Steve Musco

Coming off of a series sweep of Ivy adversary Brown, Yale women’s ice hockey takes to the road this weekend to face a pair of tough conference challengers in No. 6 Clarkson and St. Lawrence in upstate New York.

Yale (5–12–0, 4–6–0 ECAC Hockey), which has won three out of its last four matches, has dramatically improved its play since early December. The Bulldogs head to Potsdam, N.Y. to face the Golden Knights (16–5–1, 7–3–0) on Friday evening, followed by a pitstop in Canton on Saturday afternoon to take on the Saints (10–11–1, 5–5–0).

“I think that we’ve come a long way as a team in the past month,” said defender Julia Yetman ’19. “We’ve started playing well in all three zones and finding ways to win which is great to see. We’re still working on playing a more consistent 60 minutes of hockey but so far this year we’ve done a better job of that. We know that every game is crucial if we want to make playoffs and I think that has shown in the way that we are playing.”

The first matchup of the weekend is a highly anticipated rematch of the Yale-Clarkson stunner from mid-November. Clarkson, then ranked second in the nation with only one loss and still riding high off of last season’s national championship, fell to the Elis by a score of 5-1 in an absolute rout at Ingalls Rink. The upset marked the highest-ranked opponent beaten by the Bulldogs in program history. Team captain and forward Emma Vlasic ’19 played a huge role in the match, netting two goals, while three teammates each contributed their own mark on the scoreboard.

Now sitting at sixth in the nation, Clarkson’s biggest blemish on the season is its blowout loss against Yale. Of the Golden Knights’ four other losses, three have come against fellow top 10 ranked competition, and the last was against rival and conference foe St. Lawrence.

Clarkson comes into the game with a three-headed scoring monster, as forwards Elizabeth Giguere, Loren Gabel and Michaela Pejzlova rank first, second and third in points scored in ECAC Hockey. Yale, however, is riding its own hot scoring streak. In the last four games, the Bulldogs have averaged four and a half goals per contest, with three wins in that timeframe. With the two teams both boasting two-game winning streaks, the punch-up in Potsdam is expected to be a high scoring and closely contested matchup.

Yale caps off the weekend with a Saturday afternoon faceoff against St. Lawrence. These two conference foes last played in November, with the Saints besting the Bulldogs 3–1 in a game that was closer than the scoreline suggested. Goalkeeper Tera Hofmann ’20 had a standout game, saving 34 out of the 36 shots she faced in the contest. Forward Rebecca Vanstone ’22 found the back of the net to tie the game at 1-1, but a late open-net goal sealed the win for St. Lawrence.

Vanstone is posed to continue her inspired first-year campaign this weekend, tallying 16 points through 17 games. The reigning ECAC Rookie of the Week has nine goals and seven assists this season. Fellow forward Claire Dalton ’22 has also been an asset, contributing 11 points, four goals and seven assists for the Elis. Forward Charlotte Welch ’22 is the third piece of Yale’s fantastic trio of first-years up front. She has set up her teammates for goals nine times this year, while also scoring herself three times.

“I think the team has done a great job finishing on our chances, and making sure that we take advantage of our opponents’ mistakes,” Welch said. “Also, we have had more time to get to know how our linemates play, which is extremely helpful in games.”

Senior forward Justine Reyes has had a remarkable season up front for the Saints. In her final season, Reyes has tallied 17 points. She has five goals to go along with twelve assists, making her a prolific passer and crucial asset for the offense. Fellow classmate and forward Rachael Smith has provided the majority of St. Lawrence’s goal scoring, with nine tallies. Forward Katie Grant also has ten assists this year.

Yale’s defense was crucial in its pair of victories against Brown last week and the Elis will need a similar showing against the prolific Saints’ attack. Defenders Saroya Tinker ’20 and Julia Yetman ’19 have brought veteran experience to the blue line, but also contribute on offense as well. Tinker has eight points this season, while Yetman has seven. The pair has combined for five goals total. Defender Lauren Moriyama ’21 has also proved integral in halting the opposition and blocking shots in front of the net.

The goalkeeping for both sides will play a large role in the matchup. Hofmann’s contributions have been essential in keeping many of the Yale games close. She sports a .919 save percentage and has made 363 saves this year. Two different keepers for St. Lawrence have featured prominently in net this season. Grace Harrison has played in 12 games, stopping 284 shots with a save percentage of .925 overall. Meanwhile, Sonjia Shelly has started 11 games between the pipes with a save percentage of .917.

“I think we’ve really got to focus on playing our systems and trust that we can be a top team in this league and step up during the second half of our season,” Tinker said. “We have two big games this weekend but I don’t doubt our ability to win these games and neither does the rest of the team. We’re ready to go.”

Yale begins the weekend at Clarkson on Friday at 6 p.m., followed by their matchup at 3 p.m. Saturday at St. Lawrence.

Bentley Long | bentley.long@yale.edu

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu