Seniors Star in 4-2 Comeback Win Over Princeton
Callahan Makes 34 Saves; Wedell Ties Game with First Career Goal
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The plan for the Yale women's ice hockey team heading into Saturday's Senior Day game at Ingalls Rink was to have all six active seniors start, and that was exactly what the Bulldogs did. But there was no way to plan what wound up happening after that -- a storybook ending that featured the Class of 2013 prominently. Trailing 2-0 midway through, the Bulldogs rallied to tie the game on a pair of goals by senior forwards Alyssa Zupon and Natalie Wedell. Then, after sophomore forward Lynn Kennedy gave Yale the lead in the third period and junior defenseman Tara Tomimoto added an empty netter, those seniors all were back together on the ice for the final shift. Senior goalie Erin Callahan was at the center of the celebration of the 4-2 victory, as she made 34 saves in her second start of the season.
Along with Callahan, Wedell and Zupon, senior defenseman Jamie Gray, senior forward Jen Matichuk and senior forward Danielle Moncion all got the start Saturday. Senior defenseman Emily DesMeules was unable to play, but she did dress for the first time since her career-ending injury earlier this season.
The win was the latest of several signs of progress the program has made this year, with the seniors featuring prominently in helping the team move forward after a one-win season a year ago.
"Ever since last spring, the seniors have been unbelievable as leaders," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh. "We talked with them about what we wanted this season to be like, and they took it to heart. They also made strides as players, and that was a big part of us being more competitive this year."
The Bulldogs let the Class of 2013 set the tone early on. But after an evenly played first 15 minutes, the Tigers grabbed the lead when forward Olivia Mucha carried the puck off the boards and fired one from between the circles that found the upper corner of the net over Callahan's shoulder.
The Bulldogs nearly evened it up a minute later when a turnover in the Princeton zone enabled junior forward Paige Decker to get off a shot from close range, but Princeton goalie Kimberly Newell gloved that one.
The Tigers had a penalty late in the first period, and another one early in the second. The Bulldogs were unable to take advantage of either power play, though; even worse, the second Princeton penalty resulted in a shorthanded goal when Tigers forward Brianna Leahy stole the puck at her own blue line and skated in on a breakaway to make it 2-0 at the 4:48 mark.
But Callahan would wind up shutting Princeton out for the final 35:12. She and Newell kept dueling as the second period wore on; shortly after Newell made a kick save to deny Zupon after a nice pass from freshman forward Janelle Ferrara, Callahan stopped a one-timer from close range by forward Cristin Shanahan. Newell then made a nice save on freshman forward Jamie Haddad, who worked a give-and-go with freshman forward Hanna Åström almost to perfection.
The senior class figured prominently in Yale's first goal. After Moncion drew a checking penalty on the Tigers, the Bulldogs took immediate advantage of the power play. Junior forward Aurora Kennedy fired one towards the net from high in the slot, and Zupon deflected it past Newell to bring Yale within 2-1 at the 11:40 mark.
"She's very good at looking for deflections like that, especially on the power play," said Flygh. "She picked that one out of mid-air. She's been close on a lot of those lately, and that was a big goal for us since we were down 2-0. Aurora Kennedy also did a great job getting the puck through."
Yale had to kill off a penalty of its own just 19 seconds after scoring, and the Bulldogs did so successfully. Callahan got a piece of a shot by forward Corey Stearns with her shoulder, and shortly after that the Bulldogs cleared the puck. Forechecking from Wedell helped keep the Tigers from setting up for any more good chances, and Zupon backhanded the puck out of the Yale zone as the penalty expired.
After killing off another penalty later in the second successfully, the Bulldogs went into the third trailing 2-1. They killed off two more penalties early in the third, and have now killed off 36 of their last 37 penalties successfully.
That set the stage for the dramatic comeback in the final 14 minutes. Wedell's first career goal came in memorable fashion. After sophomore forward Lynn Kennedy made a diving effort to get the puck out from behind the net, freshman defenseman Kate Martini put the puck on net from low in the left circle. The rebound went right to Wedell at the far post, and she jammed it in to tie the score 2-2 at 6:48.
"That was one of the more satisfying wins we've had in my three years here, and that goal was a big part of it," said Flygh. "Natalie has worked hard and played well the last couple games. You could just sense the energy that the team got from that goal -- not just because we had scored, but because it was Natalie who scored."
Yale then took the lead four minutes later with a perfectly executed breakout. Taking a feed from Aurora Kennedy in the neutral zone, Åström quickly got the puck to Lynn Kennedy. Kennedy skated in from the left side and sniped one from the circle that beat Newell high on her glove side. It was Kennedy's second goal of the season, after missing 17 games due to injury.
"We've worked on our transitions all year long," said Flygh. "That was a textbook play. Lynn has been playing really well since getting back from her injury. She brings us energy and work ethic."
With its playoff hopes hanging in the balance, Princeton pulled Newell with 2:30 to play. After Callahan made a save on shot by Mucha with two minutes left, the Tigers controlled the puck in the Yale zone with the extra skater for several moments. Callahan made a nice stop with her right leg to deny defenseman Ali Pankowski as the clock ticked to 1:45.
With a minute to play, junior forward Patricia McGauley was able to clear the puck briefly, but the Tigers brought it right back in and Callahan had to make a save on defenseman Gabie Figueroa.
Finally, after they were able to clear the puck, the Bulldogs got their chance at the empty Princeton net. After a shot by Lynn Kennedy was smothered by a diving Tiger player, Haddad tried another shot that was blocked. But the puck eventually came out to Tomimoto, and she fired one in from the blue line with 34.8 seconds left to put the game out of reach.
Fittingly, the seniors were all on the ice again for the final shift. Gray sent the puck out of the Yale zone for one last clear as the final seconds ticked away after the faceoff. Callahan raised her hands in triumph as her teammates mobbed her. It was her first career win.
"Erin played great," said Flygh. "She really took it to heart to work on things with our goalie coach this year, and that paid off today. She remained calm throughout the game, and you could tell that the team played really well in front of her."
Combined with Colgate's 2-1 win at RPI, the loss left Princeton (11-16-2, 6-14-2 ECAC Hockey) out of the ECAC Hockey playoffs for the first time since 2001. Yale (5-20-3, 4-14-3 ECAC Hockey) had been eliminated from playoff contention the previous night, but Flygh was confident that his squad would avoid any letdown in the final home game of the year.
"I wasn't worried, because everyone involved with this program realizes what a great job the seniors have done," Flygh said. "We knew the team would want to win this game for them. A couple shifts in, we knew we were here to play."
No. 3 Cornell clinched the ECAC Hockey regular season title with a 4-0 win at Union. Yale finishes the season at No. 5 Harvard Tuesday at 7:00 p.m.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity
Watch the Yale All-Access Broadcast for Free on YouTube: