No. 5 Harvard Forces Game Three with 3-2 Double OT Win

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Jamie Haddad, Madi Murray and Aurora Kennedy. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Crimson Takes Game Two of ECAC Hockey Quarterfinals

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Another day at Bright-Landry Hockey Center, another double overtime ECAC Hockey playoff battle between the Yale women's ice hockey team and No. 5 Harvard. A day after the Bulldogs earned a memorable win in game one of the best-of-three ECAC Hockey quarterfinals on a goal by sophomore forward Janelle Ferrara at 17:33 of the second overtime, the Crimson turned the tables and beat Yale 3-2 Saturday on a goal by forward Miye D'Oench at 4:01 of the second extra session. With the win, Harvard forces the Bulldogs to play a decisive game three at Bright-Landry on Sunday at 4:00 p.m.

After playing nearly 100 minutes of hockey Friday night as the Bulldogs beat the Crimson 3-2 in double overtime (Yale's first playoff game win since 2005), Harvard elected to start a new goaltender in freshman Brianna Laing. Yale sent junior goalie Jaimie Leonoff back out on the heels of her memorable 55-save night Friday. She would finish Saturday with 53 more saves, providing the backbone for another sterling effort by the Bulldogs as a whole.

"Our kids deserve credit," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh. "They competed their tails off. We're playing a great opponent, and for nearly five periods each of the past two nights it's been some great back-and-forth hockey."

Yale (9-15-7, 6-9-7 ECAC Hockey) is in the playoffs for the first time since 2008, but the Bulldogs have been making up for lost postseason time by playing some memorable games this weekend. Unlike Friday night, when it took more than 26 minutes for the game's first goal, this one Saturday saw an early tally. Freshman forward Phoebe Staenz took a feed from senior defenseman Tara Tomimoto in the Harvard zone, skated up towards the blue line and skated around towards the left circle before firing a slap shot that eluded the screened Laing at 5:33.

Yale could not convert on its first power play of the game five minutes later, but Harvard missed an even bigger opportunity shortly after that. After senior defenseman Aurora Kennedy covered up a loose puck in the crease to prevent a goal, the Crimson was awarded a penalty shot. D'Oench, Harvard's leading scorer, skated in from center ice as Leonoff came out to challenge her. Leonoff stayed upright as Laing tried to rifle one high, and Leonoff calmly gloved the shot to keep the Crimson scoreless.

Leonoff tacked on another big save two minutes before the first period ended, smothering a redirection attempt from point-blank range by forward Gina McDonald.

Yale's lead remained 1-0 as both teams killed off penalties that wrapped into the start of the second period. Leonoff then continued to vex the Crimson with a pair of big saves midway through the frame. Forward Sydney Daniels momentarily beat the Yale defense with less than 10 minutes to play, but Leonoff gloved her shot from in front. Just 20 seconds later, Leonoff made an even more improbable save by sprawling out to deny forward Elizabeth Parker, who appeared to have an open net in front of her at the back door before Leonoff got her body on the puck.

Leonoff also put an end to a particularly hectic sequence with three minutes to play in the second, diving to cover a loose puck shortly after two Yale defenders had lost their sticks. The Bulldogs went into the third up 1-0.

Yale had to kill off a penalty three minutes into the third, and did so successfully -- the Bulldogs' ninth successful penalty kill in nine tries in the series. Junior forward Stephanie Mock got the kill off to a good start by poking the puck out of the zone at the blue line, which enabled junior forward Jackie Raines to set up Tomimoto for a short-handed shot that went wide. Later in the kill a blocked pass in the Yale zone enabled sophomore forward Jamie Haddad to clear the puck. Ferrara blocked Harvard's only shot attempt of that power play.

Leonoff made a great save on McDonald with 13 minutes left in regulation, as McDonald tried a snap shot from the left circle after the Crimson's initial shot attempt was blocked. But Harvard tied the score with 11:35 left, as D'Oench beat a screened Leonoff on her glove side with a slap shot from the left circle after a faceoff in the Yale zone. Leonoff went right back to work after that, though, gloving another shot by D'Oench less than a minute later.

Less than five minutes later the Bulldogs went back ahead. Kennedy sent the puck towards the net from the right circle. Her shot was headed wide, but Staenz was positioned at the left post and managed to bat the puck in behind Laing to put Yale up 2-1 with 6:48 left in the game.

Staenz' two-goal game, which gives her three points in the series so far, is all the more impressive considering what she has been through in the last few weeks. She took off for Sochi, Russia, last month to play for her native Switzerland in the Olympics. After helping the Swiss earn a bronze medal and playing six Olympic games in a span of 13 days, she then traveled back to Yale to resume classes and practice this past week.

"I have a lot of admiration for the kid," said Flygh. "She's tired. Obviously the Olympics are a big event, and after the emotional high of winning a bronze medal she had to come right back here and get caught up on her schoolwork. She's still jet-lagged. She gave us everything she had today, and really battled."

Harvard (22-5-4, 16-3-3 ECAC Hockey) tied the game again with 4:02 to play. After Leonoff went down to make a save, Crimson forward Jessica Harvey sent the loose puck from the left post behind Leonoff and across to forward Dylan Crugnale, who stuffed it into the open net to make the score 2-2.

A penalty on the Crimson right after that negated Harvard's momentum, but a penalty on the Bulldogs gave Harvard some chances on the power play in the final two minutes. The Crimson could not get a shot through to Leonoff, though, as freshman defenseman Taylor Marchin blocked a pair of shots and Ferrara blocked another. For the second straight night, the two rivals headed to overtime. Leonoff had made 35 saves in regulation, while Laing had made 19.

There were scary moments for Yale in the first overtime, and not just because Harvard put 11 shots on goal and the Bulldogs had to kill off two more penalties. Leonoff, who broke one of her sticks early in the extra session, wound up down on the ice in pain after making a save with 12:47 to go. She stayed down until a visit from trainer Chuck Marino got her back in the net.

By then Leonoff, seeing the first playoff games of her career, had more than proven how valuable she is to this Yale squad. She would finish with 18 saves combined in the two overtimes Saturday.

"Jaimie was fantastic again," said Flygh. "These are the best back-to-back games she has played in her time at Yale. Obviously we'll need another one on Sunday."

Leonoff's defense helped her out right after that scare, as Kennedy and sophomore defenseman Kate Martini combined to knock the puck away from D'Oench as she came into the Yale zone on a rush.

The Bulldogs also had a scare during one of their best offensive flurries of the first overtime. Right after Laing made a kick save on a slap shot by Marchin, the Bulldogs kept up the pressure in the Harvard zone until the officials whistled play dead because freshman forward Krista Yip-Chuck was lying on the ice after taking a hit. Yip-Chuck came off the ice without assistance and was back out for a shift just over a minute later.

Harvard's best chance of the first overtime came on a breakaway with 4:25 left, but after beating the Yale defense McDonald sent a shot just high. Leonoff gloved a slap shot by Daniels with 13.9 seconds left for her 47th save of the game, and the two teams once again headed to a second overtime.

The end of the game came right after Yale dodged another bullet, with D'Oench firing a shot off the post. The Crimson regrouped in the neutral zone and headed back into the Yale zone. From the right side, forward Samantha Reber dropped a pass back to forward Hillary Crowe, who fired it on goal where D'Oench was able to poke in the rebound at the 4:01 mark of double overtime. The Crimson came out on the ice to celebrate forcing a decisive game three.

Yale is attempting to make history by advancing as the No. 7 seed. Since the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals became a best-of-three series in 2002, the lowest seed to win a quarterfinal series had been No. 6 seeds Quinnipiac in 2012 and Rensselaer in 2009. Even winning a game has been rare for seeds that low -- it happened just twice before, in 2004 (No. 7 Colgate beat No. 2 St. Lawrence in game two), 2010 (No. 7 St. Lawrence beat No. 2 Clarkson in game two).

The other ECAC Hockey quarterfinal series all went according to form and ended Saturday afternoon. No. 1 seed Clarkson swept No. 8 seed Dartmouth, No. 3 seed Cornell swept No. 6 seed Princeton and No. 4 seed Quinnipiac swept No. 5 seed St. Lawrence.

If the Bulldogs win Sunday, Yale will play Clarkson (ranked No. 3 in the nation) in the semifinals Saturday at 1:00 p.m. at Cheel Arena. The winner of that game plays in the ECAC Hockey Tournament championship game on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. (versus the winner of the other semifinal), with an automatic berth in the NCAA Tournament at stake.

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