It is just two games, but this weekend could mark a major turning point for the title hopes of the women’s hockey team (5-7-3, 2-2-2 ECACHL).
If the Elis beat No. 3 Saint Lawrence (15-2-2, 5-1-2) and No. 9 Clarkson (14-6-1, 6-2-0) this weekend, they will be in great position to move into the national rankings and make a run at an NCAA tournament berth and an ECACHL title. On the other hand, if team points-per-game leader Crysti Howser ’09 (1.5) and the retooled Bulldog offense cannot get past the top defenses of the Saints and the Golden Knights, Yale could fall into the basement of the ECACHL.
Forward Jenna Spring ’07 said the whole team knows how important this weekend’s games are, especially in building the momentum the Elis put together by going 2-0-1 over break.
The Bulldogs have never beaten St. Lawrence in 23 games against the Saints, but have won both games against Clarkson, which played Yale for the first time last year.
Spring said the Bulldogs’ focus is on this weekend, not the games of previous years.
“We want to beat them because they’re a highly ranked team and it’s huge for our league standings,” she said. “We don’t really focus on our past record at all.”
History aside, the task facing the Elis is not an easy one. In addition to playing the second-best defense in the nation (1.11 GPG), the Saints also present a sizable offensive threat. Freshman Carson Duggan leads the nation in goals, and sophomore Sabrina Harbec is second in the nation in assists. Overall, the St. Lawrence offense is ranked fifth in the nation (3.84 GPG).
Goaltender Shivon Zilis ’08, backup to All-American Sarah Love ’06, said the Bulldogs were trying to emphasize winning individual confrontations and playing with heart.
“We have to want it more,” Zilis said. “If you win the one-on-one battles, you’ll win the game. We’re trying to take it one little battle at a time.”
Clarkson is not much less impressive than Saint Lawrence. The Golden Knights have the third-best defense in the nation and have dominated teams such as Dartmouth that the Elis usually have trouble with. The Golden Knights’ Kira Hurley is statistically one of the ten best goaltenders in the country, and Clarkson dominates on the penalty kill.
The Bulldogs have advantages of their own, though. Yale is one of the best teams in the country at avoiding penalties, taking only 10.5 penalty minutes per game. The Elis will have to continue their disciplined play and use their speed and work ethic to their advantage if they hope to beat either the Saints or the Knights, Spring said. Either way, the outcome should say a lot about which way their season is headed.
Forward Christina Sharun ’07 said she knows the Elis can win this weekend.
“Since we’ve gotten back from the break we’ve been playing pretty well,” Sharun said. “Clarkson and St. Lawrence are good teams — great teams. But if we play the way we can play we should be able to be quite successful against them.”