The Yale women’s hockey team returns to New Haven after winning both games on the road this weekend, behind a blowout victory and an overtime thriller.
Exactly one year ago, the Bulldogs (4–7–1, 3–2–1 ECAC Hockey) scored a combined seven goals against ECAC foes Rensselaer (5–9–2, 3–4–1) and Union (0–12–4, 0–6–2), resulting in two victories. This season, the Elis traveled to upstate New York to play the Engineers and the Dutchwomen, and behind six goals in the two contests, Yale once again earned a pair of conference victories. Yale defeated RPI in a 4–1 rout before besting Union 2–1 thanks to an overtime goal from forward Phoebe Staenz ’17.
“When we played as a team and moved the puck quickly, we confused the other teams,” forward Eden Murray ’18 said. “We’ve been working really hard in practice at it, and it’s starting to show in games so it’s exciting to see results.”
The game against RPI on Friday marked only the second time this season that the Elis have scored more than three goals in a contest — the last time came in a 4–3 win versus in-state rival, No. 4 Quinnipiac, on Halloween.
In that offensive outburst, the majority of the Bulldog goals against the Bobcat goalie came in the third period. However, in Friday’s 4–1 victory over the Engineers, the Elis overwhelmed their opponents by pouring in all four of its goals in the first period of play.
“In both games, we utilized our defensemen really well, which created chaos for the other team and led to some of our goals, and some really good scoring chances,” said defenseman Mallory Souliotis ’18, who scored the third Yale goal. “We have been working hard on involving the defense more in the offensive zone, and this weekend we saw all that come together. Also, the forwards outworked the other team’s defense and generated a lot of scoring opportunities.”
Forward Jordan Chancellor ’19 initially got the Elis on the board five minutes into the game. Less than three minutes later, the Ramsey, Minnesota native tallied her second score of the game, and third of the season.
Souliotis followed suit to put Yale ahead 3–0 before forward Jamie Haddad ’16 capitalized during a stretch of four-on-four to beat Engineer goalie Lovisa Selander.
“Coach [Joakim Flygh] wanted us to focus on carrying the momentum throughout the entire game instead of just for a period here and there,” Murray said. “I think our game against RPI was very good in the first, but we lost some momentum throughout the second and parts of the third.”
The Elis’ scoring did come to a halt after the first period. After a scoreless second period on both sides, Yale came within moments of its first shutout of the season. However, with less than 45 seconds remaining on the clock, RPI was able to sneak the puck past goalkeeper Hanna Mandl ’17, who made 22 saves prior.
Nevertheless, the goal highlighted a meek offensive performance for RPI, as the Engineers only managed to take barely more than half as many shots as the Bulldogs. Yale outshot its counterparts 43–23.
“Our defensive-zone play is something we work really hard at in practice every week, and our hard work is paying off,” defenseman Kate Martini ’16 said. “We communicated very well this weekend and played our system effectively.”
Coming off that dominating performance, Yale came back the next day to face off against Union. Yale had to contend with one of the top netminders in the country, as the Dutchwomen’s rookie goalkeeper, Melissa Black, ranks seventh in the nation with a 0.944 save percentage.
Without much room for error against the talented goalkeeper, Yale quickly found itself in a hole. A shot from defenseman Kara Drexler ’18 initiated a sequence that led to a Union goal. The Dutchwomen’s Kathryn Tomaselli blocked the attempt and proceeded to find Jacyn Reeves, who beat Mandl just 45 seconds into play.
Despite Union’s early lead, the Elis actually outshot the Dutchwomen 21–3 in the first period, with Black saving each attempt. In the second period, Yale’s barrage of attempts continued. Between the 18:03 and 19:53 marks of the period, the Bulldogs attempted five consecutive shots. It was only after a sixth attempt, this one from captain and forward Janelle Ferrara ’16, that the Bulldogs finally broke through.
“During the second period we had a few shifts in a row where they could not get it out of their defensive zone,” Souliotis said. “These few shifts took the momentum and eventually led to our goal to tie the game.”
After Ferrara’s goal, both teams failed to score again during regulation. The competition quickly became a battle of goalkeepers, as by the end of the third period, Black had saved 44 out of 45 shots faced while Mandl had defended 22 of 23.
After a level 60 minutes of action, the Bulldogs wasted no time in scoring the game-winner. Chancellor won the faceoff, which resulted in Souliotis dishing the puck to Staenz, who attempted the first shot of overtime. Black made a save only for the former Olympian to pick up the rebound, circle around the net and score a back-handed goal to lift the Elis to victory.
“We still need to work on pushing the pace and playing a full 60 minutes,” Souliotis said. “We need to play to our systems the entire game because that’s when we play best. For the most part, it’s the small details that will put this team in a really good position for the rest of the year.”
The 2–1 thriller spoke to the parity in the ECAC, something Martini commented on following the weekend sweep.
All 12 conference teams have a combined total of three loses or ties in conference play. In three of the past four seasons, the champion had no more than four total losses or ties during ECAC play.
In addition, after Quinnipiac’s 16 first-place points, nine teams are within five points of each other, including Yale. The Elis are now tied for eighth with RPI, in a position Souliotis believes the team can improve upon.
“This team has a lot of potential,” Souliotis said. “And we are really excited to close out the first half of the season and get back after it in January.”
Yale returns to action on Sunday with its final nonconference test of the season, a 2 p.m. meeting against New Hampshire.