In front of a home crowd, the Yale women’s hockey team will look to snap a five-game winless streak and earn redemption against a pair of familiar foes.
The Elis (2–6–4, 1–5–2 ECAC) played four winless matches over break, falling handily to Colgate and Cornell before earning a pair of ties against Quinnipiac and Penn State in the Nutmeg Classic. Now, in their final slate of conference games before the new year, the Bulldogs are hungry for their first four-point weekend. The Elis hope that home ice will help them deliver a strong performance against two teams that they have already faced this season: Union (3–9–2, 2–2–0) and Rensselaer (5–7–4, 2–1–1).
“We’re definitely going to have two really competitive games this weekend,” forward Jordan Chancellor ’19 said. “At this point, these conference games are must-wins for us. So I am expecting two hard-fought games against RPI and Union.”
The Elis last played both teams in the same October weekend, tying the Engineers 2–2 in overtime before falling 3–1 to the Dutchwomen. This time around, the revenge match will be up first, as the Bulldogs face off on Friday against Union, which comes to Ingalls with just one more win than the Elis. The Dutchwomen, too, find themselves in the midst of a four-game winless stretch, and thus both teams will be looking to interrupt their losing streaks.
Union’s biggest strength is in net, where rookie netminder Coco Francis boasts the nation’s seventh best save percentage, at 93.7. Her two backups have struggled, however, posting save percentages of 86.6 and 82.9 and allowing more goals in fewer starts than Francis.
Furthermore, while Francis has a 2.21 goals-against average, the team’s goals-per-game average this season is much higher: fifth worst in the NCAA, at 3.57. Union’s defensewomen have been more successful in their opponent’s zone than their own, as they lead the ECAC in scoring defense with 10 goals and are third in points among defenses with 25 total points. Though the Elis have struggled to score this season — averaging fewer than two goals per game — taking advantage of Union’s porous defense could be the key to helping Yale find the back of the net.
“We definitely want to get one back against Union,” assistant coach Matt Woodard said. “At the beginning of the year we gave up to them, and we really want it and really need it. Against RPI, we gave them seven power plays. If we can limit our penalties … and play disciplined, we can get the four points we need and want.”
Although RPI was the team Yale performed better against earlier in the season, the Engineers look to be the tougher opponent this time around. In their last two weekends, they have lost just one game, and are coming to Yale on the heels of a 4–3 win against Mercyhurst University. Like Union, RPI has a top-10 player between the pipes, with goalie Lovisa Selander just below Francis in the national rankings with a 93.3 save percentage. The team defense is also 12th best in the NCAA, giving up just 2.12 goals per game and making the Engineers an even bigger challenge for Yale’s lackluster offense.
Rensselaer is a disciplined team, averaging just 5.5 penalty minutes per game, and are also second best in the country when down a player, successfully killing 93.2 percent of their penalties. The Bulldogs, who have relied on the power play for a third of their goals, will have to get their offense going at even strength. The team will also continue to work on staying out of the penalty box itself, since the Elis are second in the NCAA in penalty minutes logged.
Since the Bulldogs played Union on Oct. 28, the team has been outshot by opponents throughout the month of November. In five of the eight games the Elis have played this month, they have been out-fired by 17, 18, 19, 20 and 24 shots on net. This represents a worrying trend, and places a lot of pressure on Yale’s netminders to keep the team competitive. The Bulldogs will have to focus on giving up fewer chances in their own zone if they hope to halt their winless skid.
“It will be crucial to start fast and strong against both of these teams and get the lead right away,” defender Mallory Souliotis ’18. “We are excited to play at home again and hopefully come away with some league points in our final ECAC games of the semester.”
Puck drop against Union is at 6 p.m. on Friday at Ingalls Rink, while the Saturday matinee game against RPI starts at 3 p.m.
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