January 23, 2009

Bulldogs Take Advantage of Bounces, Skate Past Cornell 3-1

Jan. 23, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Sometimes, the best play in hockey is just putting the puck on net. The Yale Bulldogs found that out -- twice -- Friday night. The two unlikely goals that resulted, combined with an empty-netter and some stellar goaltending from freshman Genny Ladiges, lifted the Bulldogs to a 3-1 win over Cornell at Ingalls Rink Friday night.

After a season of tough breaks, perhaps the Bulldogs were due. The first sign that Yale's luck might have turned came two minutes into the game during a penalty kill. Freshman defenseman Heather Grant intercepted a clearing pass at center ice. Grant lofted the puck back into the Cornell zone, making sure to put it on goal. Still, she could not have been expecting to see it find the back of the net. But Cornell goalie Jenny Niesluchowski butterflied at the wrong moment and the puck slipped past her, sparking an unanticipated celebration for Grant and her teammates at the red line.

Cornell (9-9-2, 5-6-2 ECAC Hockey) outshot Yale (8-11-0, 4-8-0 ECAC Hockey) 10-7 for the period, and at one point six minutes in the Big Red thought they had scored the tying goal and began celebrating. But the puck actually sailed through the crease and out, and play continued.

The Bulldogs took another penalty early in the second period, and Ladiges made a pair of quick saves on shots from in close by forward Liz Zorn and defenseman Sam Wauer. A minute after that Yale penalty ended, after Niesluchowski turned aside a shot from sophomore forward Bray Ketchum in front, the Big Red were whistled for holding. But after Ladiges had to deny a short-handed chance for Cornell, a penalty on the Bulldogs brought the Yale power play to an early end.

With the teams skating four-on-four, Cornell forward Catherine White wristed one past Ladiges at 7:04 to tie the game at one. The Big Red had a chance to go ahead late in the period when an attempted Yale clear hit a Yale player in the back. Cornell forward Emma Chipman was able to get control of the loose puck, but Ladiges ranged out of the net to break up the scoring opportunity.

A Cornell penalty at 10:17 of the third nearly resulted in a short-handed goal for the Big Red. A Yale turnover at the Cornell blue line put the puck on Zorn's stick with no-one back on defense. She skated in alone on Ladiges, who came out of the net and got enough of Zorn's shot to send it off to the side and keep the game tied at one. It was the biggest of Ladiges' 25 stops on the night and clearly energized her teammates.

"Genny was solid all night, but that play in particular was a game-changer," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt. "If that one goes in we're fighting an uphill battle for the rest of the game. But that's the way hockey goes sometimes, your goaltender makes a big save and then you get your chances."

Ladiges' stop set the stage for senior forward Danielle Kozlowski's game-winner, which came after senior forward Crysti Howser got the puck to her low in the right circle. Kozlowski back-handed the puck towards the net, and a Cornell player attempting to knock the puck down with her hand inadvertently put it in her own net.

That left the Bulldogs with a 2-1 lead, even though most of their grade-A scoring chances had gone for naught.

"I thought we had a lot of scoring opportunities in the first period that we just missed, and I was afraid we would regret that," Witt said. "But our kids just kept plugging away. Good things happen when you put the puck on net."

It was also fitting for that newly formed line of three seniors to get on the scoreboard with the game-winner.

"I thought that line [Howser, Kozlowski and senior forward Maggie Westfal] played great all day," Witt said. "They controlled the puck in the offensive zone well and generated some great opportunities."

Niesluchowski denied sophomore forward Lili Rudis with a kick save a minute after Kozlowski's goal, and Cornell defenseman Kelly McGinty just missed tying the game with three minutes to play when she sent a rebound of her own shot wide.

The Bulldogs finally put the game out of reach at 18:28 with another goal from the red line, this time with Niesluchowski pulled. Senior defenseman Helen Resor dove to the ice to take the puck away from a Cornell player in front of the Yale net, then got the puck to Ketchum, who skated around a Cornell player and up to center ice before firing a shot into the upper corner of the net.

The win snapped a five-game losing streak for the Bulldogs.

"We had some players step up, Bray Ketchum and Maggie Westfal in particular," Witt said. "If we keep playing hard, we've got a chance to win any game we've got left in the schedule."

The win moves Yale into a tie for ninth in the ECAC Hockey standings, four points behind Cornell for the eighth and final playoff spot. Yale hosts Colgate Saturday at 4:00 p.m.

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