A disappointing start to the new year left the women’s hockey team longing for last year’s momentum, which brought it a program-best 9-5 start and its first national ranking.
The Elis split their ECAC matchups this past weekend, slipping by Clarkson, 2-1, in overtime on Friday and dropping a 4-3 decision to No. 8 St. Lawrence on Saturday. The loss to St. Lawrence snapped the Elis’ six-game winning streak in the ECAC, and dropped the Elis (10-8, 8-3 ECAC) into a three-way tie with Dartmouth and Harvard for first place in the conference standings.
The St. Lawrence (14-3-3, 4-1-1) game was the last in a series of disappointing results over break. The Elis went 1-3 in the first half of a eight-game road trip, dropping games to Maine and New Hampshire as they traveled throughout the Northeast. Last week, the Bulldogs fell out of the national rankings, where they had made their first appearance in program history Dec. 6 at No. 10.
“I think overall the games this weekend were really important because we’ve been struggling a little bit recently,” Yale defender Christina Sharun ’07 said.
The Bulldogs traveled to New York to face St. Lawrence on Saturday. The Saints made it to the Frozen Four last year, and St. Lawrence holds an 18-0-1 series advantage over the Bulldogs. Last season, the Elis dropped both games against the Saints, 3-2 and 5-2.
After the first period, it looked as though the Bulldogs’ history of losing to St. Lawrence was about to change. Defender Helen Resor ’08 found forward Kristin Savard ’07, who snuck the puck past St. Lawrence goaltender Jess Moffat to open the scoring 11:40 into the period. Yale boosted their lead to 2-0 with a goal from forward Jenna Spring ’07 at 18:28. Spring was assisted on the play by Duggan and Johnson.
St. Lawrence, however, was not in the mood to be routed by Yale, and the Saints came out determined to dominate the second period. St. Lawrence outshot the Elis 12-3 and found the goal on three of those attempts. Senior forward Rebecca Russell came up big for her team, hitting two of the goals, and assisting on the third. Laurie Ross added a power play goal to put the Saints ahead, 3-2.
“We got into a little bit of penalty trouble against St. Lawrence yesterday and that kind of cost us,” Sharun said. “Other than that, the games really just came down to mental errors. When the whole league is as competitive as it is right now, you can’t really afford to make those mental mistakes.”
Savard retaliated with a power play goal of her own at 10:07 into the third, off an assist from Spring to tie the game. However, less than three minutes later St. Lawrence forward Christin Powers dropped in another goal to secure a 4-3 victory for the Saints.
“We came out strong — something that we have been having trouble with this year,” Duggan said. “But we need to learn to play 60 minutes and hold onto a lead. We made a couple of mental mistakes and against teams like St. Lawrence, they are going to capitalize on them.”
While St. Lawrence squeezed past the Elis, Yale had better luck elsewhere in the Empire State. A flawless penalty kill carried the Elis past the Knights (6-7-5, 2-4-1), who went 0-5 on their power play opportunities. Four of Clarkson’s chances came during the second period, but Yale goaltender Sarah Love ’06 came up big with 14 saves during the period, including seven on the penalty kill.
“We had a very strong penalty kill and our power play was definitely improved,” forward Kelsey Johnson ’07 said. “It was definitely much more effective than it had been the previous weekend.”
Sharun added that an improved defensive zone performance helped contribute to the win.
“We’ve been working hard on cleaning up the defensive zone, and we’ve really improved on that,” she said. “It’s much more effective than it has been, and I think that contributed to the success we’ve had offensively.”
Yale had a stunning first period, outshooting Clarkson 12-2. The Bulldogs were able to capitalize on their power play attempts, scoring their first goal at 18:57 into the first period with a 5-on-4 advantage. Forward Sheila Zingler ’07 found the net, assisted by defender Christina Sharun ’07 and forward Nicole Symington ’05.
The Knights came on strong during the second period, with a 9-8 edge on shots on goal and four power plays, but the Elis were able to suppress Clarkson’s surge and the period ended with the Bulldogs still leading 1-0.
“We came out all over them in the first,” Eli captain Erin Duggan ’05 said. “In the second, we took some penalties that let them get shots on net- but they didn’t really get any good scoring opportunities.”
Clarkson’s sophomore wing Melissa Marshall knocked in a goal at 6:03 into the third period to even the score. The teams remained at a stalemate for the remainder of the period, forcing the game into overtime.
An incredible defensive effort from both teams prevented any shots during overtime until the final minute. The Elis finally hit a shot at Clarkson goaltender Stephanie Hansen, who managed to deflect the puck away from the goal. Yale controlled the rebound, and Duggan and Symington assisted forward Johnson for the game-winning goal with just 37 seconds left.