Bulldogs Get First Win of 2011-12
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – It took a pair of comebacks in regulation and a heroic effort from a banged-up defense to get the Yale women's ice hockey team to overtime Friday night vs. Union at Ingalls Rink. Once they got there, sophomore forward Jackie Raines took care of the rest, knocking in the game-winning goal two minutes into the extra session to give the Bulldogs an emotional 3-2 victory.
The challenge for Yale was clear before the night even began, as the Bulldogs dressed just four pure defensemen for the game -- two of them freshmen, including one (Kelsey Summers) who had just recovered from an illness that had kept her out until last weekend.
With four other blueliners out with injuries, the Bulldogs relied heavily on Summers along with junior Jamie Gray, freshman Madi Murray and junior Natalie Wedell to pick up the slack. They also made a last-minute move to put sophomore Ashley Dunbar back on defense, a position she practiced at just once this past week. That group of five wound up providing enough support for senior goalie Genny Ladiges (29 saves) to get Yale the win.
"Missing four of our top defensemen, it was really neat to see kids step in and battle," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh. "And we got solid goaltending. We asked Ashley Dunbar to step back and play defense and she did an unbelievable job. I was very impressed with the way she responded, and the work that we got out of Kelsey Summers after not playing very much early in the year."
It did not come easily, nor quickly, though. Yale was hurt by four penalties in the first period -- including one right at the start of the game for a protocol violation -- and was outshot 14-1 in the opening frame.
The Bulldogs managed to kill off the first three penalties successfully, limiting the Dutchwomen's Grade-A chances. But they also could not get any offense going, and when senior forward Aleca Hughes was whistled for tripping at 11:46 that took one of the Bulldogs' best penalty killers off the ice. After a pair of saves by Ladiges and a clear by Gray, the Dutchwomen finally broke through when forward Molly Kate Devin tipped in a shot from the point by defenseman Maddy Norton that was set up by forward Lauren Cromartie at 13:32.
At that point Union had a 9-1 shot advantage, which expanded to 14-1 by the end of the period. The Bulldogs reversed that trend in the second period, starting just 30 seconds in when Gray put one on net that Union goalie Kate Gallagher (21 saves) stopped. Yale went on to outshoot Union 15-6 in the second.
"We turned the tables, which was great to see," said Flygh. "That speaks volumes about our team. Down 1-0, this could have been another game that got away."
A turnover by the Dutchwomen in their own zone a minute later enabled Hughes to fire one from between the circles that Gallagher was also able to stop, but the Bulldogs kept up the offensive pressure and eventually drew a Union penalty. That enabled Yale to even the game 1-1 on a power play goal by Raines, assisted by freshman forward Stephanie Mock and junior forward Alyssa Zupon at 3:09. That was the third goal of the season for Raines, who leads the team in that category.
"Jackie is an extremely skilled player," said Hughes. "There are a lot of expectations on her entering this season. This was the best game she has had all year. She had the puck on her stick a lot, and that's what we like to see."
But three minutes later Union defenseman Ashley Johnston was wide open for a shot from the left point that eluded Ladiges to put Union back up, 2-1. Penalties then dictated the flow of the game, with four whistles in the final nine minutes of the period. That included 27 seconds of 5-on-3 for the Bulldogs, where Ciotti and Mock sent shots just wide. Gallagher then made another stop on Ciotti right on the doorstep, and Ciotti gathered in the rebound and sent it just high. With both teams back at full strength Mock slid a pass through the crease with 30 seconds to play but no Yale sticks were there to poke it in.
It did not take long for the Bulldogs to tie it in the third, as Hughes' snipe in transition from just inside the blue line -- set up by passes from Wedell and Dunbar that got the puck up the ice -- knotted the affair 2-2 just 77 seconds into the final frame.
"Aleca stepped up and scored a huge goal for us in the third," said Flygh. "If you could draw up a picture-perfect way to get back in the game, you would have your leader step up a score a big goal. That was exactly what she did. She can carry this team on her back, and all game long she took charge, calmed things down and got things done."
Hughes also played a key role when Yale had to kill of one last penalty with 5:30 to play. After a long clear to start the kill, she fought off a pair of Union players at the Yale blue line as the Dutchwomen tried to re-establish the puck in the Yale zone. She eventually got it to freshman forward Lynn Kennedy to clear, and right after that Ciotti drew a penalty on Union that brought the Dutchwomen's power play to an end.
Ladiges had to make a nice save on a shot by forward Emma Rambo during the 4-on-4 with four minutes to play, and then right as Yale went on a brief power play she kicked aside a slapper from Norton. A stick save on Devin with 90 seconds left helped send the game into overtime.
A penalty on the Dutchwomen 30 seconds into overtime gave Yale a golden opportunity, but the Bulldogs struggled to set up in the offensive zone. Finally, Raines sent a long pass from the Yale zone down the right side of the ice. Mock was able to chase it down in the corner, poke it away from a Union player, and then wrap around behind the net. She sent it in front and Raines was right outside the crease to back-hand it in for Yale's first win of the 2011-12 season.
While Raines now has the team lead in goals with four, Mock is atop the assist list with four of those.
"The kid has so much skill," Flygh said. "She's a very dynamic hockey player, and we haven't even seen her at her full potential. She is just starting to get more comfortable with the puck and the speed of the college game."
The first victory after seven losses to start the season was made more emotional by two of the guests the Bulldogs had in the stands: the parents of Mandi Schwartz, the Yale center who passed away in April after more than two years spent battling cancer. Rick and Carol Schwartz had made the trek from Wilcox, Sask., to see the Bulldogs play for the first time since Mandi passed away, and the team was well aware of their presence.
"It means a lot to us," said Flygh, noting that Hughes had posted signs in the locker room as reminders. "Mandi is a deep thread in our program and always will be. We showed a lot of character tonight, and I think she'd be proud of that."
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity