Last night, the seniors on the women’s hockey team showed that they were not yet ready to make Ingalls Rink a thing of the past.

Forward Ali Turney ’05 scored the game-winner just 21 seconds into the third period as the Elis (14-14-1, 12-7-1 ECAC) downed No. 9 Princeton, 4-2, in their last home game of the regular season. Wednesday’s victory marked the second time Yale has beaten Princeton (14-8-5, 8-7-3) this season, the first time the Elis have ever gone 2-0 against the Tigers. With the win, the Bulldogs cemented their fourth place standing in the ECAC and clinched home-ice advantage for the first round of the conference playoffs, which start March 4. This season represents the first time in program history that Yale has ended its season in the top half of the league and also the first time the Bulldogs will host a playoff series.

Playing in front of a record-size home crowd on Senior Day, the Elis grasped the opportunity to show just how far they have come this season — and in the last four years. This year’s seniors — captain Erin Duggan ’05 , forward Nicole Symington ’05 and Turney — played their freshman year for a team that went 3-12-1 in league play and struggled to finish seventh in the conference. Last night’s accomplishments iced the cake for a squad whose season accolades already include program records for best start, longest winning streak, most season victories and most league victories.

“We finish in the top half in the Ivy League and have a .500 record,” Duggan said. “Freshman year, we would never have thought that would happen.”

A rush of exhilaration flooded Ingalls Rink as Deena Caplette ’06 tapped the insurance goal into the Tigers’ open net with 30 seconds left to play.

“When I got here four years ago, I didn’t think I would know this feeling,” Yale head coach Hilary Witt said.

A bad case of the nerves slowed down play in the first period, with both the Tigers and the Elis struggling to hit their strides. The period was marked by turnovers, unsuccessful shot attempts and mental mistakes. The only real scoring opportunity in the period was for the Bulldogs. Forwards Kristin Savard ’07 and Sheila Zingler ’07 had a two-on-one break against Princeton’s Laura Watt. Savard found Zingler on the breakaway, who tried for the give-and-go pass, but Watt managed to get her stick on the puck and thwart the scoring attempt.

“In the first period, both teams were a bit slow,” Witt said. “We just played a weekend series, and it’s been a long season.”

Princeton’s Sonja Novak opened the night’s scoring at 6:05 into the second period off an assist from Heather Jackson. Novak found herself alone in front of Yale goaltender Sarah Love ’06. Love managed to deflect Novak’s first shot off her chest, but the Tiger forward grabbed her own rebound and hit a shot over Love’s shoulder to give Princeton the early lead.

Yale answered back 10 minutes later with a goal from defender Helen Resor ’08. Forwards Jenna Spring ’07 and Turney found Resor just inside the blue line, in Tiger territory. Resor lined up her shot and fired a line drive past Princeton goaltender Roxanne Gaudiel into the upper corner of the net. Spring added a goal with just 30 ticks left in the period off an assist from Duggan to put the Elis ahead 2-1 going into the break.

“We’ve struggled this season keeping up with a lead,” Turney said. “But we were able to hold onto it this time.”

The Bulldogs came out hard during the third period, pelting Gaudiel with shots until Turney was able to knock one past the Tiger goaltender to put the Elis up 3-1. Forward Natalie Babony ’06 and Spring combined to assist Turney on the play.

“You’ve got to be real happy for Ali Turney to have gotten the game winner on Senior Day,” Witt said.

Looking for the come-from-behind win, Watt scored a goal for Princeton 15 minutes into the final period, but the Tigers were unable to score again after that. Caplette hit the open net at 19:30 to secure the win for the Elis.

While the tension was palpable after the Tigers tallied their second goal, Duggan never doubted that her team would come through.

“We dominated them, especially in the third period,” she said.

Missing from last night’s action was Symington, who suffered an injury Dec. 12 in a game against Cornell and has been sidelined ever since. However, it is probable that Symington will be able to play come time for the playoffs, and the rest of the Elis expressed a desire to win and give her the chance to play a final game at Ingalls Rink.

“A lot of people wanted to win for her,” Turney said. “We wanted to get two more games so she could maybe play at home again.”

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