After a slow start to the 2015–16 season that has included just two wins in 10 games, the Yale women’s hockey team will look to get back on track this weekend with away contests at Rensselaer and Union.
The Bulldogs (2–7–1, 1–3–1 ECAC Hockey) have a recent history of success in the two opposing rinks, having come away from this road weekend with two wins in each of the past two seasons. With RPI (4–8–2, 4–3–1) and Union (0–10–4, 0–4–2) both in the bottom half of the ECAC standings along with Yale, the weekend will be a competitive one for the Elis.
“I think this weekend is a great chance for us to come away with four points in league games,” captain and forward Janelle Ferrara ’16 said. “[Goaltender Hanna Mandl ’17] has been playing great, and if we play strong defensively in front of her, use our speed offensively and execute our systems well, we’ll come out on top this weekend.”
This weekend’s games are especially important because they mark a return to ECAC play for Yale after nearly a month of non-league competitions. Last weekend the team fell to Quinnipiac in the final of the Nutmeg Classic, and two weekends ago lost a pair of games to No. 3 Minnesota, an out-of-league opponent.
In the ECAC, the top eight teams at the end of the season secure a bid into the conference tournament. With Yale currently sitting in 10th out of 12 in the standings, a pair of wins would likely push the Bulldogs into that range.
“Everyone is really excited to be back competing in the ECAC and to get back on the road again for the regular season.” Mandl said. “Since our last conference game, we’ve played some tough teams, including Minnesota, giving us the opportunity to push ourselves to get better. I know for a fact that each game we’ve all improved individually and as a team both on and off of the ice.”
In addition to the return to conference play, the weekend’s contests provide perhaps two of the best chances Yale has had this season to add to the win column.
In their first 10 games, the Elis have faced off nine times against teams which were ranked in the nation’s top 10 at some point this season.
“We know we have a tough schedule and that especially in the beginning of the season, we are going to struggle a little more than we’d like to, but I think that winning this weekend would be a big morale booster,” forward Jamie Haddad ’16 said. “We’re still pretty confident in ourselves and our potential, so we’re excited going into this weekend. But it’s always nice to get the W and to be reaffirmed.”
The first game of the weekend, while not against a top-10 team, will likely be a competitive matchup. RPI is currently ranked seventh in the ECAC standings, but, like Yale’s win over Quinnipiac a month ago, the Engineers have shown their competitiveness with a high-profile victory of their own. Despite eight losses thus far, RPI bested No. 5/6 Clarkson 2–1 on Nov. 7..
The Bulldogs have emerged victorious three times in the past four competitions against the Engineers and skated to a tie in the fourth. Those last four games have also been marked by contention between Yale and RPI: In their past four games against each other, the two teams have seen a combined 104 minutes in the penalty box.
“I think we get more penalties in those games because we’re both physical teams and sometimes things get out of hand,” Haddad said.
On Saturday, the Elis appear to have the clear advantage. Union will be looking to win its first game of the season, while Yale will look to best the Dutchwomen for the third time in a row.
Union comes into the game posing little threat on offense, ranking last in the nation with just 0.86 goals per game. Defensively, the Dutchwomen have fared slightly better, ranking 25th of 37 teams with 2.93 goals allowed per game.
The puck will drop at 3 p.m. on both Friday and Saturday this weekend.