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Late Comeback Falls Short at Harvard, 4-3

Jen Matichuk. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Jen Matichuk. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

 Bulldogs Now Tied with Dartmouth for Final Playoff Spot

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - With each game left in the season taking on more and more importance as ECAC Hockey playoff spots get determined, the Yale Bulldogs attempted to maintain their position in the standings with a furious comeback Saturday afternoon at Harvard's Bright Hockey Center. But two Yale goals in the final 4:19 were not enough, and the 4-3 loss to the Crimson left the Bulldogs tied with Dartmouth for the eighth and final playoff spot in the conference standings.

En route to a 43-shot day Harvard (15-5-4, 11-5-2 ECAC Hockey) controlled the play for the first few minutes, but the Bulldogs eventually began generating some offense. Freshman forward Alyssa Zupon sent a nice feed from sophomore forward Aleca Hughes just wide of the net three minutes in, and seven minutes in Zupon put a tough shot through traffic on net that Harvard goalie Laura Bellamy stopped, leaving the rebound off to her left. No Bulldogs were within reach of it, however, and Harvard was able to clear the puck.

A hooking penalty on the Crimson at 13:14 gave Yale another chance to get on the scoreboard, but junior defenseman Samantha MacLean and sophomore defenseman Heather Grant sent slap shots just wide and Bellamy made a save on a shot by Zupon.

Two penalties on the Bulldogs in a span of 22 seconds late in the first tilted momentum back in Harvard's favor. During the 5-on-3, forward Randi Griffin was able to deflect a shot by defenseman Cori Bassett past junior goalie Jackee Snikeris for a 1-0 lead just 21 seconds before the period ended.

The Crimson were still on a power play 33 seconds into the second period when forward Jillian Dempsey knocked in a rebound to make the score 2-0. Three minutes later, the Bulldogs crept closer with a power-play goal of their own as junior forward Bray Ketchum both created the power play opportunity and helped cash in on it. First, she made a perfect centering pass from beside the Crimson goal, but there were no Bulldogs in position to receive it. Ketchum circled around behind the net and stayed with the play, eventually chasing down the loose puck and drawing a slashing penalty on Harvard. With Yale on the power play, freshman defenseman Tara Tomimoto set up Ketchum for a high slap shot that senior defenseman Alyssa Clarke deflected past Bellamy at the 3:39 mark.

Snikeris made a nice play to deny a one-timer by forward Anna McDonald after defenseman Kelsey Romatoski found her from across the ice with a pass. But shortly after that penalties once again came back to haunt the Bulldogs. A hooking call led to defenseman Leanna Coskren banging in the rebound of a shot by defenseman Cori Bassett at 10:59, and right after the Bulldogs finished killing off a tripping call later in the period forward Kaitlin Spurling redirected a crossing pass from Romatoski in for a 4-1 Harvard lead.

Yale (9-13-3, 7-10-1 ECAC Hockey) was unable to take advantage of a pair of penalties on the Crimson late in the second. During the first power play a Bulldog turnover in the Yale zone gave Harvard the chance to spend most of the kill with the puck far away from the Crimson net. Senior forward Berit Johnson's attempt to redirect a slap shot by MacLean sailed high right after the Yale power play ended. During another Crimson penalty at the end of the second Snikeris had to make a save on forward Katharine Chute to keep Harvard from getting a short-handed goal.

Having outshot Yale 16-5 in the second period, Harvard did not have to do much more in the third. The Crimson continued to limit Yale's threats, even when the Bulldogs had a power play midway through the period. Kylie Stephens came on in relief of Bellamy with 7:52 to play, and it was more than three minutes before she even saw a shot. But after she did, things got interesting. The Bulldogs were able to inch closer with 4:19 to play when Ketchum knocked in a rebound of a shot by sophomore forward Aleca Hughes, set up by Zupon.

A minute after the Yale goal Snikeris made a spectacular save on a shot from right in front by Spurling, and Zupon was able to get her stick on the rebound before it trickled over the goal line -- but the Bulldogs were whistled for a cross-checking penalty. They had to spend two of the final three minutes of the game killing a penalty, dimming their chance to continue the comeback. But after a Harvard penalty with 1:07 to play Yale pulled Snikeris for an extra attacker with the faceoff in the Harvard zone and it immediately paid dividends. Zupon won the faceoff back to MacLean for a slap shot from the left point that beat Stephens on her stick side at 18:58, pulling Yale within one.

That added to the drama of the final minute, but ultimately the Bulldogs were unable to get the equalizer. Snikeris finished with 39 saves, while Bellamy made 15 and Stephens made three.

The loss means that the Bulldogs will need some help to make the playoffs even if they win all their remaining games. Dartmouth, which beat Brown 4-2 Saturday, holds the first tiebreaker (head-to-head record) over the Bulldogs, so Yale must pass the Big Green in the standings -- and hold off tenth-place Colgate -- to ensure a spot in the postseason.

The Bulldogs will hold their annual "Skate with the Players" Sunday at 2:15 at Ingalls Rink, then host Colgate Friday night at 7 p.m.  The Raiders, who lost to Quinnipiac 2-1 Saturday, trail the Bulldogs by one point in the standings. Seventh-place Princeton is five points ahead of Dartmouth and Yale.

Report by Sam Rubin '95 (, Yale Sports Publicity