The Yale women’s hockey team concludes its regular season play against Harvard and Dartmouth on the road this weekend, two opponents that have already handed the Elis a four-point weekend.
The Bulldogs (10–13–4, 8–10–2 ECAC Hockey), who have lost just two of their past eight games, will face off against Crimson (4–18–5, 4–12–4) and Big Green (6–20–0, 4–16–0) squads who have just two combined wins in February. After clinching a playoff spot last weekend, Yale sits comfortably in seventh place in the conference.
“We’d like to knock Harvard out in their fight to get into playoffs,” forward Eden Murray ’18 said. “Dartmouth is another fierce competitor that we have always been rivalrous with … I think it’ll send both teams a message as well as ourselves for what we can accomplish going into playoffs and even next season.”
On Friday, the Bulldogs will head north to take on the Crimson for the second time this season, this time at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center. In January, Yale edged Harvard 3–2 behind 41 total saves from goaltender Tera Hofmann ’20. Since that contest, Harvard is just 1–4–3, scoring more than one goal in just three of those games and with its only victory a 2–0 defeat of cellar-dweller Union.
Last Saturday’s loss to Rensselaer all but eliminated Harvard from ECAC postseason contention. The Engineers now hold a three-point advantage in the conference standings as both teams vie for the eighth and final playoff spot with only two games to go. However, the Crimson could still get in with a sweep over the Bulldogs and Brown plus two losses by RPI, who is taking on No. 9 Princeton and No. 10 Quinnipiac on the road this weekend.
For Yale, the key to success against its archrival will be disciplined skating in order to stay out of the penalty box and strong performances in the third period. In their initial game against Harvard, the Bulldogs jumped to a three-goal lead, but saw their lead cut to one and had to stave a furious comeback attempt in the third period.
“We’ve done a great job in the last five or so games of playing our systems,” Murray said. “There are still moments, however, where we let up, and little errors lead to us being down a goal. We look to tighten that up even further heading into this weekend while keeping [the] playoffs in mind.”
Even in its last two games versus Cornell and Colgate, Yale settled for a tie with the Big Red after giving up a goal in the last three minutes of regulation and almost suffered defeat, but fought off a 5–on–3 power play opportunity in overtime to secure a point. Against the Raiders, the Bulldogs were assessed twice as many penalties in a 3–1 loss that featured one power play goal and two more tallies conceded in the third period.
Even if Yale, the most penalized team in the ECAC, gets sent to the box, the Elis’ penalty kill unit will be tasked with defending against a Crimson power play that has a meager 13 percent conversion rate. Still, though Harvard ranks in the bottom half of the conference in all offensive categories, the Crimson boasts six players who have tallied at least 11 points on the season.
“We are definitely focused on keeping up the intense pace,” Hofmann said. “We have to work hard this week to prepare, but also focus on the off-ice aspect like hydrating and rolling out.”
On Saturday, Yale travels to Dartmouth for the final game of its regular season. Last time the two teams met, the Bulldogs shut out the Big Green in a 3–0 win. Since the January matchup, Dartmouth has won just one of seven games, besting RPI last weekend to snap its seven-game losing streak.
Still, Yale’s defense will need to keep the duo of forward Kennedy Ottenbreit and defender Eleni Tebano away from the net in order to successfully shut down the Dartmouth offense, just like it did four weeks ago when goaltender Kyra O’Brien ’19 recorded her first career 60-minute shutout. Ottenbreit and Tebano lead the Big Green’s offense with 12 and 13 points apiece.
What Dartmouth lacks in offense, it makes up for in defense. Goaltender Robyn Chemago ranks third in the ECAC with a 0.929 save percentage and boasts a total of 646 saves on the season. Executing offensively to get the puck past Chemago will be crucial in producing a Yale win this weekend, especially after the Bulldogs struggled last weekend without leading scorers forward Phoebe Staenz ’17 and captain and forward Krista Yip-Chuck ’17.
Fortunately for the Elis, Staenz will return from playing for the Swiss National team to be on the ice against both Harvard and Dartmouth.
“Having dealt with some adversity the past couple weeks, I think we are still looking to put forth a complete game where our team brings consistent effort, high intensity and dominates our opponent for a full 60 minutes,” forward Courtney Pensavalle ’18 said.
After this weekend’s games, the schedule for the eight-team ECAC playoffs will be finalized, commencing postseason play. The Bulldogs’ appearance will mark the first time Yale has made the ECAC tournament since 2015 when the team fell to Harvard in the quarterfinals.
Yale will face off against Harvard at 6 p.m. on Friday.
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