Courtesy of Steve Musco
The Yale women’s ice hockey team will clash with Quinnipiac in a battle for the eighth seed in the ECAC playoffs on Friday night at Ingalls Rink, followed by a match against elite Ivy enemy No. 5 Princeton on Saturday afternoon.
Yale (7–15–1, 6–9–1 ECAC Hockey) will battle Quinnipiac (9–16–3, 6–9–1) in a Friday night game with massive conference postseason implications. While the Bulldogs and Bobcats are tied for the eighth spot in the ECAC with 13 points apiece, Quinnipiac currently holds the tiebreaker over the Bulldogs after an early-season victory and a superior nonconference record. The Elis will then engage with Princeton (15–3–5, 12–1–3), who holds the second-place position in the conference standings race, in this Saturday’s annual White Out for Mandi game.
“It is always fun to play in front of a huge group of people that are supporting our team,” forward Kirsten Nergaard ’20 said. “We are working with the White-Out committee in this game and also with the bone marrow drive this spring. We are getting involved as well with the medical campuses. I am excited about this game and it obviously gives us a little extra oomph out there. The game Friday against Quinnipiac is also huge for our season. The first and second lines have been really stepping up and [goalie Tera Hofmann ’20] has been great in net for us.”
Saturday’s match will be played in memory of Yale forward Mandi Schwartz ’10, who was a three-time ECAC Hockey All-Academic hockey player and played 73 consecutive games before her diagnosis of acute myeloid leukemia in December 2008. Since Schwartz’s passing in 2011, Yale and the Mandi Schwartz Foundation have held joint annual bone marrow drives at athletic events. To date, at least 28 potential donors have been found through the program, and there will be an opportunity to participate in this drive after the game on Saturday.
On Friday, the Yale and Quinnipiac contest will provide a chance for the Bulldogs to separate themselves from the pack. While the Elis emerged victorious in five of their last 10 games, they have been unable to distance themselves from the Bobcats, who have one fewer victory over the same span. The lynchpin of Quinnipiac’s postseason hopes lies in securing an infallible tiebreaker over the Bulldogs. After a 2–0 loss to the Bobcats in late October, Yale must assert extra effort to equalize the head-to-head record. While a defeat this Friday would not knock Yale out of the playoff hunt, it would turn the later Harvard rematch into a must-win wager. From here on out, every game for the Elis has postseason implications.
Key components to Yale’s recently-revived playoff aspirations have been the stellar play from its fearsome first-year foursome as well as quality minutes in net from Hofmann. Forwards Rebecca Vanstone ’22, Claire Dalton ’22, Charlotte Welch ’22 and defender Emma Seitz ’22 have caused a stir in the league. Vanstone leads the Elis in points and goals, while Welch leads the squad in assists. This youth movement has kept Yale capable of adapting on the fly, as most of head coach Joakim Flygh’s season plan revolves around the ongoing evolution of his young squad’s abilities.
“The first years have made a huge impact on our team both on and off the ice,” forward Greta Skarzynski ’21 said. “They have played a big role on the scoresheet and generating offense for our team to win games. We know that every game is critical for us because of our place in the standings. … There are only so many games in a season so we want to give everything we have these last few games.”
Skarzynski called the White-Out “extremely meaningful” to the team, adding that “it’s special to be a part of something bigger than hockey.”
Yale then plays host to Princeton in the Elis’ White-Out game, a perennial highlight for the Bulldog players. The game will include a raffle and other fundraisers for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation. The Elis will be playing with extra emotion in this pivotal Ivy matchup as they look to cap off the philanthropic outing with a win.
Yale last squared off against Princeton in its conference opener in October, a game that was dominated by the Tigers. Princeton rode a hot second period in which it put up three goals on the scoreboard while keeping the Bulldog offense at bay. Yet, this game was not without some highlights for Yale. Vanstone tallied her first collegiate goal in the game, and forward Emma Vlasic ’19 marked her 30th career point with the assist. Meanwhile, Princeton’s star forward Carly Bullock netted all four goals in this game — a single-game program record.
Yale will be looking to build off its dominant showing against Dartmouth last weekend and secure a crucial two points against the Tigers. The Bulldogs have had an easier time getting on the scoresheet of late, partially due to an upsurge in the Elis’ assist numbers. Four different Yale players — including two defenders — contributed helpers during the two goal drubbing of Dartmouth. Blueliners Tabea Botthof ’22 and Lauren Moriyama ’21 played crucial passes to each set up a goal. This offensive production from the backline of the Bulldogs has been vital to the team’s success as of late.
Princeton sits atop the ECAC Hockey standings alongside No. 6 Cornell and will be looking for a win to take over the outright first place spot. The Tigers held the top spot for most of January, but a recent loss to No. 4 Clarkson opened the door for Cornell to match them in points. Princeton sports a high-powered offense that posts an average of four goals each game, which places the team at first in the conference. The Orange and Black attack is led by first-year phenom Maggie Connors, who has 17 goals to go along with 11 assists in her debut season. Fellow first-year forward Sarah Fillier is also having a standout year with 14 goals and 23 assists to her name.
Yale will be counting on Hofmann to continue her inspired run of play between the pipes. The netminder posted her first shutout of the season against Dartmouth, as she saved all 32 of the shots that the Big Green sent her way. Her standout game bumped her save percentage up to .933 in conference games, which is ranked fifth in the ECAC. She has also eclipsed the 500-save mark and now boasts 513 total saves on the season. Hofmann already has more saves than she did during the entirety of last year.
“I think we’ve been in a lot of games where we’ve been down a goal,” Flygh said. “Going into that third period against Dartmouth up two nothing was great. Being able to handle that stressful situation with our players was great for us. The game for Mandi gives us an opportunity to carry forward her legacy both in the White Out game and the Marrow drive in the spring. We’ve got a lot of alumni coming back, and it is a great opportunity to connect our older and younger players. Our special teams have been great recently but we need to keep being able to kill penalties and execute our power plays.”
Yale squares off against Quinnipiac at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by the White-Out game versus Princeton at 3 p.m. on Saturday afternoon.
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