October 22, 2006

Olympic Gold Medalist Labonte Denies Bulldogs in Exhibition

Oct. 22, 2006

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - For some perspective on Yale's exhibition with McGill Sunday afternoon at Ingalls Rink, keep in mind that McGill started an Olympic gold medal winner in net while Yale went with a freshman with a grand total of two weeks of official practice under her belt. That makes the 2-1 final score in favor of the Martlets a little more understandable, though it also remained clear that the Bulldogs have much to work on before the start of ECAC play next Friday at Colgate.

In the end, McGill's Charline Labonte's 28 saves outweighed the 19 Yale got from Ansley LaHue. Labonte was the starting goaltender for Team Canada in the gold-medal win over Sweden last February in Torino.

"She's obviously a fantastic goalie," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt of Labonte. "We had our chances, but we had a hard time finishing. We have to be a little better offensively."

With junior goaltender Shivon Zilis having started the regular season opener Saturday at BC, Yale turned to LaHue on Sunday. After the Bulldogs failed to capitalize on a 5-on-3 early, the Martlets took a 1-0 lead at 8:21 when Christine Hartnoll knocked a rebound past LaHue.

Two minutes later Rebecca Martindale extended the lead to 2-0, and Labonte made it look like that would be enough. She finished off an 11-save first period with a flourish, gloving freshman forward Caroline Murphy's cross-ice pass just outside the crease with two Bulldogs waiting to pounce on it.

With Yale on the power play in the final seconds, senior forward Jenna Spring sailed one wide, sophomore forward Sarah Tittman had one blocked and sophomore defenseman Helen Resor lifted one high as time expired.

Resor, who earned a bronze medal with Team USA in the Olympics, finally solved Labonte midway through the second period with a slap shot from high in the slot. Senior forward Kristin Savard assisted on the play.

LaHue settled down to stop all nine Martlet shots in the second. That included one wrister by Shauna Denis from the right circle that the McGill bench thought had gotten past LaHue, sparking a short-lived celebration.

LaHue made a nice pad save on Caroline Hill midway through the third, and Vanessa Davidson hit the post on the power play with six minutes to play to keep Yale in the game.

Labonte remained tough at her end, though. She denied Tittman with under four minutes to play and covered up Resor's attempt on the rebound. She then made a nice glove save off a Resor blast on the ensuing faceoff.

The Bulldogs called a timeout with 2:47 to play, but any attempt at generating a last-minute push was negated by a penalty that sent Resor to the box for the game's final two minutes. Yale pulled LaHue with 90 seconds left but failed to register the equalizer.

Despite coming up short, Witt did see some bright spots.

"Yesterday [at BC] was such a hard-fought, fast-paced game, I was proud of the way we came back out and competed today," Witt said. "[The line of ] Jenna Spring, Denise Soesilo and Sarah Tittman did a lot of good things. Ann-Renée Guillemette helped us out a lot, stepping up to play forward."

Yale finished 0-for-5 on the power play, while McGill was 0-for-8.

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

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