When the women’s hockey team plays this weekend, it won’t just be playing to turn around its season. It will be playing to show 30 years worth of alumni what it is made of.
With the celebration of the 30-year anniversary of Yale women’s hockey set for Saturday, the Bulldogs hope to break their three-game losing streak at home this weekend in front of some of the program’s greats.
On Friday, the Elis (5-10-3, 2-5-2 ECACHL) face a Colgate (9-9-4, 6-4-2) team that is riding high after a 3-0 upset of then-No. 3 St. Lawrence and a 51-save performance from junior goalie Brook Wheeler. But the Bulldogs should have an easier time with their Saturday night visitors, league bottom-feeders Cornell (5-13-0, 1-11-0), a squad they beat, 5-2, in Ithaca earlier this season.
Forward Deena Caplette ’06 spoke plainly about how crucial this weekend’s games are for the Elis.
“These games are extremely important for us seeing as how we haven’t won a game in a while,” Caplette said. “We’ll take it one game at a time, but we really need to win both of these games. They probably are going to determine whether we make playoffs or not.”
The Bulldogs hope to repeat last year’s confrontation with Colgate and Cornell at Ingalls, when they beat both teams 2-1 behind top-notch performances from goalie Sarah Love ’06. If they can win this weekend, the Elis will stand a good chance of moving back into contention for a playoff spot in the ECAC, where only eight of the 11 women’s teams make the postseason.
Even though they desperately need both wins, the Bulldogs are especially eager to beat Friday’s opponent, Colgate. Yale has already lost to Colgate once this season, and the Elis also dropped a game to St. Lawrence, the team the Raiders upset on Jan. 21.
The Bulldogs will have to be particularly careful protecting the puck on the power play against the Raiders, who scored a school-record three shorthanded goals in last weekend’s shutout of St. Lawrence. And with Wheeler so hot in the net, the Yale offense will have to kick into high gear to put points on the board.
Defender Kelsey Johnson ’07 said the Elis will have to work on their defense, too.
“We need to invest our intensity more on the defensive side,” Johnson said. “We try to score but we also need to put at least as much emphasis on preventing other teams from scoring.”
However well the Elis play on defense, they’re going to have trouble winning if Wheeler and the Colgate defense put up another shutout. But unlike Brown’s O’Hara Shipe, who beat the Bulldogs in Ingalls Tuesday night, Wheeler is not one of the best goalies in the country — at least statistically. In save percentage, where Shipe is ranked fifth in the nation, Wheeler is ranked just seventh in the conference, at .912. In goals-against-average, Wheeler is at 2.46, well behind the nation’s top twenty.
Love, who knows a little something about leading an underrated team to big upsets herself, said that for goalies, success is all about getting into the game.
“I think this goes for any player, but when you’re having a strong game it’s because you’re just playing,” Love said. “You aren’t worried about mistakes or second-guessing yourself or anything else. You’re just reacting to the play, letting your instincts take over and having fun.”
Even though the Big Red appear to be pushovers, the Bulldogs know they cannot go into Saturday expecting an easy win. Cornell has already surpassed its win total from last year, and it is a team on the rise, or at least one with nowhere to go but up.
Caplette said the Elis would not let Cornell’s apparent weakness prevent them from playing their hardest.
“We’ve played many teams we were supposed to beat but we didn’t,” Caplette said. “In our league on any given day, any team can have a good game. We can’t take any team lightly.”