January 5, 2008

Snik of Time: Freshman's 1-0 Shutout of NU Capped by Westfal's Late OT Goal

Jan. 5, 2008

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - As the final seconds of overtime ticked off the clock Saturday afternoon at Ingalls Rink it looked as if the second shutout of freshman goaltender Jackee Snikeris' young career would end as a bittersweet scoreless tie. But just when it appeared that Northeastern goaltender Leah Sulyma had stymied the Yale offense, junior forward Maggie Westfal banged home a rebound and made a winner of Snikeris and the Bulldogs, 1-0.

Sulyma, the Hockey East Rookie of the Month for December, stopped 47 of 48 shots to nearly overshadow Snikeris' work.

"Their goalie was incredible," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt, who improved to 3-2 against her alma mater. "But at the same time our goalie was too. She made some great saves."

It was clear from the start that nothing would come easy for the offenses on this day. Yale (5-6-4, 3-5-3 ECAC Hockey) had a 14-4 edge in shots on goal in the first period -- including five shots during a pair of power plays -- but Sulyma stopped them all. Northeastern (4-11-1, 3-3-0 Hockey East) did manage a quality short-handed chance against Snikeris, but she denied Nikki Petrich's attempt from the left circle.

The second period was more evenly played, with Yale holding an 8-6 shot advantage. A Bulldog penalty kill midway through the period was highlighted by a diving shot block by sophomore forward Mandi Schwartz, and later in the period after a shot from junior forward Crysti Howser hit the post junior forward Danielle Kozlowski drew a roughing call against the Huskies. Freshman forward Bray Ketchum and Howser each sent a shot high and Sulyma saved a shot from junior defenseman Helen Resor to keep the scoreless tie intact heading into the third period.

The Bulldogs unleashed a 21-shot barrage on Sulyma in the third, including a flurry during a Yale 5-on-3 with six minutes to go. A pair of lasers off Resor's stick went just wide, and Sulyma smothered a third shot from her to keep Yale off the scoreboard.

A long pass to Kristi Kehoe with four minutes left nearly gave the Huskies a chance to break though, but Ketchum got back in time to deflect that shot away. Sulyma then made a series of big stops in the final minutes of regulation, the last on a shot by Ketchum after which Sulyma eventually covered up a dangerous loose rebound with 24 seconds to play.

Overtime has been a sore spot for the Bulldogs this year, as they were winless in five previous tries (0-4-1). In fact, Yale had not won in overtime since the 4-3 victory over Princeton in the ECAC playoffs three years ago (16 games, 0-5-11).

When Westfal just missed a cross-ice pass from Resor en route to the net 30 seconds into overtime it looked as if the Bulldogs' frustrations would continue. But Ketchum's aggressive move in the Husky zone with 1:47 to play drew a holding call, and the Bulldogs called timeout to set up the crucial power play.

After Howser won the ensuing faceoff the Bulldogs patiently controlled the puck in the Northeastern zone. Three shots were blocked as the game entered its final minute, but eventually Howser set the winning sequence in motion. She took the puck from the corner up to the right circle and sent it toward the net. Westfal, positioned to Sulyma's right, tried to knock it in. Instead the puck deflected out to junior forward Sarah Tittman in the slot. Tittman tried a wrister to Sulyma's glove side that was denied by a spectacular save, but the rebound fell behind Sulyma sprawled out in the crease. As a pair of Huskies tried to grab it, Westfal tumbled in and knocked the loose puck in with six seconds left.

With 16 saves Saturday Snikeris has now stopped 38 of 40 shots over her last two games. Saturday also marked the fifth consecutive time the Bulldogs scored two or fewer goals in a game she started; her .500 record (3-3-1) belies her 2.29 goals-against average that is 18th in the country.

"The poor kid has been playing great, we just haven't scored a lot of goals for her," said Witt. "It was nice to finally get one for her."

The game's physical toll was apparent from the relatively muted initial celebration of the game-winner, as Westfal lay on the ice for several moments before getting up. This was her 10th hockey game after finishing off a 17-game soccer season (she had four game-winning goals, including one in overtime against Harvard, on the pitch).

"Playing so many overtime games and not coming out on top was very frustrating," Witt said. "To finally get one feels good. The players are pumped up to start league play again."

Yale visits Princeton next Friday at 7:00 p.m.

report by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity

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