November 27, 2010

Quinnipiac Edges Yale 2-1 for Nutmeg Classic Title

Snikeris Earns Belliveau Award as Top Goaltender 

HAMDEN, Conn. – A duel between two of the best goaltenders in ECAC Hockey decided the 2010 Nutmeg Classic championship game Saturday night at Quinnipiac's TD Bank Sports Center. Unfortunately for Yale a 43-23 Bobcats shot advantage was too much for senior goalie Jackee Snikeris to overcome. Snikeris stopped 41 shots, but Quinnipiac's Victoria Vigilanti stopped 22 of the 23 Yale shots to give QU a 2-1 win and the tournament title. Snikeris did win the Laurie Belliveau Award as the top goalie at the Classic.

Yale (3-7-2, 2-3-1 ECAC Hockey) had advanced to the title game with a convincing 5-2 win over UConn, which had won three Nutmeg Classics in a row, on Friday night. Snikeris made 28 saves in that one. Quinnipiac (11-6-1, 4-5-0 ECAC Hockey) had beaten Sacred Heart 9-1 without even needing to use Vigilanti.

Vigilanti benefited from a Quinnipiac defense that held Yale to its lowest shot total in the last five games, snapping a string of four straight 30+ shot efforts by the Bulldogs.

"They did a good job taking a lot of things away from us," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh. "I was hoping we would generate more scoring opportunities. Quinnipiac had more quality chances than we did."

Junior forward Aleca Hughes had Yale's first shot on goal six minutes into the first period, a wrister that Vigilanti blocked and then covered. On the ensuing faceoff senior forward Bray Ketchum slid a backhander just wide. Two and half minutes later Vigilanti made a nice pad save on Ketchum in the midst of traffic in front.

Halfway through the period a turnover in the neutral zone gave the Bobcats an odd-man rush, but Snikeris made the save and covered the puck.

The Bulldogs nearly withstood a flurry by the Bobcats right at the end of the first. Snikeris sticked aside a wide-open shot by defenseman Bethany Dymarczyk, but Quinnipiac kept the puck alive. Forward Kate Wheeler was able to push the puck past a sprawled-out Snikeris just 5.4 seconds before intermission to give Quinnipiac a 1-0 lead.

Yale tied it up three minutes into the second. Hughes and Ketchum combined to get the puck on net, and with Vigilanti out of position the Bobcat defense lost track of sophomore forward Alyssa Zupon, who snuck in the back door and stuffed in the loose puck.

Quinnipiac nearly went back ahead just two minutes later, but Snikeris denied a wide-open slap shot from the slot by Wheeler.

Forward Brittany Lyons gave Quinnipiac a 2-1 lead at 11:56 of the second. Snikeris got a piece of her wrister, but not enough to stop it from going in.

 Two minutes after that forward Amanda Colin chased down a loose puck deep in the Yale zone but Snikeris snuffed out her attempt and kept Yale within one.

The first penalty of the game was against the Bulldogs with 4:26 left in the second. After a pair of clears by sophomore defenseman Tara Tomimoto and one by senior defenseman Samantha MacLean, Snikeris made a pair of saves on defenseman Regan Boulton. Freshman forward Jackie Raines cleared the puck right near the end of the penalty kill, and Snikeris tacked on a save on Lyons as the teams returned to even strength.

With time winding down in the second the Bulldogs were nearly victimized by forward Kelly Babstock, the Bobcat freshman who has already broken the school single season assist and point records. A deflected shot trickled behind Snikeris as she was down in the crease, but she was able to get her glove on Babstock's attempt to jam it in behind her.

Vigilanti covered a backhander by freshman forward Jenna Ciotti four minutes into the third, then denied a hard slap shot by Tomimoto off the faceoff. Snikeris answered two minutes later by denying a shot by Lyons and her attempt to stuff in the rebound.

A penalty on the Bulldogs with five minutes to play changed the complexion of the end of the game. While Yale was able to kill off the penalty thanks to some big saves by Snikeris, it was several minutes before the Bulldogs could get the puck into the Quinnipiac zone to set up on offense and try to tie the game.

With Snikeris pulled for an extra attacker in the final 90 seconds, the Bulldogs were able to get a faceoff in the Quinnipiac zone. Tomimoto got off a slap shot with a minute to play, but Vigilanti made the save and also smothered Raines' attempt to jam in the rebound at the near post. With 30 seconds to play, the Bobcats broke up a Yale centering pass and cleared the zone.

Yale did get one last faceoff in the Quinnipiac zone with five seconds left, but a shot by junior defenseman Heather Grant was blocked and the Bobcats celebrated their first Nutmeg Classic title since the 2005-06 season. The Bulldogs have played for the championship six times but have just one title, in the 2006-07 season.

"Jackee Snikeris played great, and kept us in the game," Flygh said. "There's a lot we can take away from both games this weekend. We still have to find a way to play a complete game."

In addition to Snikeris, Ketchum made the all-tournament team. She had two goals and an assist in Friday's win.

Yale returns to ECAC Hockey play next Friday afternoon at Princeton.

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