After 27 games, spanning over four months and 1,630 minutes of physically demanding play, the 2015–16 season for the Yale women’s hockey team now hinges on just one weekend.
Out of the eight teams that make the ECAC postseason each year, Yale (10–16–1, 9–10–1 ECAC Hockey) currently sits in eighth — teetering on the edge, only one point ahead of ninth-place Cornell. Should the Bulldogs win their games Friday at St. Lawrence (14–13–5, 8–8–4) and Saturday at No. 5 Clarkson (24–3–5, 12–3–5), they would be guaranteed a conference playoff spot, but should they fail to win both games, their playoff hopes would be put in doubt.
“Knowing what’s at stake this weekend, we haven’t changed our approach or preparation very much, in that we’re focusing on the process and how we play more so than just the outcome,” forward Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 said. “But there’s definitely been an extra edge and urgency present that we intend to carry into these games.”
Despite a 5–2 victory for Yale against St. Lawrence on Jan. 9, other aspects of the matchup appear to be more equal on paper. The Saints hold the nation’s 16th-ranked offense, while Yale has the 15th. St. Lawrence has the 21st-best defense, and Yale has the 31st.
The teams’ records also indicate the potential for a closer game than that January result. The Saints are tied for sixth in the ECAC, one slot ahead of the Bulldogs, and only by one point.
That closeness between the two teams adds extra gravity to the matchup, as a win would push Yale up to seventh in the standings heading into Saturday’s contest. With Rensselaer also just one point ahead of the Bulldogs in the standings, the team has a shot at jumping to sixth if results around the conference play out in their favor.
And according to forward Brittany Wheeler ’18, the team is confident it can garner a win over St. Lawrence once again.
“[We can beat St. Lawrence] if we play our game,” Wheeler said. “We definitely can [win], we just have to make sure we show up playing our style.”
Saturday’s game, however, may be more of an uphill battle for the Elis. Clarkson’s offense has been the seventh-best in the nation this year, and its defense has been fifth, marking a balanced squad that scores 2.22 more goals per game than its opponents.
The matchup also features disparities on an individual level. Golden Knight goalie Shea Tiley has recorded seven shutouts this season, while Yale’s Hanna Mandl ’17 has yet to record one. Clarkson’s leading goal scorer, Cayley Mercer, ranks seventh in the nation with 21 goals in 32 games. Yale does not have any skaters in the top 50 of the national goals leaderboard.
Still, a victory over Clarkson would not be the Elis’ only major upset victory this season. On Oct. 31, David conquered Goliath when Yale outlasted No. 4 Quinnipiac, 4–3. Thus, the team thoroughly believes, this coming Saturday, it can rediscover the magic of that Halloween night.
“We feel pretty confident,” forward Jamie Haddad ’16 said. “That’s the mindset we want to have every game. I think we can beat every team in our league. It’s just about showing up to play well and putting in the work to do so.”
Friday’s contest will begin at 7 p.m., and Saturday’s will start at 4 p.m.