The Yale women’s hockey team took on Harvard in a best-of-three series in Cambridge this past weekend, falling in triple overtime in the deciding game.
The Bulldogs (17–5–0, 13–9–0 ECAC) entered the ECAC playoffs as the fifth seed, after a historic regular season wherein the Bulldogs set a program record for regular season and conference wins. They traveled to Boston to take on the Crimson (18–13–1, 15–6–1) behind enemy lines. The Bulldogs dropped the first game, losing 0–4, but rallied to claim the second game 4–3 in overtime. The third and deciding game took three sets of extra time, but Harvard eventually emerged victorious.
In game one, everything went Harvard’s way. The Crimson jumped on the board nearly five minutes into the game, and Yale never got back into it. Harvard found the back of the Bulldog net twice more in the second period, one of which came on a power play after forward Rebecca Vanstone ’22 took a tripping penalty. There was no more scoring activity until under thirty seconds remained, when Harvard found the back of an empty Yale net to seal the deal with a 4–0 score line.
“Anyone can beat anyone, the scores of the games are very close most of the time,” defender Tabea Botthof ’22 said last month before playoffs began. And while the first game wasn’t a very tight contest, the Bulldogs rallied to send the next two to overtime in close finishes.
In Saturday’s game, the Bulldogs were determined to prove themselves against their Ivy rivals. Though Harvard’s forward Becca Gilmore got on the scoreboard early in the first period, Yale immediately answered back. Six minutes later, forward Charlotte Welch ’22 notched her first of three goals to tie up the two teams. Just a minute later, she grabbed another tally, and Yale left the ice up 2–1 after the first period.
In the second frame, the Crimson immediately tied things up. They then scored again with a few minutes left in the period to snag the lead going into the final 20 minutes. But Welch’s third goal of the night saved the Elis — with goaltender Gianna Meloni ’21 making save after save, Yale finished regular time tied 3–3. In overtime, forward Tess Dettling ’21 smashed a pass from forward Claire Dalton ’22 to win the game.
“[Sunday] will be all emotion and heart on display by all players,” head coach Mark Bolding said before the decider. “They are a great team but we are up for the challenge and we’ve learned from the two games so far — so hopefully we can apply our knowledge of Harvard’s style of play and use our “team first mentality” to gain the victory. Playoffs hockey is what we play for!”
The game was truly all heart, as the Bulldogs fought with their season on the line.
In the final, deciding game, the Bulldogs came out hungry for a semifinal berth. The first period went by without any scoring, with Harvard holding a 16–11 lead in shots on goal. Just three minutes into the second frame, Harvard forward Kristin Della Rovere slipped one by Meloni to give the Crimson a 1–0 lead. Yale battled hard and forward Dalton evened things up nearly ten minutes later.
With things tied at 1–1, the Bulldogs strapped in for another crazy game. Both teams hustled in the third period but neither could seem to score for nearly ten minutes, until Harvard jumped up to a 2–1 lead on a power play after forward Kirsten Nergaard ’20 took a two-minute minor for roughing. Less than two minutes later, forward Grace Lee ’23 tied things up on the Bulldogs’ power play. Things remained stagnant until there was just over a minute left of play left. Harvard’s forward Keely Moy scored after Welch took a 2-minute minor.
Meloni left her post and the Bulldogs looked to equalize things, their season on the line. With nearly 15 seconds left on the clock, Dalton tipped in a blast from defender Saroya Tinker ’20 to send the game into overtime. Forty minutes and two overtimes would go by without any scoring, but less than three minutes into the third overtime, the Crimson ended the Elis’ season.
Yale was never in the lead but battled hard to keep things close. They ultimately erased three deficits, but could not get the job done.
In addition to the program records set, Meloni had a career-high 55 saves. Welch finished the season as the team’s leading scorer with 15 goals of the team’s 85 total tallies — Dalton and Vanstone trailed close behind with 12 apiece.
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