Snikeris Makes 35 Saves for Shutout
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Thanks to great goaltending from a senior and a timely first career goal from a freshman, the Yale women's ice hockey team kept its ECAC Hockey playoff hopes alive Friday night with a dramatic 1-0 win over Quinnipiac at Ingalls rink. Freshman forward Ashley Dunbar's goal with 5:42 to play -- the first of her career -- was enough for the win, thanks to 35 saves from senior goalie Jackee Snikeris.
Both teams had plenty to fight for Friday night. Yale entered the day in 10th place, but was two points away from the three teams tied for seventh. Quinnipiac was in fourth, trying to cement one of the four home ice playoff spots for next weekend's best-of-three quarterfinals. The Bulldogs needed to move into the top eight in order to keep their chances of making the playoffs alive.
An early penalty on the Bulldogs gave the Bobcats a chance to seize offensive momentum in the first period, and they never let up. By the time the period was finished Quinnipiac had a 17-1 advantage in shots, but with Snikeris in net the Bulldogs remained locked in a scoreless duel. A Bobcats shot during that first power play hit the post, but other than that nothing got past the Yale net minder. That included one dicey stretch where she temporarily lost her stick, and still managed to make a kick save. Yale's lone shot on goal was a long-distance attempt by junior forward Lauren Davis that Quinnipiac goalie Victoria Vigilanti gloved. Snikeris finished off her busy first period by smothering a slap shot by forward Elena Orlando as the horn sounded.
"I thought we worked really hard in the first period, even though the shot totals did not show that," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh. "I knew the effort was there. We had some opportunities but just missed getting the puck on net."
Yale cut down on Snikeris' workload slightly in the second period, and a diving pass breakup by junior defenseman Heather Grant denied an early scoring opportunity for the Bobcats. Snikeris still had to make 12 more saves in that frame, but the Bulldogs gave Vigilanti some tests at the other end of the ice as well. A faceoff win by sophomore forward Alyssa Zupon set up senior forward Bray Ketchum for a slap shot that just missed with 3:30 left in the second. A penalty on the Bobcats in the final minutes of the period nearly resulted in a goal, but freshman forward Jackie Raines could not connect on her attempt at a one-timer off a pass from junior forward Aleca Hughes. Right after that a penalty on the Bulldogs left the teams skating four aside, but Hughes chipped the puck off the boards to herself in transition and got off a wrister from the left circle that Vigilanti snatched out of the air to keep the game scoreless heading into the second intermission.
Hughes drew a penalty on the Bobcats five minutes into the third, but Vigilanti turned aside Ketchum's attempt to stuff the puck in. Shortly after the Quinnipiac penalty ended the Bulldogs nearly caught the Bobcats on a line change, but senior defenseman Samantha MacLean's pass from the Yale zone sailed just out of the reach of sophomore forward Danielle Moncion and it wound up being an icing call on Yale. Off the ensuing faceoff Snikeris had to react quickly to stop and cover a shot from forward Amanda Colin.
Davis set herself up for another shot with eight minutes to play when she stole the puck in the neutral zone, but Vigilanti made a quick kick save. Shortly after that sophomore defenseman Jamie Gray raced back to help break up an odd-man rush for the Bobcats.
Yale finally broke through with 5:42 left in the game. Raines chased down a puck and fed it from the right corner up top to MacLean. MacLean ripped off a slap shot and Ciotti tipped it in between the circles. Vigilanti was caught by surprise as the puck hit off Dunbar in the slot and bounced into the net, touching off a huge celebration by the Bulldogs.
"The longer the game progressed, the more it became clear that this game was not going to be determined by some perfect tic-tac-toe goal," Flygh said. "Samantha MacLean did a great job getting the puck to the net. It was great to see Ashley get a goal."
Desperate for the game-tying goal, Quinnipiac (20-11-2, 12-9-0 ECAC Hockey) controlled the puck in the Yale zone for much of the game's final minutes. But the Bulldogs limited the Bobcats' Grade-A chances. A shot by forward Kelly Babstock hit Snikeris in the mask with 2:30 to play. Shortly after that MacLean threaded a pass to Davis that helped clear the zone, and Vigilanti had to make a stop on a tough shot by Davis. In the final minute the Bobcats tried multiple times to pull Vigilanti, but twice Raines and Ciotti snared the puck and forced Vigilanti to retreat. She was not able to get off the ice until the final seconds, and the Bobcats could not set up on offense for any last threat.
Snikeris extended her own school career record for shutouts to 16 with the whitewashing. She also upped her save percentage to .944, keeping her on pace to break the Yale single-season record in that category. Her goals-against average dropped to 1.87.
"Quinnipiac played at a ferocious pace in that first period, and we had to adjust," said Flygh. "Snik kept us in the game. The key was we didn't give them many second chances."
With the two points, Yale (9-16-3, 8-11-2 ECAC Hockey) moves into a tie for the eighth and final ECAC Hockey playoff spot. The Bulldogs are tied with Colgate, which plays at Dartmouth Saturday, and RPI, which hosts St. Lawrence.
The Engineers and Raiders both had a two-point lead on the Bulldogs entering play Saturday night, but both teams lost. After giving the Bulldogs some time in the locker room to celebrate their own victory, the Yale coaching staff let them know about the results from the other league games.
"Obviously they were fired up [to find out they had moved into a tie for the final playoff spot]," said Flygh. "We've still just got to worry about ourselves on Saturday. But if we had not won tonight, there would be no tomorrow."
Yale hosts Princeton at 4 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity