With its back against the wall, the Yale women’s ice hockey team will challenge a pair of elite competitors on the road this weekend. The Bulldogs first battle No. 9 Colgate in a Friday evening matchup before facing off against No. 6 Cornell in a crucial pair of contests for their ECAC postseason hopes.
“The team is excited and ready to go for the last four games of the regular season,” forward and captain Emma Vlasic ’19 said. “We know what’s at stake, and we know how big these games are for us. We are going to work everyday to put ourselves in the playoffs, and we are looking forward to it.”
Yale (7–16–2, 6–10–2 ECAC Hockey) will vie for a victory over the Raiders (17–8–5, 11–4–3) to open the weekend in an attempt to climb back into playoff positioning. The Elis then head to Ithaca to try and topple the Big Red (16–3–6, 13–3–2) the following afternoon.
The Bulldogs last played against Colgate in early November. While Yale lost by a score of 5–2, there were positive aspects of that game the Elis will look to duplicate in tomorrow’s contest. Forward Sophie Veronneau ’20 smacked the puck past goalkeeper Julia Vandyk in the 11th minute. Fellow forward Rebecca Foggia ’21 collected a goal of her own three-quarters of the way into the third period to make it a one-goal affair, but the Raiders eventually pulled away late.
Both squads will be looking to decrease the amount of time their players spend in the sin bin. In the last rough and tumble matchup, a total of 10 players between the two sides spent a cumulative 22 minutes in the penalty box. Yale had six infractions by five players, while five of Colgate skaters get whistled for 10 total penalty minutes.
Colgate comes into this weekend on a hot streak. The Raiders have won three of their last four games, with the other ending in a tie. The team conquered No. 4 Clarson in an overtime thriller last weekend, with Malia Schneider snagging a game-winner. She also scored a pivotal early game goal in the first Yale–Colgate showdown, minutes after Foggia started the scoring. Schneider is part of an astounding offensive Raiders trio; Schneider and fellow forwards Jessie Eldridge and Shae Laebe all rank among the top-10 scorers in ECAC Hockey.
The Bulldogs then match up against Cornell on Saturday afternoon at Lynah Rink in a fiery Ivy clash in which the Elis are underdogs. Yale has not shied away from games against ranked opponents this year, defeating then-No. 3 Clarkson earlier this year in a major upset. The Big Red snatched the win in the first meeting of these teams. Cornell came into the game ranked sixth in the country, but the Bulldogs refused to let that stop them. Defender Julia Yetman ’19 put the Elis in front early with a ferocious shot from outside the crease.
Foggia added to the onslaught with her first collegiate goal to double the advantage and send the Big Red into a panic. Cornell stormed back with two goals to knot the game, but captain Vlasic struck back to give Yale the lead once again. But two goals late in the third period felled the Bulldogs and gave Cornell the 4–3 victory.
While the Elis’ first-year forwards have been grabbing the headlines as of late, Vlasic has seen a resurgence in her offensive production over the last few games. The captain has been consistent as an on-ice leader and has contributed greatly to the Bulldog offense as well. She boasts 17 total points on the season coming on eight tallies and nine assists. She had a dominant performance against Princeton on Saturday, as she played a pivotal role in both of the Yale goals. She assisted forward Rebecca Vanstone ’22 on the first score and found the back of the net herself for Yale’s second. The Bulldogs will be looking for her to build on this inspired play against the Big Red.
Cornell features an offense that receives production from a number of different contributors. Forward Kristin O’Neill leads the team with an impressive 17 goals while also setting up nine other scores. Fellow forward Maddie Mills is also having a standout season, with a whopping 31 points. But forwards are not the only ones producing on the offensive end for the Big Red. Defender Jaime Bourbonnais has 22 points from the backline, scoring seven herself.
Yale as a team has been steadily climbing the conference rankings in many crucial statistics. The Bulldogs now average 2.24 goals per game, which ranks sixth in the conference. This upswing in offensive productivity has been crucial for the Elis and will need to continue for a late season push to be a possibility.
“We’ve got to find ways to get points in order to get into the playoffs, whichever way they come,” head coach Joakim Flygh said. “That being said, we are playing two nationally ranked teams. We’ve created enough chances to be successful but we still need to work on finishing them.”
The Bulldogs have also been efficient at sharing the puck and crafting goals. Yale has 76 assists in conference play, good for fifth. Yale still needs to work on its penalty minutes, as the team’s PIM is still incredibly high. With four games left to play, the Bulldogs are two points behind eighth place Quinnipiac, a team that would lock up the final ECAC playoff spot if the season ended today.
Yale faces No. 9 Colgate on Friday at 6 p.m. and no. 6 Cornell at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
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