January 3, 2010

Yale’s Stars Shine in Exhibition vs. U.S. Olympic Team

Ketchum, Snikeris and Witt Part of ECAC Hockey All-Star Team

HAMDEN, Conn. - It was truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and Yale forward Bray Ketchum and goalkeeper Jackee Snikeris took full advantage of it. The junior duo got the chance to play for the ECAC Hockey All-Star Team against the U.S. Olympic Team in an exhibition game Sunday afternoon at TD Bank Sports Center, and both came away with some memorable moments in the 8-2 win for the USA. Ketchum was on the ice for the All-Stars' first goal. Snikeris played the second period and made a team-high 10 saves. In addition to the two Bulldogs on the ice, Yale head coach Hilary Witt served as an assistant coach for the ECAC Hockey All-Stars.

Team USA scored three times in the first period against RPI goaltender Sonja van der Bliek, who finished with nine saves. The shot total for the period favored the U.S. only slightly, 12-10, but Team USA bounced back in the second period to outshoot the All-Stars 13-6. That also happened to be Snikeris' turn to play in goal, but thanks to her work the All-Stars were actually able to chip away at the U.S. lead while she was in there.

When Snikeris started the period ECAC Hockey was in the midst of killing off a penalty, and she helped finish off the final 1:09 of that kill without allowing goal. The U.S. finally got one past her at 2:38, with forward Jocelyn Lamoureux knocking in a perfect pass from forward Erika Lawler for a goal that made it 4-0. A minute later Ketchum had a shot blocked at the other end of the ice.

Snikeris began settling into a groove with a glove save on a shot by forward Jinelle Zaugg-Siergiej six minutes in, and shortly after that she delivered one of the signature moments of the game. Lamoureux, who was fourth in the NCAA in scoring as a freshman at Minnesota last season (28 goals, 37 assists), came charging in from the neutral zone with a pair of her teammates and no ECAC Hockey defenders in sight. With the three Olympians bearing down on her Snikeris came out of the net, and Lamoureux attempted to maneuver past her to the right post to stuff in the puck. Snikeris matched her move-for-move, then got out her left leg for a spectacular save that earned one of the biggest reactions of the day from the crowd of 3,809.

"That was just a typical Snik save, going from one post to the other," Ketchum said. "It really got the crowd going, which was great."

But there was a scary moment for both teams less than a minute later when Snikeris collided with Lawler and both players momentarily hit the ice. They both got up, and as play continued U.S. forward Caitlin Cahow was able to get a piece of a shot by defenseman Kerry Weiland to deflect it past Snikeris at 9:13.

Snikeris covered up a dangerous backhand pass in front by forward Kelli Stack 90 seconds later, and the ECAC Hockey All-Stars started to rally shortly thereafter. Ketchum was among of pack of players near the net as forward Tara Akstull deflected in a shot by defenseman Cori Bassett. Ketchum got a brief moment of recognition, as she was credited with the goal over the PA system, but after the game she made it clear that she had not touched the puck.

"It was definitely a good shot from Cori," Ketchum said. "We just had to put some traffic in front of the net."

Less than 30 seconds after that goal the U.S. tried to answer, but Snikeris snuffed out Cahow's shot from right in front. Most of the rest of the period was textbook goaltending from the Bulldog net minder, the type Yale fans have grown accustomed to, as she smothered shot after shot and allowed no rebound chances. Slap shots from Weiland and defenseman Kacey Bellamy found their final resting place in Snikeris' glove, and with 3:09 left in the period the game really began getting interesting as ECAC Hockey forward Anna McDonald scored to cut the U.S. lead to 5-2.

With less than three minutes to play Snikeris snared wristers from forwards Natalie Darwitz and Karen Thatcher, then somehow spotted a slap shot from forward Jenny Potter with heavy traffic in front in time to get her right leg out for the kick save. Ketchum then got a shot on goal at the other end of the ice, with U.S. goalie Molly Schaus making the save.

Snikeris' 20 minutes of work would have ended 2-2, but the U.S. was able to set up Darwitz for a goal with only 10.5 seconds left before the second intermission. Like the other two goals scored against her, there was little Snikeris or any other goalie could have done to stop the shot. She left the ice having confirmed that she is capable of playing with the best players in the country.

"It was fun," Snikeris said. "Just to make any kind of impact was great. I was nervous, but I tried to just have fun and do what I can to help the team."

The U.S. then pulled away midway through the third with Colgate's Kimberly Sass in goal, as Darwitz and Lamoureux both scored again to make the final 8-2. Ketchum's last play was a breakup of a U.S. pass at the ECAC Hockey blue line. She finished as one of only three ECAC Hockey players with an even +/- and was credited with one shot on goal.

The game was part of the Qwest Tour, a 10-game domestic tour designed to prepare the U.S. for the upcoming Olympics. The ECAC Hockey All-Star squad was assembled specifically for this event, and included players from 10 of the league's 12 teams (Brown and Dartmouth both had games Sunday). The U.S. beat all-star teams from the WCHA and Hockey East earlier in the tour.

"It was a great event," Ketchum said. "I'll never play in front of so many fans again. It was a fun experience, especially since I think we held our own against a team that has been practicing together for months."

Ketchum and Snikeris ended their day by signing autographs for young fans for nearly an hour after the game alongside members of the Olympic Team. Yale returns to action next Friday at No. 10 BU.

Photo Gallery
USA Hockey Qwest Tour Website

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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