Facing off against some of the best competition the NCAA has to offer, the Yale women’s hockey team’s four-game winning streak screeched to a halt this weekend against two top-10 opponents. The defeats against No. 8 St. Lawrence and No. 2 Clarkson meant that the Bulldogs went pointless in a weekend’s play for the first time this calendar year.
The Elis (9–12–4, 7–9–2 ECAC) first traveled to Canton, New York to face off against the Saints (16–9–3, 12–5–1). Yale fell behind early and never recovered, ultimately falling 4–2. The next day, against the conference leader and defending national champion Clarkson (26–3–1, 16–2–0), the Bulldogs once again allowed their opponents to gain an early lead, but fought back to keep the game close, in the end losing 2–1.
“It was a tough weekend, and we have to get back to how we were playing in January so we can finish the season strong,” forward Emma Vlasic ’19 said. “I thought we played a lot better against Clarkson, and the fact that we were able to hang in there against such a good team should give us confidence going forward into another challenging set of games next weekend.”
On Friday afternoon, the Bulldogs held off the Saints for the first period but could not manage to score any first-frame goals of their own. Yale began the game with rookie goaltender Gianna Meloni ’21 between the pipes. Meloni, who went 5–0–0 to start the year and was just named ECAC Goaltender of the Month, made four consecutive saves in the first two minutes of the match alone, after St. Lawrence won the first face-off. Although the Elis managed just four shots on-target in the first frame to the Saints’ nine, both teams entered the second period scoreless.
The second frame, however, saw the Saints pound the net early, leaving Yale in the dust. Just 32 seconds into the period, senior forward Hannah Miller notched the game’s first tally to put the Saints up 1–0. The Bulldogs, who were once the league’s most penalized team, played a disciplined game on Friday, with just one penalty in the entire match, called less than minute after Miller’s opening goal. St. Lawrence jumped on its lone power play opportunity of the game to make it 2–0. Three minutes later, Miller returned to widen the lead to three, prompting head coach Joakim Flygh to swap Meloni for goaltender Kyra O’Brien ’19.
O’Brien could not halt the Saints’ barrage, as they pulled ahead to 4–0 just 45 seconds later and five minutes into the second frame. Yale earned its first and only player advantage of the match shortly thereafter, but the Bulldogs’ power play, the fourth-best in the country, was unable to convert. The player advantage marked a shift in momentum, however, as the Elis began to crawl back.
Eleven minutes into the period, the Bulldogs bit into the Saints’ lead with a goal from forward Courtney Pensavalle ’18, assisted by forward Tess Dettling ’21. Yale and St. Lawrence traded shots for the remainder of the frame, and the period ended 4–1. The Saints outshot the Bulldogs 15–5 in the frame.
The Bulldogs continued their comeback attempt early in the final period, as three minutes in, Vlasic narrowed the deficit to two with assists from forward Kaitlin Gately ’18 and defender Mallory Souliotis ’18. Neither team could find the back of the net for the rest of the match, which finished as a 4–2 loss for Yale.
The Bulldogs had yet another terrible start the next day against the Golden Knights. Yale gave up a goal less than one and a half minutes into the game, and was outshot 8–2 in the first period. Seven minutes into the second period, Clarkson expanded its lead, but this time the Elis were quick to respond. Rookie scoring sensation and forward Greta Skarzynski ’21 scored her 14th goal of the season to cut the Golden Knights’ lead in half less than a minute after the 2–0 goal. Skarzynski, who is 10th in the nation in points among freshmen, continues to drive Yale’s offense, and has been consistently scoring at almost a point-per-game pace. The goal against Clarkson was a solo effort, and was a huge factor in getting Yale back into the game after its lackluster start.
Beyond that goal, however, the Bulldogs were unable to solve Clarkson’s goaltender Shea Tiley, whose 1.36 goals against average is third-best in the NCAA. Yale ultimately put just 19 shots on net, and Tiley shut the door for the second half of the game. Her counterpart in a Yale uniform, Meloni, continued her strong play, keeping the Bulldogs in the game with yet another admirable performance. Facing the nation’s fourth-best scoring offense, which averages over four goals a game, Meloni was able to hold the Golden Knights to just two goals on 25 shots, and was a big reason why Yale escaped its abysmal first period down just one goal.
The Bulldogs have just four games left of regular season play, and will face two more very challenging teams next weekend. Yale will travel to face No. 4 Colgate and No. 5 Cornell, second and third in the ECAC, respectively, next weekend.
The Elis are currently tied with Harvard for seventh place in the conference, with Rensselaer trailing just two points behind.
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