March 1, 2008

Frustrating Finish for Yale as No. 6 SLU Takes Quarterfinals with 3-2 OT Win

March 1, 2008

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CANTON, N.Y. - St. Lawrence forward Alison Domenico deflected the puck in with her body at 9:42 of overtime to lift No. 6 St. Lawrence to a 3-2 win over Yale in game two of the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals at Appleton Arena Saturday afternoon. With the win, the Saints take the best-of-three series two games to none, ending Yale's season. Junior defenseman Helen Resor and junior forward Crysti Howser scored Yale's goals, and freshman goaltender Jackee Snikeris made 46 saves in what turned out to be the last game of a record-breaking season in net for the Bulldogs.

The two teams had battled into overtime in game one before the Saints prevailed 2-1 on a power-play goal. Senior goalkeeper Shivon Zilis made 55 saves in that game. Still, Yale stuck with its goaltending rotation by playing Snikeris Saturday.

"People who haven't followed our team all year might have wondered why we didn't start Shivon after the game she had Friday, but we know we have two great goalies," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt. "Snik was fantastic today."

Snikeris was tested right away, denying an odd-man rush for the Saints 90 seconds in. She also gloved a quick wrist shot from defenseman Michelle Zimmerman a minute later, after Zimmerman skated into the slot unmarked.

After managing only 15 shots on goal Friday, the Bulldogs were able to put more pressure on Saints goalkeeper Meaghan Guckian Saturday. Freshman forward Bray Ketchum intercepted an attempted clear by Guckian four minutes in and put a shot on net that Guckian had to glove. Howser sent a shot just high after the ensuing faceoff, and a minute later Guckian denied a wraparound attempt by sophomore forward Caroline Murphy.

The Saints' power play, ranked fifth in the county at 23.8 percent entering the day, got its first chance to operate 10 minutes in. But it was the Bulldogs who got the best chances of that sequence, as Howser took the puck at center ice and skated in for a 2-on-1. Guckian made a nice stop on Murphy's attempt to convert a pass right in front. Guckian also had to glove a wrister from Howser later on the penalty kill after Howser intercepted a pass just outside the St. Lawrence zone. Yale would end the game 8-for-8 on penalty kills.

Snikeris made a stick save on forward Karell Emard after a feed from behind the net with 12 minutes into the period, but right after that Guckian came up with a stop on junior forward Sarah Tittman after junior forward Maggie Westfal caused a turnover behind the St. Lawrence net.

The Yale offense kept creating chances as the period wore on, including junior forward Danielle Kozlowski charging through on a faceoff in the St. Lawrence zone to grab the puck and put two shots on net that Guckian saved. Guckian later momentarily lost control of a shot by Howser after a long pass from freshman defenseman Samantha MacLean, but she was able to glove it in the air before the Bulldogs could get near the rebound.

The Bulldogs had to kill off another penalty with five minutes left in the first. Junior defenseman Carlee Ness disrupted the Saints offense by getting her stick out to deflect a centering pass, sending it all the way out of the zone. Shortly after that Resor drew a tripping penalty to even the sides out, and Murphy's charge down the left boards forced a body-checking call that gave Yale a 5-on-3.

Resor sent a slap shot wide and the Bulldogs were unable to convert their two-man advantage. Disaster nearly struck when the Saints got one skater back, as forward Sabrina Harbec was all alone at the Yale blue line when a high pass from deep in the St. Lawrence zone led her towards the Bulldog net. But Snikeris calmly ranged out from the crease to grab the puck before Harbec could get to it. The first period ended with no score.

Kozlowski started a key sequence midway through the second by intercepting a Saints pass and turning it into a shot on goal. While Guckian was able to stop that attempt, it did force the Saints into a penalty. That led to the game's first goal, as Resor teed off on a feed from freshman forward Bray Ketchum high in the slot and sailed it past Guckian at the 7:52 mark.

"That's what we need from Helen," Witt said. "She's got quite a slap shot. She got open, had time, and took advantage of it."

Snikeris controlled a wrister from an open Harbec 30 seconds later, and shortly after that made a kick save on another Harbec shot with the teams skating 4-on-4. A Yale penalty then gave St. Lawrence a 4-on-3, but Howser hustled to a loose puck in the Bulldog zone to clear it and later fought off a St. Lawrence player to make another crucial clear.

A kick save by Snikeris stopped a shot from defenseman Annie Guay with St. Lawrence still on the man advantage, and Howser was eventually able to work the puck to sophomore defenseman Alyssa Clarke for another clear. Murphy wound up getting a short-handed chance when she stole the puck at center ice and drove in for a shot that Guckian stopped.

The Bulldogs went ahead 2-0 when Resor chipped a puck to Howser and she skated in alone on Guckian. The Saints netminder got a piece of the puck as it went through her five hole at the 13:46 mark.

"Howser had a great series," Witt said. "It was nice to see her get rewarded with a goal."

The third period got off to a rough start for the Bulldogs when they were whistled for a penalty early on, but after a pair of blocks by Howser and MacLean Snikeris denied a pair of shots from in close by Grills.

The Saints crept closer on a rebound goal by Grills after Snikeris stopped a shot by Harbec at 8:02. Snikeris then had to deny a pair of hard slap shots by defenseman Britni Smith, the second one coming on the faceoff after Snikeris stopped the first one. Snikeris also stopped Domenico's attempt after she come around from behind the net.

But what would have been Yale's first win in 33 games all-time against St. Lawrence was not meant to be. The Saints evened things up with 1:28 remaining when a puck bounced off a skate in front to forward Marianna Locke, who was behind Snikeris and had an open net.

Shortly after that the Bulldogs were whistled for their sixth penalty of the game. Howser won the ensuing faceoff and Murphy was able to clear the puck with less than a minute to play. The Saints did get back into the Yale zone in the final seconds, but Kozlowski blocked Guay's shot from the point and cleared the puck as the final seconds of regulation ticked off.

The Bulldogs killed off the rest of that penalty in overtime, and even had a power play of their own that they were unable to capitalize on. Back-to-back penalties on Yale then put the Bulldogs in penalty-killing mode for essentially four straight minutes. During the first penalty the Saints had a flurry in front but could not get the puck past Snikeris. Tittman finally got Yale a chance to breathe by grabbing the rebound of a shot by Smith and back-handing it out of the zone.

Snikeris made a pair of nice saves right before the second Yale penalty, a roughing call after a scrum in front of the net. While the Bulldogs were able to kill that one off, the game-ending sequence came just seconds after it expired. The puck appeared to be tied up along the boards to Snikeris' right but forward Tara Akstull was able to play it towards the net. Domenico was in the right place at the right time, behind Snikeris, and it hit off her upper body and went in.

Even the Saints appeared to be in disbelief after the goal, but they quickly began celebrating. There was a lengthy discussion between the officials as to whether Domenico had been in the crease illegally, but the referee ended that debate by signaling "goal" instead of goaltender interference.

Guckian finished with 22 saves. St. Lawrence, the No. 2 seed in the ECAC Hockey tournament, will play No. 3 seed Dartmouth in the semifinals next weekend. Harvard will play the winner of the Princeton/Clarkson series, which will be determined by game three Sunday.

Saturday's game thus marked the end of Yale's season, and Snikeris wound up with Yale's single-season goals against average record (2.18), topping the 2.24 mark Sarah Love '06 posted in 2003-04. She also had the fourth-best single-season save percentage in school history (.921).

Snikeris was not the only one setting records. Zilis ends her time at Yale as the school's career leader in goals-against average (2.61), besting Love's 2.68. Zilis also finished one percentage point behind Love for the school career save percentage record (.913 to .914). Zilis' .923 save percentage this season places her second behind Love (.931 in 2003-04) in that category, and her 2.59 goals-against average this year is fifth.

Witt praised Zilis and senior defenseman Ann-Renée Guillemette, Yale's Class of 2008, for their roles in helping the program to the point where it could compete with top teams such as St. Lawrence.

"They are two kids we can be proud of," Witt said. "They went out as part of a great team effort. When they have the chance to reflect back, they will see that we made great strides during their time here."

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