Snikeris' 39 Saves Key Victory
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale women's hockey team needed a win Friday night to stay within striking distance of an ECAC Hockey playoff spot, but the Bulldogs' opponents -- Colgate -- needed one even more badly. The Raiders entered the night trailing Dartmouth and Yale for the final playoff spot by one point, and they came out firing with a 15-shot onslaught in the first period. But thanks to a goal by senior forward Caroline Murphy and 14 saves from junior goalie Jackee Snikeris, the period ended with the score tied 1-1. Junior defenseman Samantha MacLean then broke the tie at 6:51 of the second, and an empty-net goal by sophomore forward Aleca Hughes in the third finalized the crucial 3-1 win for the Bulldogs. Snikeris ended the night with 39 saves.
With just two weekends left to play, Colgate, Dartmouth and Yale started Friday all grouped within a point of each other in the standings -- with the likelihood that only one team from that group would make it into the postseason. The Bulldogs-Raiders showdown at Ingalls had the feeling of an elimination game, but Yale did its best to stay focused.
"We didn't talk about that at all," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt. "We knew how important it was to win, but we wanted to just come out and play the game."
Snikeris was ready to play from the start, continuing the roll that she has been on since the Bulldogs made the trip to Colgate and Cornell last December. She stopped 43 shots for a shutout in Hamilton, and on Friday at Ingalls she was nearly as stingy again.
"She kept us in the game in the first period," said Witt. "Then she made a huge save in the third period when we were on the power play, coming out to stop the shot. We might have relied on her a little too much, but we got the job done."
The Bulldogs did not get their first shot on goal of the game until nearly 10 minutes in, but they made it count. MacLean got the puck to freshman forward Danielle Moncion in the neutral zone, and she took it down the left wing before cutting through the Raider defense towards the net. She deked a defender down to the ice and backhanded the puck past Raider goalie Lisa Plenderleith, but it hit the post. Murphy grabbed the loose puck and shot it past Plenderleith to give the Bulldogs a 1-0 lead at 9:24.
"What made that goal was the play Dani made, [sophomore forward] Becky Mantell going hard to the net, and Murph being able to put in the rebound," said Witt. "If any of those things don't happen, we probably don't score."
Snikeris' busy first period included coming out of the net to stuff forward Marissa Dombovy with 9:30 left in the period. But shortly after that the Bulldogs were hit with the first penalty of the period, and the Raiders made them pay. Forward Evan Minnick grabbed a bouncing pass behind the Yale net, came out in front and slid one past Snikeris to tie the game 1-1 at the 13:18 mark.
The Bulldogs were hit with another penalty just a minute after the Colgate goal, but Snikeris came up with a pair of big saves on forward Katie Stewart right in front of the net. Junior forward Bray Ketchum brought the penalty kill to an end by intercepting the Raiders' attempt to bring the puck out of their own zone. The teams went into the first intermission tied.
Snikeris set the tone for the second period with a spectacular kick save on Minnick 30 seconds in. The Bulldogs caught a break 90 seconds later when a shot by forward Amanda Kirwan hit the post, and for the rest of the period Snikeris shut the Raiders out. The Bulldogs took some time to get their offense going, but once they did they found the back of the net quickly. Mantell created a turnover along the boards as Colgate was trying to clear the puck, and then got the puck back to MacLean just inside the blue line. She quickly rifled a slap shot that sailed past Plenderleith for a 2-1 Yale lead at 6:51.
"She ripped it so hard," Witt said. "It was just a great shot. It was a snipe."
Yale got its first power play of the game when freshman forward Natalie Wedell drew a checking call right in front of the Raider net on a MacLean slap shot. The Bulldogs were unable to extend their lead on the power play, but they did start generating some quality chances. Another Raider penalty with 2:12 left in the period saw the Bulldogs come just short of stuffing in a couple rebounds. The power play ended with freshman defenseman Jamie Gray having one slap shot saved and another one blocked. Snikeris then had to make a great glove save with.3 seconds left to keep the score 2-1 Yale at the end of the second period.
The third-period was a nail-biter, starting with a Bulldog penalty less than a minute in. Senior defenseman Alyssa Clarke bounced the puck off the boards and out of the zone at the start of the PK, and also intercepted a pass at the blue line as the Raiders attempted to get back in the Yale zone. Hughes' forechecking then tied the puck up along the boards deep in Colgate territory, and Ketchum blocked a hard slap shot from the blue line to continue to stymie the Raider attack. Snikeris made saves on forward Jenna Klynstra and Minnick, and Kirwan sent a shot wide as the Raider power play ended.
Snikeris made a pair of huge stops during one sequence seven minutes in. First, she got her leg on a slap shot by Beth Rotenberg while colliding with forward Brittany Phillips, who was aiming for a deflection. Thirty seconds later she denied forward Hannah Milan low in the slot after a perfect pass from beside the net by Phillips.
Both teams then came inches away from goals. First, MacLean ripped a shot from the neutral zone just trying to get the puck deep. But it deflected off a Raider and flew high in the air. Plenderleith was coming out of her net looking to play the puck, but it sailed over her head as she leaped up looking to make the grab. The Raiders caught a break when it bounced harmlessly off the crossbar, keeping Yale's lead at 2-1.
Colgate then nearly tied it with Yale on a power play. A turnover behind the Bulldog net gave Milan a wide-open wrister that Snikeris came out to smother.
With 4:27 to play Snikeris came up with another game-changer. She got a piece of a hard shot from low in the left circle by forward Jacquie Colborne, but the puck slipped behind her and was trickling over the goal line. Snikeris turned around and spotted it with just enough time to get her glove down on it.
The Raiders had a faceoff in the Yale zone with 98 seconds left and pulled Plenderleith for an extra attacker. Snikeris gloved a shot by Minnick that was headed wide, and the Bulldogs called timeout with another faceoff in their zone. Clarke was eventually able to backhand the puck out, but the Raiders brought it right back in. The game was not decided until a bad Colgate pass back to the point slipped all the way down to the other end of the ice. Behind the open net, Ketchum's forechecking led to a turnover, and she fed Hughes in front. Hughes' first shot was blocked, but she stayed with the play and stuffed the puck in to seal the 3-1 win.
"During the timeout we just wanted to set up our face-off and kept saying we needed to get aggressive," said Witt. "Alyssa Clarke was phenomenal in the final minutes. What a great play Bray made to set up that goal, and what a great play Aleca made to follow up on her own shot."
Clarke, a candidate for the NCAA Frozen Four Skills Challenge East Squad, and MacLean both finished the game +3. Mantell and Murphy were +2.
The win helps Yale keep pace with Dartmouth (4-0 winners at Union Friday night) for the eighth and final ECAC Hockey playoff spot. The Bulldogs host Cornell Saturday at 4 p.m. and will honor their three seniors, Clarke, Murphy and forward Berit Johnson, in their final game at Ingalls Rink. The game can be seen live on Yale All-Access on yalebulldogs.com.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity
Video highlights by David Dikranian: