A new year means a fresh start, and the Yale women’s hockey team seems to have taken advantage of the new beginning.

Having won only four of their last five games before winter break, the Elis (5-7-3, 2-1-1 ECACHL) launched into 2006 with two wins and one tie, beating Boston College (6-7-4) in a nail-biter and tying No. 7 Princeton (9-5-4, 2-2-1) before shutting out Northeastern (4-14-1) for the first Yale victory in 20 games between the two teams.

The Bulldogs had an ominous start to their away match Jan. 2 against Boston College, with the Eagles notching a goal just four and a half minutes into the first period. After a scoreless first frame, the Elis rebounded in the second, pulling off two goals within two minutes of each other to swing the score in Yale’s favor.

But Boston College answered in the third, tying the score at two all. Later, with just two minutes remaining in regulation, an Eagles power play should have assured at least overtime, if not a Boston College victory. The Bulldogs, however, won the game on a short-handed goal scored with some unusual help.

A clearing save by goalie Sarah Love ’06 earned her a rare assist when forward Deena Caplette ’06 gave the Elis the decisive lead with 34.8 seconds left. The last of Love’s 16 saves clinched the Yale victory with 5.1 seconds remaining.

The home game versus Princeton last Friday proved to be even more exciting. Once again the Bulldogs suffered from a scoring drought in the first period, with the score 2-0 at intermission in the Tigers’ favor. But the Elis made it onto the scoreboard only 44 seconds into the second period and matched Princeton ten minutes later. The Tigers managed to respond within two minutes, but Yale again brought the score to a tie.

The third period saw Yale and Princeton trading goals until time ran out with both sides at five. A scoreless overtime ensued, and the game ended as a tie. Love’s save total, 32, was double her output from her previous outing.

The next day, a tired Yale squad, playing its third game in six days, took on Northeastern. Northeastern had won all of the 19 previous games between the two teams, outscoring Yale 107-14.

The Elis, however, were not swayed by the past, scoring less than halfway through the first frame. A scoreless second period, despite 11 Yale shots, was followed up by two Yale goals in the third, resulting in a 3-0 win.

Shivon Zilis ’08, Love’s heir apparent, took the net against Northeastern both to relieve the senior and earn some experience. Zilis earned her third shut-out in just five career starts and notched 16 saves, including four during a single Northeastern power play.

The Yale performances against Princeton and Northeastern came despite a depleted defense. The Bulldogs only boast five blueliners when healthy, and were down to four because Carry Resor ’09 was too sick to play. Kristen Stupay ’09, normally a forward, came off that position to fill in for Resor. Forward Crysti Howser ’09 said Stupay’s performance was good enough that she may continue to fill in on defense.

Howser said the Bulldogs’ offense exploded against Princeton due to players getting more comfortable with their linemates.

“We were on offensively, [Yale head] coach [Hilary Witt] couldn’t remember the last time we scored five times against an ECAC team,” she said. “The difference has just been time — my line’s clicking from just playing more.”

Howser also said the defense was particularly strong against Northeastern, and while the Bulldogs have yet to put together a stellar game at both ends of the ice, they appear headed in that direction.

“The defense was able to bring the puck out a lot better than they did against Princeton,” she said. “So it would be ideal if we could just get all the parts to our game to come together, but I think that’s what we’re heading toward.”

The Elis hope to capitalize on their newfound momentum. Captain Lisa Jacque ’06 said a fresh start in the second half of the season is not unheard of.

“There are some stronger teams in the second half than in the first,” she said. “I think we’re more prepared and have grown up a lot over the last semester.”

The Bulldogs travel this Friday to Canton, NY to face St. Lawrence, followed by a match Saturday against Clarkson. Forward Jenna Spring ’07 said the games constitute “one of [the team’s] biggest weekends.”

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