For the first 40 minutes of last night’s Yale-Brown women’s hockey game, it seemed like the usual narrative all over again.
Brown (11-10-4, 9-4-3 ECACHL) had scored an early power-play goal on the Bulldogs’ All-American goalie Sarah Love ’06, and despite a hard-fought game, it looked like Brown’s 37-game winning streak over the Bulldogs (10-10-4, 7-5-4) would hold up.
Then something magical happened.
ECAC Rookie of the Week Crysti Howser ’09 won the opening faceoff of the third period and took a hard shot. Team scoring leader Deena Caplette ’06 snagged the rebound. The rebound of Caplette’s shot moments later set up forward Jenna Spring’s ’07 game-tying goal just 16 seconds into the third period.
The goal set up an incredible end-of-game comeback by the Elis, who would score three in the final frame to beat the Bears for the first time in 18 years. The Bulldogs can now clinch sole possession of their first-ever Ivy League Championship with a win Feb. 25 at No. 5 Princeton.
Howser said the Bulldogs were thrilled that their seven-game unbeaten streak has put their fate in their own hands.
“It feels amazing that it’s in our hands and that we basically control our destiny,” Howser said. “All we need to do is bring our game against Princeton in what is basically the Ivy League championship game.”
For a team that was losing 1-0 and had not been able to score for two entire periods, the Elis had fought hard early. Yale out-shot the Bears 16-12 over the course of the first two periods, including 10-5 in the second, but was unable to capitalize on two power-plays in each of the first two frames.
Howser said the Bulldogs knew they could still win the game even when they were down 1-0 late.
“The fact that we still got a lot of chances and were somewhat dominating was a signal to us that we needed to pick it up and if we picked it up there was no way we could not win this game,” she said.
The Elis showed their mettle in the third, scoring three times on nine shots and finding every conceivable way to score. Howser, whose faceoff win set up the game-tying goal, notched the go-ahead on a delayed penalty with 12:02 left in the game, knocking a rebound past Brown netminder Nicole Stock.
The nail in the Bears’ coffin came on their own power play. Gaining the man advantage with just under seven minutes left in the game, the Bears had a big chance to tie up the game late. But a minute and a half in, the Elis broke through. Forward Kristin Savard ’07 scored a short-handed goal on a pass from Caplette, putting the Bulldogs up for good and ensuring the win.
Despite only notching 14 saves, Love’s continued dominance in the net was obvious. Love has not allowed an even-strength goal in her past 300 minutes on the ice, and has stopped 125 of the past 127 shots she has faced for a .984 save percentage in that period.
Love’s current season goals-against average (2.21) would beat her own single season record, and her .925 save percentage, good for 10th best in the country, would be the second-best ever at Yale — again to Love’s own record.
Defender Carlee Ness ’09 said the defense and goaltending that came together towards the end of the game were crucial to the win.
“We started out a little shaky, but by the end we started to communicate and play as a team and we were able to pull it out and get the win,” Ness said. “It was definitely a collective effort.”
Yale can clinch sole possession of the Ivy League title with a win over the Tigers in the final game of the regular season Feb. 25 in Princeton, N.J. If Princeton beats Brown on Feb. 24 at home, only a win will give the Bulldogs the title. But if the Tigers lose Feb. 24, a tie would lead to a three-way split of the title, with Brown, Princeton and Yale sharing the spoils.
Defender Maggie Westfal ’09 said she hoped the win would help the Elis add to their program-record seven-game unbeaten streak.
“It was really exciting, and it helps our team because it gives us momentum going into the end of our season and hopefully the playoffs,” she said.
Yale faces No. 2 St. Lawrence and No. 8 Clarkson at home this weekend.