February 10, 2007

Zilis and Howser Disrupt Engineers' Upset Plans, 4-3

Feb. 9, 2007

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The schedule says that the ECAC playoffs start in two weeks, but for the Yale Bulldogs Friday night's game against RPI at Ingalls certainly had a playoff feel to it. The seventh-place Engineers trailed the sixth-place Bulldogs by just one point in the standings and were clearly looking to play leapfrog. That energy translated into a 36-22 shot advantage for RPI, but 33 saves from Shivon Zilis and a pair of goals from Crysti Howser helped the Bulldogs pull out the 4-3 win.

The Engineers came out firing, outshooting Yale 9-3 in the game's first nine minutes. The first RPI shot came only 20 seconds in, with Zilis forced to make a quick glove save of a blast from Nicole McDonald. She also had to cope with a bad bounce seven minutes later that saw the puck carom off a Yale defender's skate from behind the goal to a wide-open Sarah Daniel right in front of the net. Zilis got her left leg down to deny Daniel at point-blank range and would finish with 12 saves for the period.

"I thought we had some great shifts," Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. "But I also thought that nobody except for Shivon showed up to play 60 minutes."

The Bulldogs did not manage many shots on net for the period, but they did get some quality chances. Senior forward Christina Sharun's shot rattled off the post and bounced out with seven minutes to go. As time wound down in the period, the Bulldogs set up in the RPI zone and senior forward Kristin Savard carried the puck from behind the net into the corner before feeding sophomore defenseman Helen Resor for a shot in the slot. Resor's shot was blocked but the puck came right to Howser, who deposited a nifty backhand past Ashley Mayr's glove side.

That late goal in the first, combined with an early penalty on the Engineers in the second, could have shifted momentum dramatically in Yale's favor. Instead, RPI went right back to applying heavy pressure on Zilis. The one time the Engineers could have caught her out of position -- three minutes in amidst a flurry in front of the net -- senior defenseman Regan Gilbride was perfectly positioned to grab a dangerous loose puck and clear it.

The Bulldogs extended their lead when Savard sent a pass to senior defenseman Nina Resor, whose shot from the blueline was deflected in by Zingler at 7:18.

Yale continued to take advantage of its few opportunities as the period came to a close. When two RPI defenders collided in their own zone, sophomore forward Danielle Kozlowski raced in to pounce on the loose puck. She then skated in all alone on Mayr and buried her second goal of the season.

Any momentum from that goal was quickly erased by RPI's Nicole McDonald, however. She fought off a Yale defender and managed to slide the puck past Zilis only 11 seconds after Kozlowski's goal.

That set up a dramatic third period, as the Engineers got a power play at 9:23 and capitalized on it at 9:28. Off the faceoff win to Zilis' left, McDonald fed Nicole Thompson to pull RPI within one.

Then it was Yale's turn to respond quickly. Zingler hustled to beat an RPI defender to a loose puck in the corner and then executed a pretty backhand pass to Howser in the slot. She had no trouble sticking it past Mayr to get Yale's lead back to two goals.

"That's a great goal," Witt said. "It's great leadership to go down and get it right back. I thought that that was one of their better shifts."

That wound up being an important goal, even though a 5-on-3 for the Bulldogs with 2:25 to play seemingly gave Yale control of the game. But a too many men on the ice penalty on Yale negated part of that advantage, and the Engineers pulled Mayr in time to have Jamie-Lynn Stewart deflect in Laura Gersten's shot with a minute to play.

"I've got to give RPI a lot of credit," Witt said. "They did a lot of great things. They worked hard and they never quit. You would think with three minutes to go and you have a 5-on-3 you would pretty much take care of business, but we didn't."

With the extra attacker, RPI made the game's final moments interesting. Zilis made a save on Gersten and the Yale defense then blocked two more shot attempts. With the second RPI penalty expired the Engineers had a power play for the final 25 seconds, and Melissa Boik whistled a shot just wide. With 16.6 seconds left Howser won a key faceoff in the Yale zone, and Zilis stopped one last attempt by Gersten.

Howser, whose 17 goals on the season have her tied for ninth on the school's all-time list, now has seven multiple-point outings in her last nine games.

With fifth-place Princeton idle, the Bulldogs moved to within three points of the Tigers in the standings. Princeton visits Clarkson on Saturday and St. Lawrence on Sunday. Yale returns to the ice at Ingalls Saturday at 4:00 p.m. against Union. It is Senior Day, with the Class of 2007 playing its final regular season home game.

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

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