February 2, 2008

No. 1 Harvard Shuts Out Yale 3-0

Feb. 2, 2008

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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. - Mistakes get magnified when you're playing the No. 1 team in the country. The Yale Bulldogs found that out Saturday afternoon against Harvard at the Bright Center, as the top-ranked Crimson took advantage of a handful of Bulldogs miscues to post a 3-0 win and remain undefeated in ECAC Hockey play. Senior goaltender Shivon Zilis made 30 saves, while Harvard's Christina Kessler made 21 to extend her school record shutout total to nine.

Yale (9-9-5, 6-7-3 ECAC Hockey) turned the puck over in its own zone a minute in and gave Harvard (19-1-0, 16-0-0 ECAC Hockey) a 2-on-1 that Zilis had little chance of stopping. After a pass from forward Sarah Wilson Zilis did get a piece of forward Liza Ryabkina's shot, and then gloved it in the air, but by then it had already crossed the plane of the goal line behind her.

Zilis bounced back by making a nice save on forward Kate Buesser during a 3-on-1 a minute later, and she was tested more and more as the period wore on because of a series of Yale penalties. The first one came four minutes in, and Zilis made a quick glove save on a slap shot that forward Jenny Brine appeared to get a piece of right in front. That Harvard power play came to a premature end when junior defenseman Carlee Ness drew a hooking call against the Crimson.

Yale had a brief 5-on-3 midway through the period but could not capitalize, and Harvard had a goal waved off when a Crimson player crashed into Zilis -- knocking the net off as well -- and was called for goaltender interference. But the next four whistles all were against Yale, including one that came on a delayed penalty. Harvard started a 5-on-3 with 5:32 left in the period and the Bulldogs sent out Ness, freshman defenseman Samantha MacLean and junior forward Crysti Howser to kill it off.

Those three disrupted the Harvard power play, ranked No. 2 in the country at 26.4 percent entering the day, as much as anyone could. The rest was up to Zilis, who made five spectacular saves to keep the puck out of the net. The last came just as the Bulldogs were getting their fourth skater back, as Zilis denied Brine right at the doorstep. A penalty on the Crimson shortly after that left Yale with a successful penalty kill but little offensive momentum heading into the second period. Harvard held a 15-5 edge in shots on goal.

Kessler made a nice save on Howser three minutes into the second, and after that the period was dominated by special teams play. After a Bulldog penalty four minutes in Zilis made a glove save on a shot from the left circle by Wilson. Sophomore forward Mandi Schwartz then had a short-handed chance turned aside by Kessler, and Zilis had to make a stop on Brine after a nice feed from forward Sarah Vaillancourt.

Another whistle on the Bulldogs gave Harvard a 5-on-3, and this time the Crimson capitalized. Brine crossed the puck to a wide-open Wilson low in the left circle to make it 2-0.

After a penalty on the Crimson the Bulldogs were burned by another turnover, this time leading to a short-handed goal. Forward Katharine Chute took the puck away in the neutral zone and sent it ahead for Vaillancourt, who came in all alone on Zilis and deposited her 12th goal of the year at the 9:58 mark.

Zilis denied forward Randi Griffin during a 2-on-1 a minute later to keep the game from getting out of hand. The Crimson nearly got another short-handed goal later in the period, but defenseman Caitlin Cahow's wrister hit the crossbar. Harvard got one more power play in the period, but junior forward Kristen Stupay dove to the ice to block a shot from the point all the way out of the zone.

Back at even strength, Zilis had to react quickly to her right to get in front of a shot by Chute low in the left circle after a perfectly-placed pass from Vaillancourt near the end of the second. Yale went into the intermission trailing by three.

More tough saves from Zilis came in the third period, but the Bulldogs could not apply much pressure to Kessler at the other end. The closest call for the shutout bid came when sophomore defenseman Berit Johnson hit the post with a slap shot after the puck came loose to her following a scramble in front of the net. Kessler made a quick stick save on sophomore forward Caroline Murphy after a turnover in the Harvard zone with four minutes to go, and Harvard's top-ranked defense then finished off its fifth shutout in the last seven games.

The loss, combined with Colgate's 2-1 win over Cornell, dropped Yale into a tie for seventh place with the Big Red in the ECAC Hockey standings -- two points behind the Raiders for sixth and two points ahead of ninth-place RPI. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

With six regular-season games remaining, Yale hosts Princeton next Friday night at Ingalls Rink. It is the start of Alumnae Weekend, and the Bulldogs will also be sporting pink uniforms as part of ECAC Hockey's "Pink at the Rink" promotion to raise funds for cancer research.

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