For the first time in program history, the No. 7 Yale women’s hockey team (25–7–1, 16–5–1 ECAC) will advance to the ECAC Championship after a 3–1 victory against Princeton (13–15–5, 9–10–3) in the semifinals. 

Yale topped off its record-breaking season by hosting the ECAC championships for the first time in program history. The Bulldogs hoped to build off the momentum of their series win against St. Lawrence in the first round of playoffs, but caught themselves trailing by one early in the first period after Princeton’s Mia Coene broke in the scoring.

“The atmosphere was great. We were up and down in moments, but not with the will to win. We just had to figure things out,” head coach Mark Bolding, ECAC Coach of the Year, said. “Princeton, they had a great forecheck. It really tested us. The players responded. They really thought through their plays, and when it counted, they buried it.”

After struggling with puck control during the first ten minutes of play, Yale battled it out with Princeton ending the period down 1–0 and a 12–8 shot deficit. 

Yale gained momentum in the second period when Princeton defender Mariah Keopple was sent to the penalty box for checking Yale’s Maya Kerfoot ’22. After a solid 90 seconds on the powerplay, Olivia Muhn ’25 fired a shot from the point. ECAC Defenseman of the Year Emma Seitz ’23 caught a piece of the puck and redirected it for her 14th goal of the season. The goal tied the game 1–1. 

“I don’t really know how I knew how to do that since I’ve never done that before and I’m not a forward but I think I was just I tried to kind of get lost on the powerplay and just make it hard for the other team to figure out what our structure is. So I think I was doing some of that and just did a little loop and got in the lane and tipped it somehow,” Seitz said about the goal.

Later in the period, Princeton captain Shannon Griffin checked captain Greta Skarzynski ’22 into the boards behind the net. Skarzynski stayed down on the ice after the hit, but she returned to the game after a quick trip to the locker room to get examined by the team athletic trainer. Griffin was sent to the penalty box for roughing. 

Despite some penalties, the referees let most infractions slide throughout the game.

“You got to play through whatever happens in a game. We’re not strangers to no power plays in a game. It’s happened to us a lot of times actually. We just fight through it. It’s nice for it to happen earlier in the year, so it doesn’t take us off guard,” Elle Hartje ’24, who earned ECAC All-League First-Team honors this season, said.

With just 32 seconds left in the second period, Claire Dalton ’23 hammered one home to give the Bulldogs the lead. Dalton was on one knee as she scored the one-timer shot off of a pass from Tess Dettling ’22 in the corner.

Yale entered the third period with a 2–1 lead. The Bulldogs played defensively in the third period and successfully held Princeton’s forecheck at bay. 

Princeton called a timeout with a little more than two minutes to go in the game. The Tigers pulled their goalie with 1:55 remaining. Hartje solidified the Bulldogs’ win with an empty net goal with less than a minute remaining left of play.

As a sophomore, Hartje currently leads the team with 16 goals and a program-record 34 assists for 50 total points. Her point total marks the most of any Yale player in the last 37 years. She is currently ranked third in Division I assists per game, while she is ranked 10th for points per game.

Senior goalie Gianna Meloni ’22, a finalist for ECAC Goalie of the Year, stood on her head during the game against Princeton. She saved 25 of the 26 shots that she faced for a .962 save percentage. 

Yale has made significant strides this season with members of the team breaking records, earning a variety of accolades, finding success in the win column and being nationally-ranked. Yet, making it to the ECAC championship game is one of the most significant moments in some players’ careers.

“This is pretty special,” Claire Dalton ’23 said. “We didn’t make the playoffs my freshman year and the norm was kind of losing. It’s been a lot of hard work. [Bolding’s] first year, we obviously made some strides and then this year, it’s kind of all coming together.”

As the Bulldogs hope to continue their legendary season, Yale will face off against No. 5 Colgate in the ECAC championship game. Colgate beat No. 6 Quinnipiac 3–2 in the semifinals in order to advance. 

In November, Yale beat Colgate 4–0 on the road with Charlotte Welch ’23, Hartje, Rebecca Vanstone ’23 and Tess Dettling ’22 all scoring goals. Later in the season Yale blanked Colgate a second time when they won 3–0 at home in January. Meloni was in goal for both shutout wins.

“It’s been a magical year, but we want to keep it going,” Bolding said.

Win or lose in the ECAC championship game, the Bulldogs still have a chance at earning an at-large bid in the NCAA tournament.

The ECAC championship game will take place on Saturday, Mar. 5 at 3:00 p.m. in New Haven. The game will be streamed live on ESPN+. 

Rosa Braceras covers Women’s Ice Hockey, Softball, and other sports news. She is a senior in Benjamin Franklin College majoring in History.