The women’s hockey team scored more goals in one game against Niagara last weekend than it ever has against No. 6 Mercyhurst (7-6-1).
The good news is that the Bulldogs’ (3-5-2, 2-2-1 ECACHL) new four-line offense got past Niagara’s goaltenders an impressive nine times last weekend. The bad news is that the Elis have only scored eight goals against Mercyhurst in the seven times Yale has played the Lakers.
When the Elis travel to Erie, Penn., to face the Lakers for a two-game set this weekend, they’ll be hoping to make history. Mercyhurst leads the all-time series with Yale, 6-0-1, and has outscored the Elis, 22-8, over those seven games, including two thorough thrashings just last season, 4-1 and 4-0.
Women’s soccer stars and two-sport athletes extraordinaire Crysti Howser ’09 and Maggie Westfal ’09 are already becoming key parts of the Bulldogs’ attack plan. The pair have combined for more than a point per game in their first three outings, and their arrival made the move to four offensive lines possible. Howser said the new offense and lots of work on power plays this week in practice should help the Elis this weekend.
“We have four really, really good lines, and we’re going to be able to run them all game,” Howser said. “And we’ve worked on special teams all week so hopefully, when we do get a penalty, we’ll be able to convert.”
Scoring hasn’t just been a problem for the Bulldogs against Mercyhurst. Before Niagara, the Bulldogs lost two games in a row because they couldn’t execute on the other end of the ice. Not one Eli is in the top 15 in the league in point scoring, and Yale has no players with 10 or more points this season.
But Howser is confident that the Bulldogs’ A game could take down anyone.
“We know they’re going to be a really good team, so we’re going to have to bring our best game,” Howser said. “We have to get some goals on the board because in the games before Niagara we weren’t able to score. We have to get going and keep our scoring going through this weekend.”
Even if the Bulldogs can get going on the attack, they will still have a lot to worry about on their end of the ice. The Elis will especially have to focus on containing the Lakers’ freshman superstar Valerie Chouinard, whose 21 points put her in the top five in the nation and first in her league in scoring. Chouinard is not the Lakers’ only option, either. Junior forward Julia Colizza, sophomore forward Samantha Shirley and senior forward Stephanie Jones are all in the double-digits in scoring. And if the Lakers’ offense doesn’t come through, their defense is good, too — sophomore goalie Laura Hosier has a .911 save percentage and a 2.11 GAA, just a fraction worse than Yale goalie and All-American Sarah Love ’06.
Defender Nina Resor ’07 said the Lakers’ abundance of good players and Hosier’s talent will present a challenge for the Elis.
“Mercyhurst is a really good team,” she said. “They’re going to be really deep and have really good goaltending.”
Love said the Elis will have to focus on containing the Lakers’ top players by limiting their high-percentage scoring opportunities to make her job easier.
“In the defensive zone, if we can move players from in front of the net and keep their shots to the outside, we’ll give ourselves the best chance to win,” Love said. “It’s going to be very important to shut down their top scorers and make them use their weaker players.”
If the Bulldogs hope to win, they are not just going to have to deal with the Lakers’ talent, but also with being on the road. The bus ride to Erie is 8 hours long, and the game starts shortly after the Elis get there. Against a team as good as Mercyhurst, coming out of the gate flat could be fatal. But Howser, who helped the women’s soccer team play up to defending national champion Notre Dame on the road just a few weeks ago, knows her team has a shot.
“If we focus and play the way we should, nothing should be able to affect us,” Howser said. “Not the bus ride, not the being away from home — not anything.”