With just five weeks remaining until the ECAC hockey playoffs, the conference standings race is beginning to heat up as teams vie for a position in eight-team tournament. One of the teams squarely in the mix is the Yale women’s hockey team, which currently sits at eighth place in the conference.
This weekend, the Bulldogs (5–11–3, 3–8–1 ECAC Hockey) can bolster their position in the ECAC race when they host Dartmouth (5–13–0, 3–9–0) and Harvard (2–13–2, 2–8–2), two teams trailing Yale in the standings. Saturday’s home matchup against the Crimson not only renews one of the most revered rivalries in college athletics, but also remembers former Yale teammate Mandi Schwartz ’11 with the annual White Out for Mandi.
“We need to win almost every game here on out, and it’s totally doable,” forward Eden Murray ’18 said. “If we play up to the potential we are capable of, we can even with the Ivy title. I think the key for us is to focus on playing tough and smart. It’s important that we trust each other now and work hard to support one another on and off the ice. Winning begins the moment you arrive at the rink.”
The Bulldogs’ quest for a weekend sweep begins on Friday night against the Big Green. After losing 12 of its first 14 games, Dartmouth rebounded to win three straight before falling to Harvard this Tuesday. A huge reason for the Big Green’s recent success has been strong performances in the net. In their last four games, Dartmouth goaltenders Robyn Chemago and Christie Honor combined for a 0.951 save percentage and just five conceded scores.
Dartmouth forwards Kennedy Ottenbreit and defender Eleni Tebano lead the team on offense, each with 10 points on the season. Forward Alyssa Baker has also been a spark for the Big Green, generating prime scoring opportunities for her teammates and tallying seven assists in her sophomore campaign. Baker and Tebano teamed up for Dartmouth’s lone goal against the Crimson on Tuesday, connecting for a score in the opening period.
“We’ll need to focus on getting a lot of pucks to the net this weekend and do the little things right in front of their net: screen the goalie and capitalize on rebound opportunities,” forward Kaitlin Gately ’18 said.
Although Dartmouth’s 1.17 goals per game rank second to last in the ECAC, 43 percent of those goals have come on power-play opportunities. It will be crucial for Yale to not only stay out of the penalty box against the Big Green, but to also capitalize on their opponent’s mistakes. Dartmouth ranks third in the conference in penalty minutes, having already accumulated over two hours in ECAC play alone.
The following day, Yale faces off against Harvard in a highly anticipated rivalry game. The Crimson, which has lost 13 games this season, has beaten only Dartmouth in 2016–17, picking up its second victory earlier in the week.
Although Harvard has averaged a mere 1.53 goals per game in comparison to Yale’s 2.53, goalie Brianna Laing ranks sixth in the ECAC in save percentage to lead a strong defense. Bulldog forwards Phoebe Staenz ’17 and captain Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 will face a considerable obstacle getting the puck past Laing, who boasts a 0.921 save percentage.
Instead of focusing on a single opposing player or aspect of the game, the Elis will concentrate on tightening up their play on a wider scale this weekend.
“We are focusing on consistency, winning our battles,” defender Mallory Souliotis ’18 said. “We need to make sure we are sticking to our systems throughout the game and playing an entire 60 minutes of Yale hockey.”
On the defensive side of the ice, goalie Tera Hofmann ’20 will be minding the Yale net against Crimson freshmen Kat Hughes and Val Turgeon, who lead the Harvard offense with eight points apiece on the season. Hofmann, who sports a 0.910 save percentage, combined for 44 saves last weekend against two of the nation’s top teams in No. 3 Clarkson and No. 5 St. Lawrence.
Beyond trying to best their rivals at Ingalls Rink, the Bulldogs will be playing to honor Schwartz, a former Yale hockey player who died of leukemia in 2011. Yale’s annual White Out for Mandi game also serves as a fundraiser for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation.
“It is a huge honor for each of us to be playing in this game,” Murray said. “Mandi was an incredible teammate, person and leader of [Yale women’s hockey]. She played with passion every game and I think that if we want to honor her legacy best, we need to play with the same level of passion and heart she showed every day.”
“Her ability to never give up was inspiring and I think this game is a reminder and a motivator to us all to live by that,” Murray added.
Friday’s contest against Dartmouth begins at 6 p.m., while puck-drop against Harvard will be at 3 p.m. on Saturday.