After seeing its five-game winning streak come to a grinding halt against Quinnipiac last Saturday, the Yale women’s hockey team looks to solidify its position in the ECAC standings race and complete its quest to win the Ivy League Championship. The Bulldogs seek to rebound this weekend at home against No. 7 Cornell and Colgate, two teams currently ahead of them in the ECAC standings.
Yale (10–12–3, 8–9–1 ECAC Hockey) will be facing off against the Big Red (16–6–3, 12–3–3) and the Raiders (20–7–3, 11–6–1) for the second time this season in a pair of rematches from November. Although the Bulldogs’ chances of hosting a postseason playoff series are slim, they can establish themselves as the frontrunners for the Ancient Eight crown with a victory over Cornell, especially after besting Princeton last weekend.
“[The win] meant a great deal to us,” forward Eden Murray ’18 said. “That entire game was well-fought and I didn’t doubt for one second that we could do it. We kept Princeton to the outside and played our systems like professionals. The shots were even as well, indicating that we had good offensive opportunities and capitalized more on ours than did Princeton.”
The Bulldogs currently sit at seventh in the conference, ahead of eighth-place Rensselaer by four points and trailing sixth-place Colgate by six points. Because the ECAC only allows eight teams to compete in its postseason tournament, Yale can guarantee itself a spot in the conference playoffs with at least one victory on the weekend or at least one loss by Harvard, which currently occupies ninth place.
When the Big Red takes the ice against the Bulldogs on Friday evening at Ingalls Rink, the two squads will essentially be playing for the Ivy title. Cornell resides at the top of the Ancient Eight and needs just one more win to clinch the championship. Meanwhile, a win by the home squad would likely mean top honors for Yale, assuming the team defeats Harvard and Dartmouth next week, two teams the Elis already swept at home earlier in the season.
“These are a lot of emotionally charged games against rivals,” defender Kara Drexler ’18 said. “We’re really going to have to work hard to finish the season strong. We’re a team that prides ourselves on our hard work, so we’re just need to have to tap into that. We’ll have to support each other and come together as a team and believe that we can.”
But to get by the Big Red, the Bulldogs will need to berate the boards and battle one of the best bluelines in order to have a chance at the title. However, getting past the Cornell defense is easier said than done. Big Red goaltender Marlene Boissonnault ranks in the top 10 nationally, with a 1.54 goals allowed average. Goaltender Paula Voorheis has been terrorizing opposing offenses with her 0.944 save percentage in 14 appearances, good for third best in the country.
Cornell, which has only lost one of its past 11 games, is led on offense by forwards Hannah Bunton and Kristin O’Neill who have combined for 20 goals and 43 points on the season. In the team’s last series against RPI and Union, Bunton and defender Micah Hart each tallied four points on the weekend. Yale should also be wary of the Big Red’s penalty kill unit, which not only staved off 87.5 percent of opponents’ power plays but also leads the ECAC with five shorthanded goals overall.
On Saturday Yale hosts Colgate in the teams’ second matchup of the season. When the Bulldogs and the Raiders first met, Yale fell 4–3 after it was unable to match two late Colgate goals. Heading into this weekend, the Raiders are looking to continue a four-game win streak. However, since Colgate currently sits one spot above Yale in the ECAC ranking, a win head-to-head could close the six-point gap between the opponents.
The Elis will miss leading scorer Phoebe Staenz ’17 this weekend, as she is away playing with the Swiss National team, and fellow forward captain Krista Yip-Chuck ’17 so Murray and forward Jordan Chancellor ’19 will face an extra hurdle in getting past one of the ECAC’s top goaltenders, Raider Julia Vandyk, who boasts a save percentage of 0.931.
Defensively, the Yale blueline will be protecting the Bulldogs’ goal against Colgate’s leading scorer Jessie Eldridge. Eldridge leads the Raiders scoring with 34 points and ranks seventh in the ECAC.
This weekend not only marks the penultimate series of regular season play, but also celebrates Yale hockey’s five seniors. Staenz, Yip-Chuck, Abby Gahm ’17, Hanna Mandl ’17 and Taylor Marchin ’17 have all contributed to the team’s success over the past four years and will be playing their last home games this weekend.
“Being a part of [the Yale women’s ice hockey team] for the past four years has been the most important part of my Yale experience,” Mandl said. “I have been able to share the game that I love with my best friends and I couldn’t have asked for anything more. I’m certainly very grateful for the all the people associated with Yale hockey and for the experiences that this program has given me.”
The puck drops at 6 p.m. Friday at Ingalls Rink, where the Bulldogs open their weekend facing off against Cornell.