A four-point conference weekend could not have come at a better time for the Yale women’s hockey team.
Fueled by strong performances on both sides of the ice, the Elis (7–11–3, 5–8–1 ECAC Hockey) earned a crucial two-win weekend over conference opponents Dartmouth (5–15–0, 3–11–0) and Harvard (3–14–2, 3–9–2) at Ingalls Rink. A Friday night shutout by goalie Kyra O’Brien ’19 and goals by six different Elis throughout the weekend led Yale to successfully maintaining its eighth-place ranking in the ECAC standings.
“Our team headed into this weekend with the mindset that these were must-win games,” captain and forward Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 said. “To come out with the weekend sweep was huge for us for both maintaining a playoff position and improving our chances at our program’s first Ivy title.”
Yale opened its weekend with a slow first period against the Big Green. The two teams traded shots in the early goings, but neither could find its way past netminders Robyn Chemago and O’Brien. With just 12 seconds remaining in the first period, however, Yale lit the lamp, seizing a 1–0 lead after a long pass from forward Jordan Chancellor ’19 found defender Mallory Souliotis ’18 for a long strike.
In just her fourth career start, O’Brien had a breakout performance in goal that showed particularly in the second period of the game. Despite being outshot 10–9 and unable to produce any goals, the Bulldogs retained their one-goal lead heading into the third period thanks to a strong Eli defense. Nearly half of O’Brien’s 25 saves in the shutout came in the middle period of play.
“I definitely felt prepared for [the game] and confident after getting in the St. Lawrence game last weekend and having a solid week of practice,” O’Brien said. “I try not to think about a shutout during games, but just focused on taking one shot at a time. The defense did a great job winning their battles down low and transitioning the puck up to breakout. … We kept things simple in our end which helped generate more offense and contributed to our success.”
With the third period well underway, Yale remained ahead by just a single goal. After exchanging more shots and a handful of penalties on each side, the Bulldogs strengthened their lead with another score when forward Eden Murray ’18 deflected a shot initially off the stick of defender Julia Yetman ’19 into the net with just over 12 minutes to play. The final goal came when Dartmouth, down by two goals with just over a minute remaining, pulled its goalie and Chancellor scored on the empty net to finalize the 3–0 Yale win.
In the second leg of its weekend series, Yale took the ice against Harvard on Saturday for its annual “White Out for Mandi” game. Less than six minutes into the opening period, Bulldog forward Courtney Pensavalle ’18 netted her first goal of the season to give the Elis the first lead of the game once again. The junior’s seemingly routine shot from the blue line managed to sneak past Crimson netminder Brianna Liang and push Yale ahead 1–0.
Coming out of the first intermission, the Bulldogs were presented with an early power play opportunity but failed to score past the Harvard penalty unit. Shortly after the Crimson penalty expired, however, forward Laura Anderson ’20 doubled the Yale lead, scoring her second goal of the season to make it 2–0.
The Bulldogs continued their pressure and further extended the lead with a goal from forward Kaitlin Gately ’18 less than a minute later. Harvard could not find the scoreboard until 9:51 into the period, after a goal by forward Haley Mullins was upheld after a video review.
It seemed as if the Crimson were poised to tally another score when Murray and defender Grace Wickens ’18 were called for simultaneous cross-checking and boarding penalties to give the Crimson a five-on-three advantage on the ensuing power play. During that penalty kill, the Bulldogs were whistled for another penalty when forward Emily Monaghan ’18 was assessed a five-minute major for checking that also resulted in her ejection from the contest.
Burdened by a two-skater disadvantage, the Yale special teams nevertheless killed off the Crimson’s five-on three-power play despite immense pressure from the Harvard offense. Goaltender Tera Hofmann ’20 played an integral role in the defensive stand, collecting 24 of her career-high 41 saves in the action-packed second period alone.
“I knew Harvard had the potential to get a ton of shots on net especially with the two minutes of five-on-three,” Hofmann said. “I was mostly focused on conserving my energy and then being explosive when I had to on those back door plays.”
Once the Bulldogs killed off the concurrent minor penalties, Harvard continued on the power play while defender Kate Tewksbury ’20 served the misconduct penalty for the ejected Monaghan. The Crimson finally managed to capitalize on the Yale penalties and draw within one at 19:44, reducing the Bulldog lead to 3–2 off a one-timer from defender Kaitlin Tse.
Both teams battled and maintained constant offensive pressure throughout the third period. In a chippy game riddled with penalties, the third period was uncharacteristically clean, and though Yale and Harvard generated a multitude of scoring opportunities, neither team was able to put one in the net in the first 19 minutes.
With just over a minute remaining, the Crimson elected to pull Liang in order to give the team an extra attacker. But time after time, the Yale defense found a way to clear the puck out of its own zone and stave off an equalizer, winning the White Out for Mandi game 3–2.
“It was an incredibly important game for our team, not only because we were playing Harvard, but also because it was done in memory of Mandi,” Hofmann said. “When people speak of her they always talk about her passion to learn and improve and the positive energy that she brought every single day. I think we would have made her proud had she been watching.”
Yale continues its ECAC action this Friday, taking on Brown in a home-and-home weekend.