The Yale women’s ice hockey team is entering its final four regular-season games, starting with matchups against Colgate and No. 1 Cornell this weekend.
The Bulldogs (14–11–0, 11–7–0 ECAC) are coming off of a split weekend in New York where they shut out St. Lawrence but failed to get another season win against No. 6 Clarkson. The next two weekends will be crucial for the Elis as they look to ensure good seeding in the playoffs. Though Yale lost to both Colgate and Cornell in mid-November, it enters this weekend ready for the challenge ahead.
“This past week, Cornell was ranked first in the nation, making them the favored team going into playoffs,” forward Elle Hartje ’23 said. “We play them this Saturday on senior night which will be a good test moving into playoffs.”
The Bulldogs’ impressive record has already shown that they can play at the highest level. So far this season, they have made a combined 68 goals against their opponents in 25 games. The last time they faced off against Colgate and Cornell, however, they left the ice scoreless in both games. The squad narrowly outshot the Raiders 23–22 but could not get a shot past Colgate goaltender Liz Auby, who shut Yale out with 23 saves.
The following day, the Bulldogs went head-to-head with the nation’s best team: Cornell. The squad fought hard, holding its Ithaca opponents to 15 shots on net. Unfortunately, the Big Red held strong, with four different players scoring six goals, three of which were allowed within the first six minutes of play. Since visiting New Haven in mid-November, Cornell has won 14 of its 17 contests in its campaign to top the country’s rankings. Of all their upcoming opponents, the Big Red poses the biggest threat to the Bulldogs.
“I think every game will be a good challenge for us,” captain and forward Laura Anderson ’20. “Cornell is now ranked number one in the country, and we know they will play fast and quick, and we’re ready to take that on.”
The Elis have been hard at work, picking up nine wins and scoring a whopping 39 goals in the three months since that Colgate-Cornell weekend. Perhaps their most significant win was their 5–2 contest against No. 6 Clarkson in early January. Goaltender Gianna Meloni ’21 made an impressive 20 saves while five different skaters found the back of the net to deny the Golden Knights a win in their first bout.
This win kicked off a stretch of victories for the Blue and White as it collected games against St. Lawrence, Rennselaer, Union and Brown. Its streak was broken with a narrow 2–1 loss against No. 5 Princeton.
This weekend, the Bulldogs look forward to hosting these two dangerous opponents at Ingalls Rink. Though there is no statistical correlation between home games and victories, the team expressed its love for playing for the home crowd and the extra boost of encouragement that fans can have.
“The crowd is a huge part of the game in my opinion,” Meloni said. “It’s really cool to glance up in the stands and see a bunch of people cheering on the team, getting excited when you score or make a big play. It’s a great time to be playing when you have people supporting you.”
With only four games left before the ECAC playoffs, Yale needs to make every minute count; to maintain the possibility of getting the home ice advantage, the squad needs to win at least one of these matches.
If they lose each of these rematches, they will likely enter the playoffs near the bottom of the bracket and will have to travel to play at an away site.
“Cornell is … fast, they’re strong and they can score,” Kirsten Nergaard ’20 said. “Princeton is number five, Quinnipiac is a local rival and Colgate is always a strong squad. The flipside is that these games will be great prep for the playoffs.”
The puck drops between Yale and Colgate this Friday at 6 p.m.
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