February 13, 2009

Grant, Snikeris Help Yale Tie RPI 1-1 in OT

Feb. 13, 2009

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Freshman defenseman Heather Grant's goal at 6:28 of the third tied the score at one, and that was where Yale and RPI ended up Friday night after overtime at Ingalls Rink. The Bulldogs got 19 saves from sophomore goaltender Jackee Snikeris, while RPI's Sonja van der Bliek made 16. It was the first night of ECAC Hockey's "Pink at the Rink" cancer fundraiser, and Yale also paid tribute to junior forward Mandi Schwartz, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.

The Bulldogs controlled play early on, as RPI had just one shot on goal until a series of penalties on Yale late in the period shifted the momentum. van der Bliek made a big save by getting her right leg on a shot from in front by senior forward Sarah Tittman seven minutes in. Tittman also chipped a shot from in front just high five minutes later.

Yale (9-15-1, 5-12-1 ECAC Hockey) was hit with its first penalty 9:28 in, but did not allow the Engineers to get a shot through to Snikeris. Senior forward Danielle Kozlowski had one blocked shot where she quickly grabbed control of the loose puck and cleared it down to the other end of the ice. Five minutes later Kozlowski dove to the ice to poke a loose puck near the blue line into the neutral zone during Yale's second penalty kill. Snikeris also gloved a pair of RPI shots during that kill, and Grant made another key block.

Another Yale penalty with 2:17 left in the period helped the Engineers continue to pressure Snikeris. All told, she denied three chances from right in front of the net in the final three minutes of the period. During the Bulldogs' third penalty kill freshman forward Aleca Hughes scooped up a loose puck at the Yale blue line and skated in for a short-handed wrister that sailed just wide.

"Snik was great," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt. "She smothered the puck and kept things under control. They had a lot of shots up high that she controlled."

RPI (13-13-4, 8-8-3 ECAC Hockey) grabbed the lead with a goal from forward Kendra Dunlop 4:20 into the second period, and the Bulldogs were hit with another penalty five minutes later. Kozlowski stole the puck at the Yale blue line and skated it into the RPI zone to start the kill, and sophomore defenseman Samantha MacLean later finished it off by fighting off two RPI players to tie the puck up along the boards behind the Yale goal.

A too many men on the ice penalty on RPI gave Yale its first power play with eight minutes left in the period, but van der Bliek turned aside a pair of Bulldog shots. During another Bulldog power play three minutes later sophomore forward Bray Ketchum sent a slap shot wide, and with two minutes to play in the period freshman forward Lauren Davis just missed putting home a crossing pass from Grant.

Grant's goal came after senior forward Maggie Westfal carried the puck deep into the RPI zone down the left wing, fighting off a defender in the process. Westfal backhanded the puck into the slot and junior forward Berit Johnson put it on net. The loose puck caromed out to Grant in the right circle, and she one-timed it in for her third goal of the year.

"Heather ripped it," said Witt. "She showed a lot of composure, and put a lot into that shot."

After that it was up to Snikeris to keep the Engineers from re-gaining the lead. She denied forward Jamie-Lynn Stewart on a 2-on-1 two minutes after Grant's goal. She also made a big glove save with less than four minutes to play, and cradled Stewart's slap shot from the blue line with two minutes to go.

Thirty seconds into overtime Snikeris made another huge stop, getting her right leg out to deny Stewart on a breakaway. The Bulldogs got a power play with 3:25 left, but could only manage an attempt by senior forward Crysti Howser to stuff the puck in that van der Bliek got her pad on. Snikeris made a dramatic glove save on forward Whitney Naslund with 40 seconds left to snuff out the final scoring threat for either team.

With the tie, Yale moves to within seven points of eighth-place Cornell (which lost to Harvard Friday night) for the last ECAC Hockey playoff spot. To pass the Big Red in the standings, the Bulldogs must win all four of their games and have Cornell lose the three games it has left.

The Bulldogs host Union Saturday at 4:00 p.m. ECAC Hockey's "Pink at the Rink" cancer fundraiser and Yale's tribute to Schwartz continues Saturday, as does the sale of No. 17 t-shirts. Admission is free, and it is also Youth Day.

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

Video by David Dikranian

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