Ketchum Scores a Pair, MacLean Adds One
HAMILTON, N.Y. - The Yale women's hockey team headed to New York on Friday with just two more chances to establish some positive momentum heading into winter break. A 2-2 tie at No. 6/7 Cornell Friday got the weekend off to a good start, and the Bulldogs went one better on Saturday at Colgate's Starr Rink. Junior goaltender Jackee Snikeris made 43 saves, junior forward Bray Ketchum delivered a pair of goals and junior defenseman Samantha MacLean added her first score of the year for an impressive 3-0 win over the Raiders. This was Snikeris' 10th career shutout, giving her sole possession of second place on Yale's all-time list -- just two away from the school record set by Sarah Love '06.
With only the top eight teams in the ECAC Hockey standings making the playoffs, Yale (3-8-2, 2-7-1 ECAC Hockey) needed to start making its move sooner rather than later. Thanks in large part to Snikeris' 81-save weekend, the Bulldogs have moved out of 11th place and are back within striking distance of a playoff spot. Just six points separate Yale from fifth-place Princeton.
"This was huge," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt. "Any time you can get three points on the road it's great, but especially when things haven't been going your way. This will give us some momentum heading into the second half of the season."
One of the many signs of progress for Yale this weekend was improved results in the first period. The Bulldogs had been outscored 13-3 in the first periods of their first 11 games, but Friday's first period was a 1-1 affair and on Saturday the lone goal came from the Bulldogs. It was the third time this season Yale scored first.
The Bulldogs went on the offensive immediately, but a pair of shots from the point by sophomore defenseman Heather Grant in the first 90 seconds were blocked before they made it to Raiders goalie Lisa Plenderleith. But a minute later freshman forward Alyssa Zupon and senior defenseman Alyssa Clarke got the puck to senior forward Bray Ketchum. Ketchum drove to the net and had sophomore forward Aleca Hughes right with her. Ketchum kept the puck and put a quick wrist shot on net. It wound up finding its way past Plenderleith for a 1-0 lead at 2:25.
That was also a sign of progress for the Bulldogs, as it showed the way that the line they are counting on for scoring has come together. With many freshmen starting to emerge as contributors, Zupon has stood out lately for the way she has meshed with her two high-octane line mates. Until four games ago she had no assists; she now has a team-high five.
"Zupon is just a fast, crafty little player," said Witt. "She has brought a lot to that line working with those two. She's made it easier for them offensively."
Yale had to kill off a penalty just 73 seconds into the second period, and Snikeris made a pair of saves to keep the Raiders off the board. A slashing penalty on the Raiders at 5:50 gave Yale the chance to re-claim some offensive momentum. Hughes just missed redirecting a pass from Ketchum, and Clarke had one shot blocked and another shot saved. The Raiders were also able to tie up sophomore forward Becky Mantell before she could get to a loose puck in front of the net after a shot by freshman defenseman Jamie Gray was blocked.
Even after the Raider penalty expired the Bulldogs kept up the pressure, and it paid off. Plenderleith stopped a shot by Clarke and Ketchum's rebound attempt, but the puck went behind the net and Colgate's attempt to clear failed.
The puck wound up on the stick of junior defenseman Samantha MacLean high in the slot. MacLean normally spends her time doing all sorts of little things that help her team win games even though they don't show up on the stats sheet, such as hustling after loose pucks and blocking shots. But when she gets a chance to tee up a shot she can do that as well, and she buried this one past Plenderleith for a 2-0 lead at 8:33.
"It's nice to see Sam get rewarded with a goal," said Witt. "She's our workhorse. She sacrifices her body to block shots in the defensive zone all the time."
A Yale penalty with 6:17 left in the second gave the Raiders one of their best opportunities to get back in the game. But Snikeris delivered one of her biggest saves of the night 30 seconds into the penalty kill, sprawling out in the crease and getting to a shot by forward Hannah Milan just before it crossed the goal line. She would finish with 18 saves in the period.
The third period featured three more Raider power plays, including one just 15 seconds in and another for too many men on the ice right as that one ended, after the Yale player was released from the penalty box too early. Shortly after the Bulldogs killed off those penalties the Raiders had a 2-on-1 with forwards Brittany Phillips and Amanda Rotenberg, but the "1" for Yale was MacLean. Not only did she keep Colgate from getting a shot off, but she also helped force a charging call against the Raiders at the end of the play. Plenderleith made a great save on Hughes during that power play to keep the Yale lead at two, but a minute after that save Hughes led Ketchum for a wrister that beat Plenderleith high on her glove side at 8:50 to make it 3-0. Ketchum now has a team-high six goals and nine points, including four power-play goals.
Another Yale penalty a minute after that gave Colgate another chance to get on the scoreboard, but forward Marissa Dumbovy's slap shot hit the cross bar. Mantell was eventually able to backhand the puck out of the zone, and Phillips slid one just wide as the Yale penalty ended.
The Yale penalty killing unit was a perfect 6-for-6 on Saturday, and 10-for-10 on the weekend.
"Our kids worked really hard on the penalty kill," Witt said. "The biggest thing on the PK is typically your goaltender, and that kid was amazing for us today. Hopefully that will give us some confidence going forward."
Snikeris continued to get help from her teammates as the game wore on and the Raiders continued to launch more shots at the net. Senior forward Caroline Murphy dove to the ice to emphatically block a slap shot from defenseman Jessica Hootz all the way out to the neutral zone with 6:30 to play. Ninety seconds later Snikeris sticked aside a shot from the left circle by Rotenberg after a loose puck was poked to her off the left boards.
Colgate called timeout with 3:12, and as soon as the Raiders got the puck deep they pulled Plenderleith for an extra attacker. Sophomore defenseman Lauren Davis was able to clear the puck to the neutral zone with 2:45 to play, but the Raiders brought it right back into the Yale zone. For the next 90 seconds they controlled the puck there, not even allowing Yale the chance to make a line change. Grant finally ended that stretch with a diving, backhanded clear with just over a minute to play.
After Snikeris made her final save of the day Zupon came through with a pair of faceoff wins. Clarke controlled the puck after the last one and ran out the clock behind the Yale net.
Clarke was as good a person as any to bring the shutout to an end; in addition to being one of Yale's best defensive players she was also one of the four players (with Hughes, Ketchum and Zupon) who were on the ice for all three Yale goals Saturday. Her assist gives her four points in the last four games.
"In many ways, we go as Clarkie goes," said Witt. "She's definitely a leader on the ice. She stepped up and had a great weekend."
Yale now takes a break for exams and holidays. The Bulldogs resume play at Ingalls Rink on Jan. 1 at 3 p.m. vs. Northeastern.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity