The Yale women’s hockey team pulled off a comeback victory on Friday night against league opponent Union in what the team hopes will be a turning point in its 2015–16 season.
The Bulldogs (6–13–1, 5–7–1 ECAC Hockey) fell behind the Dutchwomen (0–20–6, 0–11–3) 1–0 near the end of the first period, giving Union a chance at its first win. Yale then rallied after a weak opening frame, netting an equalizer in the second period and scoring the game-winning goal in the third with just seven minutes left to play. Eli forward Courtney Pensavalle ’18 was credited with the winning tally, her second goal of the season.
“In between the second and third we went out together, determined and confident that if we played within our systems and our trust in each other that we would win,” Pensavalle said. “The last period, our defense was absolutely solid. They played fantastic and also had a great offensive presence which created many scoring opportunities.”
The victory, which marks the Bulldogs’ second over winless Union this season, was nearly as difficult as the 2–1 overtime win that Yale secured in New York on Dec. 5. During that weekend, the Elis also played Rensselaer and came away with a 4–1 victory, but their matchup with the Engineers this weekend was rescheduled for Tuesday night due to the snowstorm.
Union forward Kathryn Tomaselli opened up the competition’s scoring, giving the Dutchwomen an early advantage with just five minutes left in the first period. But after Tomaselli’s first goal, which came on Union’s seventh shot of the game, Yale’s defense clamped down and played with increasing tenacity as the game progressed: Yale would allow only five shots against goaltender Hanna Mandl ’17 in the second period, and just two in the entire third frame.
“I think we were not focused enough to start off the game,” forward Jamie Haddad ’16 said. “Also, I think part of that lack of focus stems from the fact that Union has not won a game in over a year so we largely underestimated them and didn’t really come out with any intensity which allowed them to get a goal.”
The offense also seemed to start the game in a lull, but like the defense, came to life in the latter two periods.
Haddad evened the scoring 12 minutes into the second period. From behind Union’s goal, forward Emma Vlasic ’19 sent a pass to the top of the crease, right at the stick of Haddad, who sent a one-timer into the twine.
Exactly a period of play later, with the game tied at one, the game appeared to be heading to overtime as the first Yale-Union matchup of the season had. The Elis had peppered Union goalie Melissa Black with 31 shots, but other than Haddad’s goal, had not found an answer to her blocker and glove — until Pensavalle appeared as the solution.
Forward Hanna Åström ’16 sent an outlet pass from Yale’s zone to forward Emily Monaghan ’18, who dished it to Pensavalle. From just inside the blue line, Pensavalle uncorked a screaming slap shot that tipped off of Black’s glove, soared over her shoulder and slid into the back of the net, earning Yale the only lead it would need to lock up the win.
“I think the goal was the product of our team’s relentless effort and tenacity in the third period,” Pensavalle said. “We came out together and created numerous scoring opportunities. Mine was a lucky shot that caught the goalie off guard after having been challenged by our offense the entire period.”
This win was especially important because it came off of the heels of two losses against ECAC competition for Yale. The Bulldogs now head into their next game against RPI with momentum on their side, which captain Janelle Ferrara ’16 said the team can use to improve its position in the standings.
Yale is now tied for ninth in the ECAC Hockey standings, and the top eight teams make the conference tournament at the end of the season.
“There is plenty of time to get ourselves into a good playoff spot with nine league games left,” said Ferrara. “If we keep playing together and outwork our opponents, we believe we can really rack up some points and move up in our league by the end of the season.”
Puck drop for Yale’s home contest against RPI is scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m.