Returning to Ingalls Rink after a month-long road trip, the women’s hockey team is looking to make its homecoming memorable.
Yale (10-11-1, 8-4-1 ECAC) will host No. 5 St. Lawrence Friday night and Clarkson Saturday afternoon in its first home games since Dec. 8, when the Elis fell to No. 9 Mercyhurst, 4-0. The Bulldogs last met St. Lawrence (19-4-3, 9-2-1) Jan. 8, and the Saints snuck by Yale with a 4-3 victory. Yale’s most recent victory came against Clarkson Jan. 7, when the Elis slipped past the Knights (9-10-6, 4-7-1) in a 2-1 overtime win.
The Bulldogs are coming off a 3-3 tie versus Brown last Friday — a benchmark performance for Yale, which had not taken a point from the Bears since 1988 — and an 11-2 rout last Saturday at the hands of No. 6 Harvard.
If the past is any indication, though, the manhandling by the Crimson may be just what the Elis need to jumpstart their recently lackadaisical play. The only other time this season the Elis lost by a margin of more than five goals was against Dartmouth Nov. 6. The Bulldogs responded to this setback by winning seven out of their next eight games, including three victories over nationally-ranked opponents.
“We know that we have to bounce back this weekend and play strong,” Eli captain Erin Duggan ’05 said. “We need the wins and most importantly we need the points to keep us in the top of the league for home-ice advantage come playoffs.”
For the Elis, playing at the Whale has made a difference. While Yale has won only won five of 10 games at home this season, the team is psyched to finally come back to the Elm City. In addition, Saturday is Alumni/Friends Day and Youth Day for the team. The Elis are looking forward to receiving support from previous and potential Bulldogs.
“It’s always nice to play at home, especially this weekend because it is Alumni Weekend,” forward Deena Caplette ’06 said. “So we will have extra support and extra fans cheering us on.”
Fans who watched Yale last season will recognize a few changes made to the lineup. Christina Sharun ’07 made the switch from defenseman to forward and previous forward Kelsey Johnson ’07 will be adding her quickness and aggression to the defense. The Elis will look to this roster shake-up to help capitalize on more scoring opportunities and keep the puck clear of the defensive zone.
St. Lawrence will be a particularly difficult opponent for Yale. The Saints hold a 19-0-1 series advantage over the Elis and stand third in the ECAC. Forward Rebecca Russell, who leads the Saints in scoring this season, as well as holding the program record for career scoring, will be a major offensive threat for St. Lawrence. Russell contributed two goals and an assist in the Saints’ last win over the Bulldogs.
According to Yale head coach Hilary Witt, preventing Russell and the rest of the Saints from dominating Yale’s defensive zone will be an essential part of the Elis’ focus Saturday.
“We gave away goals in the last game,” Witt said. “If we take care of the defensive zone, we will give ourselves a very good chance to win.”
Yale will flex its own offensive strength this weekend in the form of forwards Jenna Spring ’07 and Kristin Savard ’07. Spring contributed a goal and an assist in the Elis’ prior matchup with St. Lawrence, and Savard added two goals of her own. Having scored 10 points in Yale’s last eight games, Spring enters this weekend with a red-hot shot and an eye for the goal.
An offensive mindset will be particularly useful against Clarkson, whose goaltender Stephanie Hansen thwarted many of the Elis’ scoring attempts the last time the teams met. Yale dominated most of the game, and outshot the Knights 29-15, but Hansen came out big for Clarkson with 27 saves. Johnson finally got a shot past Hansen with just 37 seconds left in overtime to secure the win for Yale.
According to forward Ali Turney ’05, Yale will need to focus on moving the puck out of the defensive zone and into an attacking position in order to score goals this weekend.
“We’re working on getting the puck out at the blue line,” Turney said. “Not getting the puck over the blue lines has cost us several goals over the last couple of games.”