Currently riding a four-game win streak and sitting in the top half of the ECAC Hockey standings for the first time all season, the Yale women’s hockey team meets two fellow Ivy League contenders this weekend with a different mindset than it had just two weeks ago.
Four contests and two weeks ago, the Elis (9–13–1, 8–7–1 ECAC Hockey) were in 10th place in the standings, needing to climb at least two spots to secure a playoff berth. Now after breaking into the top six, if the Bulldogs can secure another four points this weekend at Dartmouth (4–15–3, 4–9–3) and No. 10 Harvard (12–8–1, 9–6–1), Yale can once again rise in the rankings to a potential fourth place out of the 12 ECAC Hockey teams.
“Our team feels pretty good about being at our highest rank so far this season,” forward Emma Vlasic ’19 said. “But we just want to keep building on it. We know we are good enough to be in the top four, and we have to keep working hard to get there.”
First up on Friday, the Bulldogs face the Big Green, a team that has gone winless for its past 14 games. Out of Dartmouth’s 15 total losses this season, 12 saw the Big Green allowing three or more goals.
Despite not gaining a victory since mid-November, Dartmouth beats out nine other teams in the conference in ability to convert on power-play opportunities with a success rate of 20.0 percent.
However, goaltender Hanna Mandl ’17 said that the Elis seem prepared to match Dartmouth’s power-play skills with their own penalty kill unit.
“[Associate head coach] Rob [Morgan] has worked hard in conjunction with our other coaches to improve our [penalty kill] throughout the season,” Mandl said. “This has certainly helped tighten up our defensive zone. The girls have also worked hard to back check to prevent odd-man rushes. In these final three consecutive weekends, defense will be the key to our success.”
When Yale met the Big Green in the first week of November, the Bulldogs tied the game 3–3 with just three minutes remaining in regulation and finished with a tie.
Since then, Dartmouth has lost 14 of its past 17 games, but forward and captain Janelle Ferrara ’16 said this will not impact the team’s mentality heading into Friday night’s contest.
“We definitely can’t underestimate Dartmouth because of the way they’ve been playing recently, but [we] have to realize that they are going to come out flying and do everything they can to get back in a playoff position,” Ferrara said. “We have to match that urgency and push the pace of the game for all three periods.”
Following the Dartmouth contest, the Elis will travel to Cambridge for their game against Harvard on Saturday.
The Crimson — ranked 10th in the nation — has seen a bit more success than the Big Green despite losing five of its past seven games.
“They have a strong goaltender, one of the best in the ECAC,” defender Mallory Souliotis ’18 said. “We need to generate a lot of good quality scoring opportunities in order to have the best chance of beating them. They are a good transition team, but this week we have really worked at readying ourselves for their quick puck play. We have everything we need to beat them, we just need to show up, play our best and see what happens.”
Crimson goaltender Emerance Maschmeyer maintains a 0.943 save percentage, good for sixth in the nation and second in the conference.
Yale, however, has found strong goaltending from its own starter recently. On Feb. 2, for the first time this season Mandl was awarded ECAC Goaltender of the Week for her performances in wins against Brown and Rensselaer.
Offensively, the Elis also bring momentum into the contest with 12 goals scored within their last three games.
“Over the course of the season, our team has built a lot of chemistry with each other,” Souliotis said. “And now that we have figured out who works best with who, people are working really well together and it has shown in our offensive output in the last few games. We are getting points from all 4 lines, which is what we need going into the last few weeks of the season.”
On the other side of the rink, the Crimson’s top goal scorer and top assister lies in one player for Harvard — forward Miye D’Oench. Still, D’Oench has just one goal over Ferrara, who has 10 this year, and is four assists short of Souliotis, who leads Yale with 18 this season.
In the Elis’ previous match against the Crimson, Yale was down three goals by the third period. A two-goal comeback effort in the last 20 minutes of the game brought Yale to within one, but ultimately could not lift the Bulldogs over Harvard in a 3–2 loss.
The Crimson stands just above the Elis at fifth place in the conference standings. As Harvard and Yale compete for home-ice advantage, Dartmouth will seek to get into the top eight of the conference for a playoff bid.
“I’m excited for [the team] these next three weeks,” Mandl said. “Everyone has come a long way since we arrived on campus in August. We’ve really grown as a group. We have leadership, talent, work ethic and the girls all want to win. It is incredible that we have the opportunity to fight for a home playoff spot, and I know we’ll take advantage of that.”
Yale will travel to Dartmouth on Friday to play at 7 p.m. before heading to Cambridge for a 4 p.m. start time on Saturday.