March 12, 2005
Schenectady, NY - Yale's record-breaking playoff run came to an end Saturday afternoon in the ECACHL semifinals against No. 5 Harvard, as the Crimson prevailed 2-1 in overtime. A last-second goal by the Bulldogs in regulation had sent the game to the extra session, where Yale nearly pulled off the upset.
Making their first-ever ECACHL semifinal appearance, the Bulldogs looked ready from the start. The Crimson had the shot edge, 10-3, in a scoreless first period, but goalie Sarah Love (37 saves) stood tall. ECACHL Rookie of the Year Sarah Vaillancourt had some of the period's best chances for Harvard, but on a one-on-one six minutes in Yale defenseman Helen Resor was able to take her out of the play without getting a shot off, and with just 12 seconds left in the period Love made a pretty glove save on a shot from the slot to deny her again.
The second period saw more whistles but no more goals than the first. The Bulldogs had the first power play, as a nice setup from Sheila Zingler for Nicole Symington forced Harvard into a checking penalty less than two minutes in. The Crimson killed off that penalty and were on a power play of their own when there was a scary moment for both teams, as Zingler and Harvard's Julie Chu collided and went down to the ice hard several feet in front of the Crimson net. After some anxious moments, Zingler got up first and Chu followed shortly.
As that Yale penalty came to an end Symington drew another one on the Crimson, but the Bulldogs could not take advantage. Yale actually had one of its best scoring chances while shorthanded later in the period, as a great job of forechecking enabled Kristin Savard to get off a shot that Harvard's Ali Boe (17 saves) was able to smother. Yale's next best chance came 2:40 before the second intermission, when Jenna Spring fed Symington on her way to the net and Symington slid the puck just wide. Love made her last key stop of the period by smothering a dangerous loose puck in the crease with 28.7 seconds left, eliciting loud cheers from the large group of Yale fans - including the Yale Precision Marching Band - in attendance.
Getting to the third period with the score tied was somewhat of an accomplishment for the Bulldogs, who had lost 39 in a row to their rivals prior to a 3-2 victory earlier this year -- a loss which Harvard promptly responded to with an 11-2 win the last time these two teams met.
"We knew we couldn't let it get into a shootout," Witt said. "We knew we couldn't hold them back if we didn't play strong defensively."
The Bulldogs got a power play early in the third when Harvard took down Natalie Babony, but Boe stopped Yale's best scoring opportunity, a Helen Resor slap shot. The Crimson broke through at the 8:13 mark when Vaillancourt, initially denied on a shot attempt, stayed with the play and was able to knock one past Love. The Bulldogs then had to sweat out a Harvard 5-on-3 midway through the period before getting another power play with 5:28 to play. After a great poke-check by captain Erin Duggan got the puck away from Vaillancourt, a rush led by Deena Caplette forced Chu into an interference penalty.
When the Bulldogs could not capitalize on that power play -- failing to even get a shot on net -- and the clock ticked down, it appeared to be a 1-0 Crimson victory in the making. After another Love save with 2:00 to play, Witt called time out and set up for the game's final moments. With 1:33 left Harvard's Lindsay Weaver tripped Savard for a penalty, giving the Blue the break it needed. As Yale began turning up the offensive pressure, Love was pulled for an extra attacker and the Bulldogs peppered Boe with shots. Showing no signs of panic, Yale patiently set itself up as the final seconds of the game ticked away. Finally, Resor worked the puck over to Duggan, who flipped a shot on net from the point. Boe was unable to control the rebound, and among several Bulldogs standing just outside the crease was Spring, who stuck the puck in to touch off a wild celebration - there were only 14.2 seconds left on the clock.
"When you're down a goal, you've got to get three or four people on the puck and we did a good job of that," Witt said. "I thought Erin Duggan showed a lot of patience not shooting it right away on that goal. She held up and we got people in front of the goalie, and that's how you score in this game."
Overtime was a back-and-forth affair until the Bulldogs were whistled for having too many men on the ice during a line change gone awry due to a Crimson odd-man rush. Love made a big save on one Vaillancourt shot, but Harvard kept the puck alive and got it back to her for the game-winner 12:06 in.
"I thought our kids played their hearts out, and you can't ask for anything more than that," Witt said. "This is obviously very disappointing and we're going to be disappointed for a while, but I think when we look back we'll be pretty proud of what we've accomplished."
Harvard advances to play Dartmouth, which beat St. Lawrence 4-2 in the other semifinal game. Yale ends the season with a school-record 16 victories.
"When we started this season we knew we had a strong team and we had a chance to go far," Love said. "We had some ups and downs, but we pulled through and we made it to this weekend. I think that shows how far the team has come and shows the direction that the team is taking."
The Bulldogs will vote for the 2005-06 team captain upon their return from spring break March 21 and will announce the team awards at their annual banquet April 12.
report by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity Department