Bulldogs Blank Raiders in Annual "White Out for Mandi"
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Hundreds of hockey fans headed to Ingalls Rink Saturday afternoon to support a great cause. They wound up getting to see a great game as well. The Yale women's ice hockey team held its third annual "White Out for Mandi" fundraiser game for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation, founded in memory of center Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011), and the day was made even more special by the presence of Mandi's parents, Carol and Rick. But the action on the ice had an importance of its own, as the Bulldogs wound up pulling into a tie for ECAC Hockey's eighth and final conference playoff spot with four weeks to go by blanking Colgate 2-0. Sophomore goalie Jaimie Leonoff made 31 saves, while freshman forward Jamie Haddad and senior forward Alyssa Zupon scored Yale's goals.
With the main entrance to Ingalls packed by fans along with White Out t-shirt sellers, youth hockey players selling cupcakes, and a memorabilia auction, the game had a different feel to it from the start. Throw in an appearance by NHL player PK Subban -- who signed autographs, posed for photos and greeted fans to help raise funds -- and it was clear that this was a game like no other. Initial estimates after the game place the minimum total raised for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation at more than $10,000.
The energy level at "The Whale" was kicked up a notch by the crowd of 851 right from the start, and the Bulldogs' offense came out firing. Junior forward Patricia McGauley, who is from Mandi's home town of Wilcox, Sask., provided the first great scoring opportunity. Colgate netminder Ashlynne Rando had to react quickly to deny McGauley's attempt to jam the puck in just two minutes into the game, and right after that Rando also made a tough save on a shot by freshman defenseman Kate Martini.
At the other end of the ice, Leonoff was on her game from the get-go en route to shutting out Colgate for the second time this season. After a nice glove save on a shot by defenseman Katie Case eight minutes in, Leonoff covered up the five hole to deny forward Miriam Drubel 30 seconds later. A minute after that, she showcased her ability to cover both sides of the net by moving quickly across the crease to turn aside a shot by defenseman Jessica Hootz.
While Colgate (7-15-3, 2-9-3 ECAC Hockey) was able to deny the first Yale power play of the game, the Bulldogs struck on their second. Junior defenseman Tara Tomimoto shot the puck towards the net, where freshman forward Janelle Ferrara deflected it on to the skate of a Colgate player and it ricocheted on net. Colgate netminder Ashlynne Rando got her pad down to stop the puck, but it squirted over to Haddad at the left post. She flipped it in to put Yale up 1-0.
Haddad has been jockeying with her classmate Ferrara for the top spot on Yale's goal scoring list all season long. Saturday's tally gave her a team-leading seven, and the goal was typical of the type that she has been scoring all year.
"She's a tough kid who plays hard in the dirty areas of the ice," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh. "She finds a way to be in the right spot at the right time. She had a lot of good opportunities today because she put herself in the right position."
The Bulldogs had some more great chances during a power play midway through the second period. After senior forward Danielle Moncion had a shot blocked, Rando made a nice stop on a slap shot by Martini. She followed that up by denying Zupon from the slot.
Yale (4-16-1, 3-10-1 ECAC Hockey) killed off the first Raiders power play of the game late in the second period, with Leonoff making three saves and Moncion blocking a pair of shots. Martini earned cheers from the crowd by single-handedly tying up the puck along the boards behind Yale's net as the final seconds of the successful penalty kill ticked away.
A checking call left Yale killing a penalty for the final minute of the second, and Leonoff added to her highlight reel by making a save on defenseman Katie Case and then diving to cover the puck.
The Bulldogs killed off another penalty early in the third, highlighted by a long clear from junior defenseman Aurora Kennedy that actually wound up forcing Rando to make a save. Shortly after the penalty ended Yale got some more offensive chances, with freshman forward Hanna Åström getting a shot after some solid forechecking and Zupon sending one wide as she attempted to follow up.
Leonoff made a save on forward Taylor Volpe with 6:28 to play, and the Raiders were charged with goaltender interference after running into her. Rando stopped a shot by Moncion, then gloved another one from Martini, to keep her team within striking distance. In a span around the five-minute mark Moncion, Ferrara and Martini all peppered Rando with shots but came up empty.
That kept things suspenseful until the final two minutes, when Zupon scored off an assist by senior defenseman Jamie Gray. Zupon did double-duty on the play, winning the faceoff back to Gray and then moving into the slot to deflect her shot in past a surprised Rando. It was the fourth goal of the year for Yale's captain, who continues to provide the team with net presence on offense.
"She's a gritty kid who plays hard," said Flygh. "We have a saying -- we call that a 'Zupon goal'. She just keeps banging away in front of the net."
Colgate then called time and pulled Rando for an extra attacker, but could not threaten Leonoff's shutout bid. After a faceoff in the Colgate zone with 17 seconds to play, the final seconds ticked off with the puck far from the Yale zone. Leonoff raised her arms in triumph as her teammates mobbed her to celebrate.
"She was extremely focused today," said Flygh. "She tracked the puck excellently all game long. She gave us an opportunity to win."
With two points from the victory, Yale is now tied for eighth in the ECAC Hockey standings with Colgate but has the tie breaker edge on the Raiders (head-to-head).
Saturday's win also marked the first time Yale has won a "White Out for Mandi", a fact that did not go unnoticed. Taking on the challenge of organizing the biggest event of the year -- the team sold special t-shirts, held a silent auction, planned a post-game ceremony and reached out to various local teams to drive attendance -- did not distract the Bulldogs from taking care of the other task at hand: winning.
"I couldn't be any happier with the effort," said Flygh. "Our kids played hard, and were able to compartmentalize their work on the White Out for Mandi so that they could also focus on the game."
That also tied in with the post-game ceremony, which included the presentation of ECAC Hockey's Mandi Schwartz Award. Mandi's parents, Carol and Rick, presented the award (as the conference's top student-athlete) to 2011-12 winner Aleca Hughes '12, the founder of the Mandi Schwartz Foundation. They each then took time to address the crowd and offer a message of thanks.
The win also helped underscore the improvements the Bulldogs continue to show in their third season under Flygh. They have already quadrupled last season's win total, and are three goals away from their goal total for all of last season. Leonoff has also helped them cut their goals allowed per game from 5.24 down to 3.10, an improvement of more than 40 percent.
"We can't ask any more out of our kids," said Flygh. "They play within our systems as well as they can, and we have great team chemistry. They play hard for each other."
And on Saturday, they played hard to get a win for Mandi as well.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity
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