On the heels of a four-game winning streak, the Yale women’s hockey team takes the ice this weekend against two nationally ranked ECAC foes. With only three weeks remaining in the regular season, every game is critical for both the Bulldogs’ conference playoff chances as well as their Ivy League championship hopes.
Yale (9–11–3, 7–8–1 ECAC Hockey), which currently sits at seventh place in the ECAC, can boost its position in the conference standings race when it goes on the road to face off against No. 9 Princeton (14–6–3, 10–4–2) and No. 10 Quinnipiac (16–7–5, 9–5–2). This marks the second time the Elis will play both of these teams in the 2016–17 season, as they matched up earlier during a pair of games in late October.
“Our team chemistry has only improved over the course of the season, and people are becoming more and more confident in others,” defender Mallory Souliotis ’18 said. “The forward lines have really begun to click, causing them all to create scoring opportunities every shift and be a threat. Defensively, we have cracked down a lot and become … aggressive and relentless in our defensive zone. The goalies have been playing really well for us, keeping us in a lot of games and coming up big with timely saves, which always helps. We trust one another and believe in the team as a whole.”
The women’s weekend of play kicks off on Friday night at Princeton. When these two teams met previously, the Tigers and the Bulldogs tied 1–1. Since the initial matchup, both teams have notably improved since the early stages of the season: The Elis are coming off of two four-point weekends — their first consecutive wins since November —and Princeton has not lost a game since falling 4–3 to Boston University over Thanksgiving.
Both the Tigers’ offense and defense are led by top ECAC players. Sophomore forward Karlie Lund is Princeton’s leading scorer with 19 goals, which ties her for first place in the ECAC, while goaltender Steph Neatby has the conference’s highest save percentage at 0.955.
However, Yale’s team also boasts top-ranked players. Defender Taylor Marchin ’17 is tied for first in the ECAC in goals for defenders, and captain and forward Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 and forward Eden Murray ’18 have both tallied 25 points in 23 games played, helping to place the pair at 24th in the country in points per game with 1.09.
“It’s definitely exciting to be able to play [Princeton] again and have a chance at beating them and getting a little revenge,” Souliotis said. “Princeton is also an Ivy league game, which is huge for our team. Everyone wants that first Ivy League title.”
On Saturday afternoon the Bulldogs will travel to Hamden for a date with crosstown rival Quinnipiac. Despite their lofty ranking, the Bobcats have struggled recently and are just 2–3–2 in the last seven games — including a pair of losses to Princeton. All of their wins have also come against unranked opponents.
However, Quinnipiac defeated Yale earlier in the season, 4–1, behind three power-play goals in a game that featured 20 penalties. In the last three seasons, the Bulldogs are 2–6–0 against the Bobcats and have lost four of the last five matchups.
“It comes down to work ethic and consistency,” Yip-Chuck said. “We’ve seen that we can compete with any team in our league when we play at our best, so we’ll need to do that for the full 60 minutes in each game this weekend in order to be successful.”
Goaltender Sydney Rossman, the 2015–16 ECAC Hockey Goaltender of the Year, played an integral role in Quinnipiac’s previous victories over Yale. The Excelsior, Minnesota, native has been a defensive stalwart, combining for a 1.60 goals-against-average and 0.919 save percentage in her five career starts against the Bulldogs.
Offensively, forward Taylar Cianfarano leads the team with 12 goals, including two that came against Bulldogs earlier in the season. Her 21 points are also tied for the team lead alongside forward Melissa Samoskevich.
The Quinnipiac power-play units have been potent as well, scoring on 24.5 percent of power-play opportunities in conference, and rank second in the ECAC in power-play goals. For the Bulldogs, who lead the league in penalty minutes, staying out of the box against a lethal Bobcat power play will be crucial as Yale was assessed 10 infractions in the teams’ last meeting.
“We just need to keep on rolling and take it one game at a time,” Murray said. “We are feeling good and are playing solid as a team. For the first time this season we are consistently playing gritty for all three periods and that’s what it takes to win. … It’s really exciting to be a part of that.”
The Bulldogs will drop the puck against the Tigers on Friday in Princeton at 6 p.m. before facing off against Quinnipiac at 3 p.m. on Saturday in Hamden.