Steve Musco

Fresh off of a conference win, the Yale women’s ice hockey squad launches into an Ivy-infested weekend as it faces Harvard in Cambridge this Friday afternoon, followed by Dartmouth in Hanover the next day.

Yale (6–14–1, 5–8–1 ECAC Hockey) will be facing ferocious opposition this weekend. Harvard (5–11–3, 4–8–2) trails the Bulldogs by one point for the pivotal eighth place in the ECAC Hockey standings. The Elis then travel northward to duel Dartmouth (3–17–1, 2–12–0) on Saturday.

“We are very excited for this upcoming game against Harvard,” goalkeeper Tera Hofmann ’20 said. “It is always fun to play such a big rival, and I am looking forward to seeing us come together and battle against them.”

The Bulldogs are looking to build off a strong weekend that saw a nail-biter 1–1 tie with RPI, followed by a conference victory over Union by a 4–2 margin. There are considerable playoff implications at the bottom of the ECAC Hockey standings. The one-point difference separating Yale and Harvard is the difference between postseason play and an early end to the season. Expect both the Bulldogs and the Crimson to come out swinging in arguably the most important games on either of their schedules.

Yale’s youth movement looks to continue its midseason surge on the ice against Harvard. Forwards Rebecca Vanstone ’22, Claire Dalton ’22 and Charlotte Welch ’22 alongside defender Emma Seitz ’22 are responsible for nine of the Eli’s 19 goals in January, 22 assists and a +10 plus-minus rating. The Crimson, compared to the girls in blue, has had a rough recent stretch, posting a paltry 2–6–2 record over its last 10 games, while the Bulldogs have captured a 4–5–1 performance over the same time period.

Yale averages about two fewer shots a game than Harvard, but the Elis score at a rate of 2.29 goals per contest, a significantly wider margin than the Crimson’s 1.68 goals per game. Yale’s offensive firepower has come alive in recent weeks. The Bulldogs scored at least three goals in four games in January alone.

While Harvard’s offense does rank just 10th out of the 12 teams in the ECAC in goals per game and total goals, the work of goalkeeper Lindsay Reed has done much to keep the Crimson close in crucial matches. She ranks seventh in average goals allowed and second in save percentage in the entire conference. This matchup pits the attacking prowess of Yale’s fearsome forwards against the capability of Harvard’s Reed to ward off shot after shot from what promises to be a voracious Eli platoon.

“The expectation moving forward is simple,” defender Saroya Tinker ’20 said. “The expectation is to win. I am confident that we will prevail and get the playoff spot we deserve. Once playoffs start it’s a whole new season. I think we’re preparing by reviewing our systems and ensuring that everyone on the team is buying into our game plan both on and off the ice.”

Saturday afternoon will see the Bulldogs take on the Big Green in Hanover, a second crucial conference clash for Yale. This is the first meeting of these teams this season and has big implications for the postseason. Last year, the Elis had Dartmouth’s number in both games. The first meeting was in November, where the Bulldogs blasted the Big Green to the tune of five goals. This game gave the Elis a huge momentum booster for their conference play. The next game was even better for the Bulldogs, as they laid a 6–0 beatdown on Dartmouth at the end of January.

This game comes at a pivotal juncture for Yale’s season. The Bulldogs sit at 5–8–1 in conference play, which ranks them eighth in the ECAC. A win versus Dartmouth would put them even with Quinnipiac and put them in a much more comfortable position for a potential postseason run.

Dartmouth sits at 11th in the ECAC, the second-to-last team in the conference. While the postseason is most likely out of the question for the Big Green, it still will be playing to move up the standings before the end of the season.

Dartmouth’s attack, much like the Bulldog offense, is led by youth. Freshman forward Sarah McClanahan has five goals this season to lead the Big Green. She has also contributed six assists, second most on the team. Defender Lotti Odnoga, who is also a freshman, has the most assists with seven. Also, Dartmouth has seen production from its upperclassmen as well. Senior forward Tess Bracken is having a productive final season, scoring four goals and assisting five others.

“We have to get as many points as we possibly can,” coach Joakim Flygh said. “Looking at the standings, I think there’s three teams that have started to separate themselves: Clarkson, Princeton and Cornell. Other than that, there’s opportunity for anybody to move up in the standings.”

Yale faces Harvard at 3:30 p.m. in Cambridge on Friday, followed by a 3 p.m. battle versus Dartmouth in Hanover on Saturday.

Bentley Long | .

Eamonn Smith | .