Yale Athletics

The No. 5 seed Yale (26–9–1, 15–4–0 ECAC) fell 2–1 to the No. 1 seed Ohio State (31–6–0, 21–6–0 WCHA) in the Frozen Four semifinal on Friday night.

After a historic playoff run from the Yale team, they entered championship weekend in University Park, PA as the clear underdogs.

“We’re thrilled that we’re here. Lots of hard work has gone into the season,” head coach Mark Bolding said in a press conference before the game. “I’m really happy with where we’re at at this point, especially for older players who have just turned the tables.”

The game started over an hour later than expected due to the first semifinal needing to be settled in double overtime. After 98 minutes — the second longest game in Frozen Four history —  University of Minnesota Duluth finally scored on AHCA Goalie of the Year Aerin Frankel of Northeastern to secure their spot in the National Championship.

With a championship against UMD on the line, the second semifinal game of the day was nonstop action from the puck drop. The game’s first period set the tone for the night with high-paced, 200-foot hockey. Both teams generated chances to score the game’s first goal, but neither could break the ice.

Despite a 14–7 Ohio State advantage in shots on goal, the period was fairly evenly matched. As much of the action for both teams stayed on the outside, the players were unable to create good scoring opportunities.

Star goalie Gianna Meloni ’22 kept the game scoreless after the Elis went on the penalty kill in the first. The Buckeyes’ powerplay unit peppered the net but couldn’t get one through.

In the second period, the Bulldogs were finally able to break the ice when defenseman Tabea Bothoff ’23 poked the puck over the goal line following an extended scrum in front of the Buckeyes’ net. 

“We definitely were a little nervous coming into play the No. 1 seed, but after this period, I think we’re just gonna get more confident throughout the game,” Rebecca Vanstone ’23 said during the first intermission.

The goal, Bothoff’s second of the postseason, generated momentum from the Bulldogs’ bench for the next few minutes, who dominated puck control in the offensive zone. 

Five minutes after Bothoff’s goal, Yale took a bench penalty for too many men. The Ohio State power play went to work. The Buckeyes executed a set play perfectly, bumping the puck below the goal line before finding a wide open Paetyn Levis in the high slot before she one timed it in.

“We talked about how important the power play is, especially in these big games,” Levis said in an interview with ESPN during the second intermission. “Frozen Four, your special teams can play a big part of that so we knew that that power play, it was a lot to give us a good energy.”

Ohio State wasn’t done there as they followed the goal with a couple of high-energy shifts that saw them build on their lead. 

On a beautiful play, Buckeyes’ forward Jenn Gardiner dangled past two Bulldogs as she entered the zone, protecting the puck to the outside of the zone, before tucking the puck up above Meloni’s shoulder.  

Despite Yale’s many grade-A scoring opportunities in the third, the Bulldogs were unable to convert to tie the game. The Elis worked hard to generate chances, while Meloni did her job to keep the Buckeyes at two goals, but just couldn’t force one in.

The Bulldogs’ opportunities included a power play late in the period that the Buckeyes rendered null. Yale was unable to register a single shot on goal for the duration of the two minute penalty. 

Bolding called a timeout with 2:16 to go in the game. Less than a minute later, Meloni left the goal to give the Bulldogs a final man-advantage. 

Emma Seitz ’23 managed to get off a solid shot from the top of the circle with a screen in blocking the Buckeyes’ goalie. With 59 seconds left, Ohio State head coach Nadine Muzerall called a timeout after Yale gained momentum in the offensive zone.

During the last minute of the game, the young Yale team found themselves scrambling to stay alive and tie up the game. 

Meloni set her season high in saves with 27 against the Buckeyes in her final game for the Bulldogs. Ohio State out shot Yale 29 to 17, compared to the 77 shots that Ohio State slammed toward Quinnipiac’s net in the NCAA regional finals. 

With only five graduating seniors on the team, Yale is one of the youngest teams in the league and is poised for more late playoff runs in coming seasons. Playmakers Claire Dalton ’23 and Seitz both have one more year of NCAA eligibility while forwards like Elle Hartje ’24 and Grace Lee ’24 have two. The huge first year class, which includes speedy defender Vita Poniatovskaia ’25 and goalie Pia Dukaric ’25, will also head into the 2022-23 season with a wealth of playoff hockey under their belts.

Perhaps, 2023 will be the year of the Bulldog. 

ROSA BRACERAS
Rosa Braceras covers Women’s Ice Hockey, Softball, and other sports news. Originally from the Boston area, she is a junior in Benjamin Franklin College majoring in History.
SPENCER KING