While most Yalies will seek warmer climes this weekend, the women’s hockey team will look to get comfortable in the cold.
The Elis (14-14-1, 10-7-3 ECACHL) who finished in a program-best fourth place in the ECAC, will take on No. 10 Princeton (16-8-5, 10-7-3) for a best-of-three series at Ingalls Rink this weekend in the first round of the ECAC playoffs. The Bulldogs, who will be hosting a playoff series for the first time, are looking for their first post-season victory in program history.
Yale has had tremendous success against Princeton this season, defeating them in both of their meetings. The first was a 2-1 win over then-No. 8 Tigers Nov. 24 in Princeton, N.J. — a win which helped propel the Bulldogs into the national rankings for the first time in program history. Yale’s second victory over Princeton came on Feb. 23 to close out the Bulldogs’ regular season as the Elis denied the Tigers their opportunity at revenge with a 4-2 victory at Ingalls Rink.
“We are confident playing Princeton, having already beaten them twice this season,” Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. “But our staff and players are realistic. Princeton is very good. They have been in the top 10 most of the season. It is going to be a hard-fought battle. Both teams will be prepared and the team that makes fewer mistakes will probably win.”
If the Elis make it past the Tigers again, the team will advance to the tournament semifinals in Schenectady, N.Y. beginning Mar. 12. A semifinal appearance would be the first in the squad’s history, and the Elis would take on the winner of the Colgate-Dartmouth matchup being fought out this weekend in Hanover, N.H.
“I think every player in the dressing room is prepared to be heading to the semifinals next weekend,” Eli captain Erin Duggan ’05 said. “Even though we have to focus on Princeton, there is always that excitement, and this year — for the first time — the expectation to go into the next weekend.”
The winner of the ECAC playoffs gets an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Elis will put some seasoned players on the ice this weekend as they fight to keep their playoff aspirations alive. In last year’s playoffs against Dartmouth, the Elis almost pulled off the upset, falling to the then-No. 2 Big Green 3-0 and 4-3 in Hanover. Although they did not advance past the first round last season, the Bulldogs gained valuable playoff knowledge.
“I think our team definitely has a lot of intensity in playoff games,” Duggan said. “It does help having almost the whole team with that kind of experience. It makes for less nerves. I think our team will be ready to go and definitely take it to Princeton for two wins.”
Five players who recently received All-Ivy recognition for the 2004-2005 season are taking the ice this weekend at Ingalls Rink. Representing Yale will be Duggan and goaltender Sarah Love ’06, who were both named second-team All-Ivy. Duggan leads all ECAC defenders in goals (11) and is tied for the team lead in points (25). Love holds Yale’s program records for wins (12), save percentage (.931) and goals-against average (2.25).
“Duggan and Love have been team leaders this year,” forward Christina Sharun ’07 said. “And they have definitely put in the work to deserve the accolades.”
Princeton’s All-Ivy players are Roxanne Gaudiel, who nabbed the goaltender slot on the first team, and forward Elizabeth Keady, who joins Duggan and Love on the second team. Tiger defender Dina McCumber received an honorable mention.
Gaudiel is an imposing opponent. She anchors the Princeton defense, which is ranked sixth in the nation, and only gives up 1.86 goals per game. Gaudiel is ranked fifth in the nation in save percentage (.929) and sixth for goals-against average (1.79).
Yale will look to its seniors — Duggan, forward Nicole Symington ’05 and forward Ali Turney ’05 — to help guide the Elis through the playoffs. The seniors started playing for Yale at a time when the Bulldogs consistently finished in the bottom half of the ECAC and winning a playoff series was not a realistic goal.
In their four years at Yale, the Elis have made enormous strides from a team that dropped 23 contests the year before they arrived.
“I can’t say enough about the seniors, they’re the core of the team and have done so much for this program,” Love said. “Everyone wants to make this year as special as possible for them and getting some wins this weekend would be a great start.”