Bulldogs Battle BC to 2-2 Tie Behind Zilis' 43 Saves

Nov. 24, 2007

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The record book shows that senior goalkeeper Shivon Zilis had one of the best seasons in Yale history last year, finishing fifth all-time in save percentage and goals-against average. Yet in the early going of 2007-08 Zilis has bested both of those figures, and on Saturday afternoon she all but carried Yale to a 2-2 overtime tie with Boston College. Her 43 saves, combined with goals from junior defenseman Helen Resor and junior forward Crysti Howser, helped the Bulldogs pull out the draw despite being outshot 45-30.

Zilis' performance jacked her save percentage up to .937 (it was .908 last year), currently fifth in the country, and lowered her goals-against average to 1.92 (it was 2.69 last year). This was the third-best single-game save total of her career.

When the Bulldogs called a timeout with 3.6 seconds left in overtime, the first person to give Zilis a pat on the head when she came to the bench was one of the people contributing to her spectacular start -- freshman goalie Jackee Snikeris. Snikeris has been a star in her own right, stopping 88 of 96 shots in her four games, and just as importantly has helped ease Zilis' workload after a 2006-07 season in which Zilis spent nearly 1,700 minutes in goal.

"Shivon was great today," Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. "She's been playing exceptionally well. It's beneficial for her and Jackee to have each other -- they push each other, and getting a little more rest helps. We've got two great goalies. Last year we had to ask way too much of Shivon, and she wasn't 100 percent healthy. This year she can focus on one game at a time."

Boston College (6-3-2, 3-3-0 Hockey East) had the first five shots on goal of the game, but Zilis stopped them all and the Bulldogs slowly began gaining momentum. They eventually eliminated the shot differential, and after an icing call forced a faceoff in the Yale defensive zone the Bulldogs broke through on the scoreboard. Howser took the faceoff and popped the puck forward, where junior forward Sarah Tittman scooped it up and was off to the races. Tittman sped through the neutral zone, then drove wide to the right and had two options -- Resor and junior forward Maggie Westfal -- driving to the net to her left. Tittman slid the puck across the ice and Resor buried it behind Eagle goalie Molly Schaus while falling to the ice at 8:13.

Penalties had proven costly to the Bulldogs in the three-game losing streak they brought into Saturday, and a checking call allowed BC to even things up. Kelli Stack intercepted an attempted clearing pass along the boards and drove into the slot, wristing a pretty shot past Zilis' glove into the upper right corner of the net with 3:13 left in the period.

The Eagles got another power play later in the period, but junior forward Danielle Kozlowski got that penalty kill off to a good start by fighting off a BC player to clear the puck off the faceoff. BC was eventually able to establish itself in the offensive zone and peppered Zilis with seven shots, but she turned them all aside. She brought the busy period to a close with her 13th save, gloving Stack's wrister as time expired.

The Eagles would go ahead 5:16 into the second when Stack won a faceoff to Zilis' left and was able to take the puck off the boards behind the net and feed Deborah Spillane in front for a 2-1 lead.

That was part of a period that saw BC outshoot the Bulldogs 14-4, but Howser made one of Yale's shots count. At the 11:48 mark, Westfal took the puck off the boards on the left and passed to Tittman, whose shot from the high slot was blocked. But Howser was perfectly positioned in front to control the loose puck and backhand it past Schaus for her second goal of the season.

That was the first time the trio that comprises Yale's recently-formed top line had combined on a goal since Westfal returned to the ice last weekend at the end of soccer season (she was named first team All-Ivy in that sport earlier in the week) and was paired with Howser and Tittman.

"We thought it was important to put a veteran line together," Witt said. "Sarah Tittman has done everything for us -- she makes things go. There's a ton of skill there with Maggie and Crysti, and some speed."

Schaus made a nice save on Westfal from right in front with three minutes left in the period, and an interference call against the Bulldogs with 20 seconds left put Yale on the penalty kill for the end of the second and the start of the third. Zilis' save on an Allie Thunstrom wrister kept the score 2-2 at intermission.

Both teams buckled down defensively and there were few golden chances for either side until late in the third. Resor sent a shot wide off a nice pass from sophomore forward Mandi Schwartz with 6:30 to play, and 30 seconds later Schaus closed up the five hole on Schwartz' attempt to break the deadlock.

Zilis made a pair of saves on back-to-back shots by Stack and Maggie Taverna with 5:30 to play, and a checking call against the Bulldogs then made the next two minutes interesting. Schwartz' steal at the Yale blue line enabled her to get off a short-handed shot at the other end that Schaus denied, and Kozlowski's follow up was also stopped. BC was able to regroup offensively and put pressure on Zilis, but she gloved Colleen Harris' blast with 11 seconds left in the power play.

The final two minutes were hectic, with Schaus gloving freshman forward Bray Ketchum's wrister and Resor having an attempted pass blocked so high that it hit the famed Ingalls Rink "Whale" roof and bounced back on to the ice. Moments later the Eagles took the puck down to the other end, and Zilis made a trio of saves off a flurry in front. That included one where she somehow got her left leg down to deny Taverna from low in the right circle.

A cross-checking penalty on BC with 15 seconds left in regulation gave Yale a power play heading into overtime, the fourth time in the last seven meetings these two teams have needed five extra minutes of hockey. Stack nearly turned that into a short-handed goal, but Zilis made one of her four overtime stops to keep the game going. After sophomore defenseman Alyssa Clarke sent a shot wide, Schaus gloved a shot from junior defenseman Carlee Ness to snuff out the last Yale threat on the power play.

There were three face-offs in the Yale zone in the final two minutes of overtime, but the Bulldogs won them all -- two by Howser, one by Schwartz -- to keep the Eagles at bay. The last chance for either team came when Resor took the puck almost the entire length of the ice for a wrister that Schaus nabbed with 3.6 seconds left for her 28th save. BC won the ensuing faceoff and the final seconds ticked off.

Saturday's game was Yale's first non-conference game of the year. The Bulldogs (3-3-2, 3-3-1 ECAC) return to the ice at Ingalls Friday night against Clarkson (7:00 p.m.), another ECAC Hockey opponent, having learned some valuable lessons.

"First, we have to stay out of the penalty box," Witt said. "We're taking penalties we don't need to take. But we could feel we were going to be in this game to the end. Now, we have to play like this every day."

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

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