Even an under-the-weather goalkeeper and a sidelined Olympian defender couldn’t stop the women’s ice hockey team from fighting two valiant battles — one successful, one less so — this weekend.

The Bulldogs (12-10-1, 7-8-1 ECACHL) went down 5-4 against No. 1 Mercyhurst (23-1-2) on Friday at Ingalls Rink. The home squad gave players on America’s top-ranked team good reason to be shaking in their skates, but a buzzer-beating shot at the end of the second period ultimately gave the Lakers a lead that they never relinquished. Saturday’s Youth Day game against Niagara (7-14-5) offered a more satisfying resolution, as the Elis snagged a nail-biting 1-0 victory over the Purple Eagles, ending their seven-game home stretch on a high note.

The Lakers continue to blaze on a 14-game unbeaten streak, capitalizing on a dominant offensive line led by freshman forward Meghan Agosta. The Canadian Olympian came into the game fresh off a hat trick and proceeded to score four of Mercyhurst’s five goals during the match. Goaltender Shivon Zilis ’08 was up to the challenge though, saving a staggering 50 shots on goal despite being ill enough that her start was uncertain until just before game time. In comparison, the Elis couldn’t quite manage a third of the Lakers’ prodigious total, taking just 15 shots on goal for the match.

“Obviously we aren’t pleased with the overall outcome of the game — a loss is never fun,” forward Kristen Stupay ’09 said. “But it was good for us to see that we can compete with, and very possibly beat, a powerhouse team like Mercyhurst. If we’d gotten the puck on their net a little more frequently, I could definitely have seen us winning that game.”

The next day saw young fans in the stands, cheeks bearing blue letter Y’s from the complimentary face-painting booth, watching an intense and penalty-ridden game that ultimately culminated in Zilis’s fourth season shutout. Forward Christina Sharun ’07 notched the lone goal of the matchup on a power play in the second period, with the assists coming from defender Maggie Westfal ’09 and forward Sarah Tittman ’09. Zilis came away with 21 saves for the game, another performance that would have been impressive for a healthy goalie and is vastly more so for a sick one.

“We played pretty well in the D-zone [on Saturday],” forward Mandi Schwartz ’10 said. “We could still work on being stronger on the puck just to shoot it out of the zone when we get in trouble, and to help out our defense and Shivon a bit more, because Shivy had to stand on her head again on Saturday. She played really well.”

This Friday, the Elis will leave the Whale behind for the first time in seven games to take on fellow Nutmeg State denizen Quinnipiac (7-20-1, 4-12). Whether injured defender Helen Resor ’09 will be able to play is yet unknown, but she hopes to be back on the ice this week, she said.

Even though Friday’s battle resulted in a loss, the Bulldogs’ indomitable effort in both games confirmed head coach Hilary Witt’s high hopes for the remainder of the season, she said.

“We played really hard in the Mercyhurst game, and if we play with that intensity from here on out, we’ll give ourselves a great chance at success,” Witt said. “And we will be well prepared and ready to go on our road trip.”