March 4, 2005
New Haven, CT - Deena Caplette's goal 15:22 into overtime lifted Yale to a 4-3 win over No. 10 Princeton Friday night in game one of the ECACHL Quarterfinals at Ingalls Rink, the first post-season victory in the Bulldogs' 28-year history. The goal capped a night of high drama that saw Yale twice rally from one-goal deficits, including a goal on a penalty shot, in front of a large contingent of fans on hand for the first-ever playoff game at The Whale. Sarah Love (33 saves) picked up the win in net, while Princeton's Roxanne Gaudiel (32 saves) nearly denied the Bulldogs with some spectacular saves.
The back-and-forth action started quickly. Yale struck first, as a Bulldog faceoff win in the Princeton zone set up Helen Resor, whose blast from the point trickled past Gaudiel just 3:41 into the game. Princeton would control play for much of the rest of the period, however. The Tigers took advantage of a Yale penalty to even the score just over a minute later, with Liz Keady knocking a rebound past Love. The Tigers added another power-play tally, by Kim Pearce, at 11:20 to go up 2-1. By the end of the penalty-filled period, in which Yale was whistled four times and Princeton twice, the Tigers had outshot the Blue 15-7.
Yale grabbed the equalizer 3:38 into the second period, as Natalie Babony knocked one past Gaudiel assisted by Nicole Symington and Jenna Spring. The rest of the period played out evenly until the Tigers went back on top with their first even-strength goal of the night. Katharine Maglione's slap shot from the faceoff circle eluded Love to give Princeton a 3-2 lead just 2:13 before the second intermission.
Tension mounted as the third period wore on and the Bulldogs continued to generate pressure but could not get one past Gaudiel, who entered the night second in the conference in save percentage (.929) and goals-against average (1.79). Finally, with 5:34 to play, a scrum in front of the Princeton net led to a Tiger defender covering up the puck in the crease - a delay of game call and a penalty shot for Yale.
After a timeout, Yale head coach Hilary Witt tabbed the freshman Resor to take what was shaping up to be the most important shot of Yale's season, and maybe even history.
"I just had a feeling, I don't know why," Witt said of her decision to go with the rookie. "And she got it done."
With the puck at center ice and the crowd on its feet, Resor took off towards Gaudiel. The Tiger netminder ranged far out of the crease to challenge the play. Resor came up with a perfect deke to get Gaudiel sprawled out, leaving a wide-open net for her to backhand the puck in. A wild celebration ensued, but the Bulldogs quickly had their enthusiasm dampened by two more penalties. One came with 4:09 to play, and Love stopped both of the shots she saw on that power play. Gaudiel made a great save to deny Caplette when the teams were at even strength, and another Yale penalty came with only 26 seconds left in regulation. That left the crowd in even more suspense as the teams finished off regulation tied at three.
The Bulldogs' penalty killing unit excelled when it counted most, as most of the overtime portion of that power play was spent with the puck out of Yale's zone. Once the penalty ended, the roller-coaster ride for the Ingalls crowd -- many seeing a women's game for the first time thanks to the Athletics Department's free ticket offer -- continued. Love made a spectacular glove save on a wrister by Brittany Salmon 12:30 in, but right after that Gaudiel came up with a gem of her own to deny Yale again.
"You start getting frustrated when you don't get chances like that," Yale captain Erin Duggan said. "As long as you keep getting those shots on net, one's got to go in."
Finally, after over 75 minutes of hockey, a faceoff win by the Bulldogs in the Princeton end set in motion the game-winning play. Kristin Savard took the puck from behind the net up to the face-off circle to Gaudiel's right, then passed it back to Duggan at the point. Duggan fired the puck right back to Savard, who wristed one through the crowded crease. Gaudiel stopped the puck but the rebound came out to the feet of Caplette just to the left of the net. She backhanded in the game-winner and was promptly mobbed by her teammates.
"I actually thought it was going wide," Caplette recalled. "I just backhanded it in. It was awesome. It's a great feeling, especially seeing the whole team charge after me."
The significance of the historic first win in the postseason was not lost on Witt, whose first year with the team (as an assistant coach) in 2001-02 was the current senior class' freshman year. The Bulldogs had never made a playoff appearance until that season, and in the three postseason series they have played since then they had been 0-6 and outscored 33-5 until Friday's epic victory.
"For the program it was outstanding, and for the senior class to finally get that win - I'm so happy we got that win while they are still here," Witt said, referring to Duggan, Nicole Symington and Ali Turney. "They have done so much work for this program over the last four years that it's so deserving."
The Bulldogs have little time to celebrate, however, as game two is Saturday afternoon at 4 pm. at Ingalls. Admission is once again free. The game will be available on GameTracker and will be webcast.
report by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity Department