The Yale women’s hockey team grabbed the last spot in the ECAC playoffs this weekend, after splitting its final two games of the season, with a 4–1 loss to Princeton followed by a 2–0 victory over Quinnipiac. The No. 8-seeded Elis will now get a chance to prolong their season next weekend in a best-of-three playoff series against top seed and defending national champion Clarkson.
With Rensselaer just one point behind Yale (10–15–4, 8–12–2 ECAC) in the conference standings entering the weekend of play, the Bulldogs were not guaranteed a spot in the ECAC playoffs. The win against Quinnipiac (16–15–3, 12–9–1) secured a berth, although Rensselaer also did its part in helping the Elis extend their season, going pointless after losses to a tough pair of opponents, No. 3 Colgate and No. 5 Cornell.
“It was great to finish the regular season on a high note against Quinnipiac on Saturday, particularly for our seniors,” forward Emma Vlasic ’19 said. “Q-Pac is one of our big rivals so it’s particularly sweet to see our goalies come out on top against them again.”
Against Princeton the night before, the Bulldogs improved on their performances over the last two weekends but ultimately fell to the Tigers in the second half. Princeton got off to an early lead with a goal just four minutes into the match, but the Elis held them scoreless for the remainder of the frame to enter the second period down 1–0. The Bulldogs earned a player advantage but did not convert.
Five minutes into the second frame, Yale put its power-play strength back on display, with Vlasic delivering an equalizer five minutes into the period. The Tigers came roaring back just three minutes later to make it 2–1 and never looked back. They notched a third goal, on a power play of their own, five minutes later, to make it 3–1 entering the final period.
Despite trailing by two goals, Yale kept pace with Princeton in the third frame, with the Tigers narrowly outshooting the Bulldogs 11–10, and neither team managing to find the back of the net until, with just 1:04 left on the clock, the Tigers slipped one past goaltender Tera Hofmann ’20 to round out the 4–1 victory. Hofmann made 25 saves on 29 shots on the night.
Although the Elis came short, their performance against the Tigers offered reason for optimism. After being outshot 50–10 and 46–14 last weekend against Cornell and Colgate, respectively, the Bulldogs closed the gap against Princeton and took just four fewer shots than their visitors.
The next day, with a chance to control their own destiny when it came to the postseason, the Elis put in another statement performance against the Bobcats. Yale has now held Quinnipiac scoreless in three games this calendar year, with Hofmann and rookie goalie Gianna Meloni ’21 stopping a cumulative 93 shots in three games between them.
Meloni was between the pipes against the Bobcats, and recorded her easiest shutout of the season, having to make just 16 saves in order to be perfect in her final game of the regular season. By comparison, the last time Meloni blanked the Quinnipiac offense, she was forced to make 40 saves. She now has four shutouts in just 15 games, and rank in the top 10 in the country in save percentage.
While the defense helped its netminder by limiting the shots on goal, Yale’s offense finally outshot an opponent, this time 23–16. Yale has not recorded more shots on goal than its opponents since beating Brown on Jan. 20, and has been outshot in 20 of its 29 games. Although the Bobcats are among the bottom 10 in offense in the NCAA, this game represented a marked improvement for the Yale defense, since Quinnipiac had put 37 and 40 shots on goal in the two previous meetings.
Fittingly, Yale’s two goals came from two seniors, playing in the final home game of their collegiate careers. Both forward Emily Monaghan ’18 and defender Kara Drexler ’18 found the back of the net on senior day, with family and friends in attendance.
Offensively, the Bulldogs got going, as they often do, on the player advantage. Forward Greta Skarzynski ’21 picked up an assist on Monaghan’s power-play goal midway through the second period, giving the rookie scoring leader 25 assists on the season. Her 0.83 points per game puts her eighth in the nation in rookie scoring.
As the third period drew to a close, Quinnipiac attempted to pull its goaltender just as head coach Joakim Flygh sent out the Elis’ veteran defensive pairing, Drexler and Grace Wickens ’18, who have played on a pairing together for the majority of their time at Yale. Wickens connected on an outlet pass to Drexler near the Quinnipiac blue line, and Drexler did not hesitate in putting the puck into an empty net, sealing the Bulldog victory.
“We’ve played against Clarkson a couple of times now, so we know how strong the team is,” Vlasic said. “We managed to keep it close in our last game against them, so we just need to take that performance and build on it even more.”
Yale will travel to upstate New York next weekend to face the Golden Knights in the ECAC quarterfinals. The Elis will need to pull off a huge upset against No. 2 Clarkson to extend their season and stay in contention for the ECAC title.
Masha Galay | email@example.com
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