Power Play Produces but Bulldogs Still Fall, 5-3 to Harvard

Lauren Davis. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
Lauren Davis. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Two Goals for Hughes

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's hockey team has been battling a drought on the power play, and that came to an end Saturday afternoon with a pair of goals on the man advantage against Harvard. But the Crimson withstood a series of comeback attempts by Yale, and an empty-netter in the final seconds sealed a 5-3 Harvard win.

"We shot the puck more," said head coach Joakim Flygh in explaining the Bulldogs' success on the power play. "We did a little video this morning, and that may have helped. I think our players had the mentality of needing to shoot more."

Eight of Yale's 24 shots on goal came on the power play, and the 50 shots on goal Yale combined for against Dartmouth and Harvard the last two days represents the Bulldogs' best weekend output in that category since Nov. 26-27 (56 shots against UConn and Quinnipiac).

But after falling behind early Yale (5-14-2, 4-9-1 ECAC Hockey) was never able to come all the way back. Harvard (12-7-2, 11-3-2 ECAC Hockey) scored on its first shot, an unassisted goal by forward Jillian Dempsey at 4:35.

The Yale power play unit, which had not scored since Dec. 3, finally hit pay dirt after a Harvard penalty at 8:30 of the first. Harvard goalie Laura Bellamy sticked aside a hard slap shot by senior forward Bray Ketchum. But shortly after that junior forward Lauren Davis had the puck tied up along the left boards with a Crimson player and won that battle by kicking the puck to freshman forward Jenna Ciotti. Ciotti skated off the boards past a defender and into the left circle, where she sent a shot on net. Bellamy got a piece of it, but it wound up going right through her legs to tie the game 1-1 at 10:03.

The assist was the first career point for Davis, who is enjoying the best season of her career in a role where her contributions often can't be measured by stats.

"She's worked extremely hard," said Flygh. "It was great to see her get rewarded with a point. Hopefully next she gets a goal."

A pair of quick goals by Harvard early in the second changed the complexion of the game. Forward Lyndsey Fry scored at even strength 2:35 into the period, and forward Liza Ryabkina scored on a power play at 8:59. The Bulldogs were never able to get the game evened up again.

After killing off another penalty, Yale had another power play but came up empty. Ketchum got off a tough shot in the slot while being dragged down, but Bellamy stopped it for one of her 21 saves for the game.

Back at even strength, the Bulldogs crept closer with three minutes left in the second. Sophomore forward Alyssa Zupon set up sophomore defenseman Jamie Gray for a slap shot that Bellamy made a kick save on, but junior forward Aleca Hughes was camped out in perfect position to nab the rebound and stuff it in to pull Yale within 3-2 at the 16:52 mark.

Hughes had a three-goal weekend, doubling her season goal total in the span of two days. Like Davis, she has been making contributions all season long that haven't been reflected in the stats.

"I don't think you'll find a player in college hockey who plays with more passion than Aleca," Flygh said. "She plays her heart out every night. It was nice to see her get some goals this weekend."

There was one more threat from the Crimson in the second, as forward Kate Buesser came in on a breakaway in the final minute. Gray raced back to put a body on Buesser, but  senior goalie Jackee Snikeris made the play she needed to make by coming out of the net and poke-checking the puck away just before Buesser could get off a shot.

The Bulldogs thus wound up with the game still within reach in the third period, as was the case in each of their three straight losses heading into Saturday's game. This one came down to the final four minutes, and, as they did in the other three, the Bulldogs came up just short. Harvard forward Katherine Chute made the score 4-2 with four minutes to play, scooping up a blocked shot and rifling it past Snikeris.

Hughes kept the battle going by scoring another power-play goal for the Bulldogs. Zupon and freshman forward Jackie Raines -- who combined to go 34-18 on face-offs in the game -- picked up assists. Zupon got the puck to Raines and she skated into the slot, drawing the attention of the defense before sending the puck back to Hughes for a wide-open shot that made it 4-3 Harvard with 2:01 to play.

That enabled the Bulldogs to pull Snikeris for an extra attacker, much as they had done the night before in a 2-1 loss to Dartmouth. But Chute skated in all alone and tapped in the empty-netter with 15 seconds to play to make the final 5-3.

Yale had earned a 3-3 tie with the Crimson earlier in the season, and Saturday's game was further evidence that not much separates the Bulldogs from a Harvard team that currently sits in second place in the league.

"I thought we played with them all game," Flygh said. "They had some nice individual efforts for their goals. But our kids came to play, and that was evident. They weren't going to give up."

Yale starts a stretch of five straight road games with a visit to Brown Tuesday at 7 p.m.

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