Faced with three chances to pull off significant upset victories, the Yale women’s hockey team could only emerge victorious in the one game the Bulldogs were favored to win.
Following 6–3 and 4–1 defeats at No. 3 Minnesota (15–1–0, 11–1–0 WCHA) a week earlier, the Elis (2–7–1, 1–3–1 ECAC Hockey) finished second in the annual Nutmeg Classic Championship this past weekend, advancing to the final round with a 3–1 over Merrimack but falling 3–0 to No. 5 Quinnipiac on Saturday. The win over Merrimack marked Yale’s second victory in 2015–16, with the first coming against Quinnipiac earlier this year.
“Overall, our team is competing well this season,” defenseman Julia Yetman ’19 said. “But we know that we can be better. In a lot of games we have come up a little bit short, which is frustrating. I think we’ve realized that we need to start pushing ourselves more and worrying about all the little things that will make the difference between winning and losing.”
Merrimack (2–14–0, 1–7–0 Hockey East), which is in its inaugural season, replaced Clarkson from last year’s Nutmeg lineup to take on Yale in the first round on Friday. Due to the newness of their women’s ice hockey program, the Warriors have a roster of 21 players, but they are nearly all freshmen.
Merrimack was able to hold the Elis scoreless for the entirety of the first period, but that deadlock did not remain long into the second, as forward Phoebe Staenz ’17 notched Yale’s first goal just three minutes into the frame. Yetman added a goal late in the period, her first career score, to increase Yale’s lead to two.
“We did a great job using our speed and conditioning to our advantage,” forward Gretchen Tarrant ’17 said. “They are a young team, and while they compete hard, they couldn’t keep up with our transition game.”
Merrimack brought the score closer with a power-play goal early in the third period, but when defenseman Mallory Souliotis ’18 responded with an Eli goal less than a minute later, the win was secured for Yale.
Yale’s defense contributed to the win by allowing just one goal, but forward Kara Drexler ’18 commended the ability of the defensemen to also contribute on the other end of the ice against Merrimack.
“The team did a great job getting the defense involved in the play,” Drexler said. “Which shows with the two goals in the Merrimack game being scored by defensemen.”
Just after the game, Quinnipiac (11–1–3, 5–1–2 ECAC Hockey) defeated Connecticut 1–0, with its lone goal in the first period of their contest, setting up a championship game between cross-town rivals Quinnipiac and Yale. The playoff on Saturday was the third time that Yale and Quinnipiac lined up on the ice as opponents this season. The Elis lost 6–3 to the Bobcats in October before following up with a 4–3 a week later.
On Saturday, Yale reverted back to the latter outcome, struggling against their Connecticut foes and falling in a 3–0 shutout.
“Defensively, we sometimes struggled breaking the puck out of our zone against Quinnipiac,” Yetman said. “They’re a team that forechecks hard, and I think that with that kind of pressure we need to move the puck quickly and make simple plays in our own end.”
During the first matchup between the two teams earlier in the season, the Bobcats scored twice in the first period. This time around, despite the 3–0 defeat, Yale was able to keep Quinnipiac scoreless up until 16:48 minutes into the second period.
At that point, Bobcat top scorer Taylor Cianfarano scored the first goal for her team. Nearly a full period later, Quinnipiac forward Nicole Connery extended the lead with another goal for the Bobcats.
“There are definitely improvements that we’ve made since we first played against Quinnipiac this season,” Drexler said. “But there are some things that we still need to work on and put together before we can get to where we want to be as a team. Before we can worry about scoring goals and getting pucks on net, we need to take care of our defensive zone first and go from there.”
With less than four minutes left into the third period, Yale was two goals down and pulled goalkeeper Hanna Mandl ’17 out of the net for an extra player on the ice. Yet the Bobcats took advantage of their offensive momentum and scored one last goal on the empty net.
Mandl had saved 25 out of the 27 shots taken by Quinnipiac, leaving her with a 0.871 save percentage after this weekend.
The Nutmeg Classic ended with the Bobcats taking the Championship title for the fifth time in the last six years. Forward Eden Murray ’18 was named to the all-tournament team while Yetman ended the weekend by being named one of the all-tournament defensemen.
“We’re getting better everyday,” Yetman said. “And it’s exciting because we have so much potential.”
The Bulldogs will go back on the road to play against Rensselaer this Friday and Union on Saturday. Both contests begin at 3 p.m.