type of game,” she said. “We need to not let them change the way we play.”