The team went 2-2 over break, but big changes on offense mean things are looking up for women’s hockey.
The Bulldogs (3-5-2, 2-2-1 ECACHL) beat then-No. 6 Harvard (3-4-2, 2-2-2), 3-1, for only the second time in 20 years on Nov. 18 before losing to Dartmouth (4-5-0, 2-4-0), 4-2, on Nov. 19. The Elis lost again on Friday, this time to Providence (8-3-2), 3-1, in a closely fought game that was only put out of reach by an empty-netter late in the third. But Yale head coach Hilary Witt’s new strategy of four offensive lines began to pay off on Saturday, when the Bulldogs exploded on offense, crushing Niagara (4-7-1), 9-1.
Kelsey Johnson ’07, a defender who was switched to forward as part of the new offensive scheme, said the Elis’ most recent win was especially encouraging after the loss to Providence.
“We suffered a tough loss on Friday and got together and came back in a way that we hadn’t before,” Johnson said. “We’re hoping that being able to bounce back from such an upsetting loss can be the beginning of a more consistent intensity and team effort.”
One of the Bulldogs’ problems this season has been consistency. The Elis started the season having trouble in the opening periods of games, but they have also faced problems being consistent day-to-day. They have split nearly every weekend series this season.
Saturday’s Niagara game was close early. The Purple Eagles answered Christina Sharun’s ’07 goal at 10:32 with one of their own just 14 seconds later. Deena Caplette ’06 would score the eventual game-winner at 18:41, but the two teams played evenly through most of the first and second periods. The offensive onslaught really began late in the second, when Sharun and Nina Resor ’07 both scored to put the Bulldogs up 4-1.
No one could have guessed the Elis would more than double their lead in the third period. Lisa Jacque ’06, Caplette, Sarah Tittman ’09, Johnson and Kristin Savard ’07 all scored in the final frame, and 16 different Elis had at least a point in the game. Every one of Witt’s new lines scored at least once.
Goalie Sarah Love ’06 said she saw the team coming together offensively in the Niagara game.
“Against Niagara, we just clicked,” Love said. “Niagara has a strong goalie, but we kept having people go hard to the net to create traffic in front and good things happened.”
But offensive troubles were the rule in the two losses. Dartmouth and Providence outshot the Bulldogs 76-42 over both games.
If Purple Eagles goalkeeper Allison Rutledge had been paying attention to the Elis’ previous two games, she would have had to be surprised by the blistering barrage she faced. But Johnson credited the win partially to the new offensive scheme.
“It has something to do with the four lines,” she said. “Every line scored, every line contributed. The four lines are really going to be a strong point and help us to make all our games a complete team effort.”
Nina Resor said she was relieved just to see the team producing offensively.
“We have definitely struggled with scoring this year, so to score nine goals against Niagara was great,” she said.
Friday’s game against Providence did not go as well. Although the two teams played pretty evenly throughout the game, the early goal by Tittman did not hold up in the face of the Friars’ offense, which produced three unanswered goals for the win. The Providence power-play unit was effective, scoring the final two goals, including one on an open net at 19:19 in the third.
The Elis weren’t coming off a good performance, either. They had lost to unranked Dartmouth at home less than a week earlier. Love had 40 saves, but the Elis couldn’t overcome the Big Green’s offensive onslaught, which produced 44 shots to the Bulldogs’ 18. Dartmouth outworked the Elis, but it was losing a game after leading that hurt the most, Johnson said.
“We felt that we should have won that game and that’s what’s frustrating,” she said. “Luckily we’ll have another shot at them later in the season and we hope to prove that we are the superior team.”
The fact that the Elis had upset then-No. 6 Harvard the night before made losing to Dartmouth a huge disappointment. The Bulldogs had played their hearts out against the Cantabs, denying the best power-play unit in the country (.333) on all six of its opportunities. Love had 46 saves and came within a minute of a shutout.
“Beating Harvard established that the monumental win we had against them last year was not a fluke,” Johnson said.
Caplette opened the scoring early, beating Ali Boe on a power-play at 4:46 in the first. Forward Jenna Spring ’07 doubled the Yale lead less than two minutes into the second on an extra-skater opportunity brought on by a delayed Harvard penalty. Despite the fact that they outshot the Elis in both the second and third periods, the Crimson couldn’t get anything past Love, who was at the top of her game, notching 26 saves in the second period alone.
It wasn’t until Boe was pulled with only seconds left in the game that the Cantabs were able to score. But the empty net soon took its toll on the Crimson, with Tittman scoring on a long shot with 25 seconds left to put the game away.
“Everyone was pumped up and excited to play Harvard,” Love said. “And when we won, it was an amazing feeling.”