After dropping five of its past six ECAC Hockey contests in 2016, the Yale women’s hockey team will look to regain momentum at home this weekend while facing two teams it has found marked success against in the past two years.
Just over a month ago, the Elis (5–13–1, 4–7–1 ECAC Hockey) defeated both Union (0–19–5, 0–10–2) and Rensselaer (7–11–4, 5–5–2) for its first four-point weekend of the 2015–16 season. The stakes are now higher with the end of the conference season just six weeks away, as the top eight teams in the ECAC standings make the conference tournament at the end of the year, and Yale currently sits in 10th place. If Yale wins these next two games, then the four points earned could propel the team from 10th to as high as sixth place in the ECAC Hockey rankings.
“I do not think that [the team] is necessarily happy with the standings,” forward Emily Monaghan ’18 said. “But I think we have the ability to improve our standings exponentially come playoffs.”
The first time Yale competed against RPI this season, the Bulldogs blew the Engineers out of the game early on with a 4–0 lead after just the first period. Since winning that game 4–1, the Elis have been able to produce a similar offensive performance just once, in their 5–2 win over St. Lawrence.
Forward Jamie Haddad ’16, who scored in that RPI win, noted the importance of finishing possessions in the latter half of the season.
“We frequently shoot it into the other team instead of getting the puck through and on net,” Haddad said. “So even though we’re possessing the puck, we aren’t creating good offensive chances.”
RPI’s offense, which ranks sixth-to-last in Division I with 1.62 goals per game, has gotten a significant amount of production from forward Alexa Gruschow, who has netted a team-leading 10 goals this season, but just one in the Engineers’ last six games.
Despite the powerful first period and ultimate win against RPI, Yale still looks to improve its game in the early stages of competition facing an Engineer defense that now ranks 10th in the nation with just 2.09 goals allowed per game. Out of Yale’s last four losses, there have been two games in which the Bulldogs faced a deficit of two or more goals within the first period.
In order to be victorious over RPI a second time around, the Bulldogs have to get through opposing goaltender Lovisa Selanderm, who currently stands second in ECAC Hockey with a 0.950 save percentage in conference play.
“We need to work on playing consistently throughout the game in order to have the best success,” defenseman Mallory Souliotis ’18 said. “Especially starting out the first period well and building momentum in the first shifts.”
The Elis’ first game against Union, happening just a day after Yale’s matchup with RPI, played out in much different fashion. Yale was not the dominant offensive force, but instead found itself trailing the Dutchwomen by one goal within the first 45 seconds of the game. Captain and forward Janelle Ferrara ’16 tied the contest late into the second period, and forward Phoebe Staenz ’17 put through a goal in overtime to secure a tight victory.
According to Souliotis, since that game, in practice Yale has been working on cleaning up the defensive zone by bettering its communication and sticking to its systems. The team has also continued to work the defense into offensive zones in an effort to create more scoring opportunities.
Defense is the strongpoint of the Dutchwomen, who rank 24th nationally with 2.96 goals allowed per game but dead last in team offense with an average of 0.71 goals scored.
Another statistic, however, may be the most encouraging for the Bulldogs: Union is the only team in ECAC Hockey yet to win a single game.
“I think we have kind of hit our breaking point,” forward Eden Murray ’18 said. “We’re ready to play some good hockey, and it’s time to move on from all the mistakes we have made in the past weekends. This weekend will be a huge and defining moment for our team.”
The Bulldogs begin their weekend play against Union at 3 p.m. on Friday before facing RPI at 1 p.m. on Saturday. Both game times were pushed forward due to the weekend weather forecast.