The Yale women’s hockey team will look to extend its four-game winning streak and continue to earn conference points against two of the league’s highest-ranked teams as it returns to the road this weekend.
The Bulldogs (9–10–4, 7–7–2 ECAC) will begin a stretch of four away matches against nationally ranked opponents. The challenging games come after Yale’s best stretch of the season, as the Elis earned a double victory last weekend against Ivy opponents Harvard and Dartmouth and saw their conference ranking move up to sixth. Yale will travel to play No. 8 St. Lawrence (14–9–3, 10–5–1) on Friday before playing No. 2 Clarkson (24–3–1, 14–2–0) the next day.
“They are teams that have had sustained success over the last few years,” head coach Joakim Flygh said. “They know to win. They know how to play close games. We are still learning in that regard in some ways, and we’ve done a good job against teams that are equal to us as far as standings go. Now, we need to earn points over the next four games against teams that are ahead of us in the standings, so we need to find a way to be competitive.”
Last time Yale played St. Lawrence, the Bulldogs came close to an upset but eventually fell short in a 3–2 loss. The Elis got off to a good start, with forward Eden Murray ’18 capitalizing on a rebound shot to hand her team the lead just three minutes into the first period. In response, the Saints applied consistent pressure, and Yale proved unable to play clean hockey and was penalized three times in the remainder of the first frame alone. St. Lawrence capitalized on its third player advantage, equalizing before the end of the opening frame.
In the second period, Yale pulled ahead with a goal from forward Greta Skarzynski ’21, but the Saints returned with just five seconds left in the period to even the score again. In the final frame, St. Lawrence earned its first lead of the game. After the teams traded shots, Yale pulled its goalie for an extra offensive player for the final minute. Forward Courtney Pensavalle ’18 seemed to score a game-winning goal, but the call was overruled, and the Bulldogs ultimately fell 3–2.
On Friday, the Saints will be on home ice for the first time in four games. Although they opened 2018 with a close loss followed by a five-game win streak, they enter this weekend after a pair of losses to Cornell and Colgate last week. Currently ranked fourth in the ECAC with five more points than Yale’s 16, Saint Lawrence should be a competitive and close opponent for the Elis.
The Bulldogs still struggle with penalties, and spent eight minutes in the box in each of their past four games. However, since they last played the Saints, the Elis have benefited from a more stable defense, anchored by rookie goalie Gianna Meloni ’21, who was recently named ECAC Goalie of the Month. Meloni has a perfect 5–0–0 record in her starts for the month, and currently boasts the second-best save percentage in Division I hockey. Over this victorious stretch, Yale has benefited from the consistency in net and its strong special teams, two components that Flygh stressed will again be crucial this weekend.
“We will continue to work hard in practice and clean up the defensive zone going into Clarkson and St. Lawrence, and try to get some wins this weekend,” defender Mallory Souliotis ’18 said. “Both teams are tough opponents, but I am confident in our team and I think we are in a great position going into next weekend.”
Clarkson, one of the nation’s most impressive teams, has not lost a game since Nov. 17 of last year and is riding a 13-game win streak, the longest in the NCAA. Earlier in the season, the Elis lost 4–0 to the Golden Knights, the defending national champions. The Elis were outshot 42–18 and failed beat goaltender Shea Tiley, who is ranked fifth in the nation with a 0.935 save percentage. Since blanking the Elis, Tiley has posted three more shutouts, bringing her season total to an impressive eight in 28 games, second best in the NCAA. She is supported by a defense that has allowed just 1.36 goals per game, third best in the country.
However, Yale enters both contests this weekend with a goalie on top of her game. Meloni had three shutouts of her own in the month of January, and her save percentage is higher than Tiley’s. She will be leaned on heavily to contain Clarkson’s offense, which is one of the most potent in the NCAA, scoring an average of more than four goals per game.
Yale’s own offense has been steadily improving, but getting pucks into the Golden Knights’ net will be one of the biggest challenges of the season for the Elis. Clarkson is also top-ten on the penalty kill, which will put even more pressure on the Bulldogs to perform at even strength, given that their effectiveness on the power play is one of their biggest strengths.
“The goal for [this] weekend and every weekend after is to keep getting points and moving up in the ECAC,” forward Jordan Chancellor ’19 said. “This upcoming weekend will be challenging, but I also think it will be a great opportunity to test ourselves and continue to grow as a team.”
Yale is just one point ahead of Harvard and Princeton, which are tied for seventh place, in the ECAC conference standings. The puck drops against St. Lawrence at 6 p.m. on Friday, and the Bulldogs play Clarkson at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
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