January 26, 2007

Valiant Effort vs. No. 1 Mercyhurst Falls Short, 5-4

Jan. 26, 2007

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Yale Bulldogs got a standout effort from their goaltender -- junior Shivon Zilis made 50 saves. They got a balanced attack from their offense -- four different players scored goals and eight different players registered points. Yet it was not enough to overcome No. 1 Mercyhurst, which claimed a 5-4 win over the upset-minded Bulldogs Friday afternoon at Ingalls Rink. The Lakers won thanks in large part to four goals and an assist from Canadian Olympian Meghan Agosta.

Mercyhurst (22-1-2, 4-0-0 CHA) had seen its hold on first place in both national polls weaken after a 1-0-1 performance against UConn the previous weekend, and the Lakers needed a strong performance against the Bulldogs (11-10-1, 7-8-1 ECAC) to try to re-claim some momentum. But the Bulldogs had something to prove as well, especially after a disappointing 6-4 home loss to Brown three days earlier.

"I think our players were a little frustrated with the way they played on Tuesday against Brown, and I think they wanted to prove to themselves that they can play better than that," Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. "Our kids want to prove that they can play with these [top-ranked] teams, so they came in here with the attitude `We can play with them, and we're not going to worry about the fact that they're No.1.'"

Zilis' 50-save effort, the most saves by a Yale goalie since Sarah Love `06 stopped 53 against St. Lawrence last March, wound up being the backbone to the Bulldogs' resilient performance. It was all the more impressive considering that Zilis was sick and wasn't officially tabbed for the start until right before the game began.

"Shivon was fantastic," Witt said. "She was a little under the weather and she fought through it. She made some phenomenal saves. I can't say enough about her."

Yale was also playing without one of its top defensemen -- U.S. Olympic team member Helen Resor remains sidelined with an injury. The Bulldogs got an early chance to take a lead when Mercyhurst's Julia Colizza tripped sophomore forward Crysti Howser, but Yale got only one shot on net on that power play.

Right after that Mercyhurst penalty ended the Lakers went on the power play due to an interference call against Yale. Zilis stopped a 2-on-1 by denying Agosta's shot and Stefanie Bourbeau's attempt at knocking in the rebound. Zilis also turned aside a slap shot from Agosta as the power play came to an end.

Yale went on top 1-0 when Howser deflected sophomore defenseman Maggie Westfal's shot from the point just inside the far post at the 7:58 mark.

A penalty on Mercyhurst wound up giving the Lakers the game-tying goal. Agosta blocked senior forward Jenna Spring's shot at the blue line and then chased down the puck at center ice. She came in all alone on Zilis and deposited her 23rd goal of the year -- and her fifth short-handed goal -- at 12:59.

As would quickly become a theme for the day, the Bulldogs responded immediately. Mercyhurst goaltender Laura Hosier turned aside one Yale shot, but when the rebound came to freshman forward Denise Soesilo she buried it to put Yale back up, 2-1, at 13:21.

The Lakers, seventh in the country on the power play (.229) entering the day, then took advantage of a second penalty on Yale to knot the score again. Zilis gloved a shot from the left circle by Colizza, but shortly after that Stephanie Jones took a nice feed from Agosta and slipped it past the Yale netminder at 16:24.

In part because of the penalties most of the first was spent in the Yale zone, but the Bulldogs took advantage of one of their trips down to Mercyhurst's side of the ice later in the period. Senior forward Kristin Savard skated the puck in deep but the Lakers were momentarily able to take control of it. Sophomore forward Kristen Stupay's forechecking forced a turnover, however, popping the puck to Savard in front of the net. She backhanded it in with only one minute left in the period to give Yale a 3-2 lead.

It was Savard's second goal in the last eight games.

"It was great to see Savard score a big goal," Witt said. "She's been fighting herself, I think, for the last couple weeks and she finally got one. She's been working really hard, and I think her confidence will go up."

After outshooting the Bulldogs 20-6 in the first, the Lakers continued to pour on the offense in the second period. Yale killed off a penalty early on but also failed to convert on a power play. The Lakers tied the game at the 12:43 mark on a goal by Agosta.

Yale almost allowed another short-handed goal during later in the period, but Zilis came through with a kick save to deny Agosta on a breakaway. Hosier then gloved a wrister from Savard with freshman defenseman Alyssa Clarke right in front of her looking for the rebound.

An elbowing penalty on Yale with only 1:03 left in the period swung the game in the Lakers' favor. Off a faceoff to Zilis' right, Mercyhurst controlled the puck as the final seconds of the period wound down. Natalie Payne then fired it across the ice to an open Agosta, who slapped it past Zilis' stick side right before the horn blew to signal the end of the period.

Despite being burned by the buzzer-beater, the Bulldogs continued battling as the third period began. Hosier gloved a slap shot from Westfal four minutes in, then denied freshman forward Mandi Schwartz from right in front off a pass from Savard by covering up the five-hole.

Penalties then put a dent in Yale's comeback attempt. Three whistles against the Bulldogs in a span of less than three minutes midway through the period forced them to go on the defensive.

That included a 5-on-3 for the Lakers that led to another Agosta goal. Zilis smothered a shot from the right circle by Payne, but seconds later Agosta ripped a wrist shot past Zilis' right shoulder that hit metal and banged into the net at the 7:59 mark.

Zilis helped keep Yale in the game during another Mercyhurst power play by sprawling out in the crease with the puck loose, then getting back up to deny a blast from Chouinard.

A turnover in front of the Mercyhurst net gave sophomore Danielle Kozlowski a chance to get Yale back in the game with nine minutes left, but her shot went just wide.

Then, just when it seemed as if the Lakers had finally taken control of the game, the line that has accounted for the bulk of Yale's scoring came through again. Howser wristed one past Hosier's stick side at the 13:45 mark off assists from senior forward Jenna Spring and senior forward Sheila Zingler. That extended Zingler's scoring streak to 11 games and gave Spring her 10th assist in the last five games. All told, the Howser-Spring-Zingler line now has 52 points in the last 10 games.

That also marked just the second time all year that a team has scored more than three goals against the Lakers, who entered the day allowing only 1.46 goals per game.

Yale called timeout with 2:14 to play and applied some more offensive pressure. Hosier gloved sophomore forward Sarah Tittman's wrister from the left circle with 1:27 to play, and after that the Bulldogs pulled Zilis and went with an extra attacker. Howser's cross-ice pass with a pair of teammates parked in front of the net slid just out of reach, and Zingler had a shot from in front deflect just over the net. The Lakers won a face-off in their own zone with 2.1 seconds left to finally put the game away.

The victory extended Mercyhurst's unbeaten streak to 13 games, the longest in the country. Hosier finished with 11 saves as the Lakers enjoyed a 55-15 shot advantage.

"I did not think the shot total showed what the game was about," Witt said. "I thought we battled hard. They're a great team. They deserve to be No. 1. I think our kids are going to leave with a little bit of confidence knowing they can play with teams like that."

Yale returns to action Saturday at 2:00 against Niagara at Ingalls Rink. The game will be broadcast on WYBC 1340 AM. It is also Youth Day, featuring a post-game autograph session and other special activities for children.

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

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