The women’s hockey team hopes to make Ohio State regret the day it agreed to put Yale back on its schedule.
This weekend, the Elis (10-8-0, 8-3-0 ECAC) will play a two-game set against non-conference foe Ohio State (10-9-1). None of this year’s Bulldogs, including head coach Hilary Witt, have ever faced the Buckeyes. The teams last clashed in 1999, and Yale came out on top, 1-0.
“Playing OSU is going to be exciting because we don’t know what to expect,” goaltender Sarah Love ’06 said.
Yale’s most recent weekend series resulted in a split set against conference opponents. The Bulldogs defeated Clarkson 2-1 in overtime Jan. 7, then fell to No. 5 St. Lawrence 4-3 Jan. 8. Forwards Kristin Savard ’07 and Jenna Spring ’07 led the Elis’ offensive attack last weekend. Savard put in a superb performance against the Saints, dropping in two of Yale’s three goals. Spring, who leads the Bulldogs in goals this season, had a goal and an assist on the weekend, raising her point total to 16, where she rests just behind captain Erin Duggan ’05 who has seventeen points.
The Buckeyes are led by forwards Jeni Creary and Jana Harrigan. Creary, the senior assistant captain, leads the team in goals, power-play goals, game-winning goals and shots. Harrigan, a junior, is tops on the Ohio State squad with 30 points.
Ohio State has recently been a formidable opponent on its home rink, but its seven-game unbeaten streak at home was halted last weekend by No. 3 Minnesota-Duluth. Minnesota trounced the Buckeyes 8-3 in their first meeting Jan. 7, and then snuck by OSU 3-2 the next day to sweep the series.
With the two teams boasting almost identical records and strong individual skills, this weekend’s games could very well come down to how well each team executes its special teams. The Yale penalty kill has a 90 percent success rate, placing the Bulldogs fourth in the nation in the category. But the Ohio State power play, ranked tenth in the nation with an 18.6 percent success rate, could give the Elis a challenge. The Elis have been working hard at practice and in recent games to bring their own power play up to the same level of effectiveness as their penalty kill.
“We are always continuing to work on our power play,” Duggan said. “Special teams are something that are going to win close games for us.”
The Bulldogs have also been working on another aspect of their game which has plagued them all season — their defensive zone. Yale has had difficulties this season with clearing the puck out of its zone quickly and efficiently. The Elis have been working hard to tighten up the D-zone in anticipation of Ohio State.
“Our defensive zone coverage has also been improving because we have been working on it in practice,” Duggan said.
Yale’s greatest successes so far this season — a program-best start, a first-ever national ranking, and a 20-year overdue win over Harvard — have resulted from a commitment to working harder than its opponents and surges of irrepressible intensity. The Elis know that it will be crucial to bring this energy and dedication to Columbus, Ohio in order to get the wins this weekend.
“We need to continue to play with energy and outwork the opposition,” Love said. “We also need to continue to get lots of shots with players crashing the net for rebounds.”
Defender Christina Sharun ’07 said that winning the Ohio State games would be an ideal start to the new school term. Friday’s game will be the Elis’ first since the beginning of the spring semester, and the Bulldogs are looking to start the year on a positive note.
“It’s a team we haven’t faced before, and we’re excited to start the new semester and get back the success that we had last semester,” Sharun said. “We just really want to start on a good foot and keep playing really well and keep proving that the program deserves to be where it is.”