Bulldogs Fall to No. 9 UConn in Nutmeg Classic Championship, 3-2

Dec. 30, 2007

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HAMDEN, Conn. - Yale's bid to repeat as Nutmeg Classic champions ended at the hands of No. 9 UConn Sunday night, as the Huskies beat the Bulldogs 3-2 on Jaclyn Hawkins' game-winning goal with 12 minutes left in the third period at Quinnipiac's TD Banknorth Sports Center. The Bulldogs had twice fought back to tie the game, including a goal by junior forward Sarah Tittman that was her third of the tournament and helped her earn Nutmeg Classic MVP honors.

Yale (4-6-4) outshot the Huskies 11-8 in the first period and had a couple of golden chances. Junior forward Maggie Westfal missed just high on a breakaway five minutes in, and 12 minutes in UConn goaltender Brittany Wilson made a quick glove save on freshman forward Bray Ketchum when she came in all alone after a long pass along the boards from senior defenseman Ann-Renee Guillemette.

A turnover in the Yale zone with three minutes left in the period gave Dominique Thibault a chance at a wrister from low in the right circle, but senior goaltender Shivon Zilis got her right leg out to knock that one away. She would finish with 25 saves.

A penalty on the Bulldogs with 1:48 left in the period gave UConn (13-4-1) its second power play of the game, but the best scoring opportunity in that sequence belonged to Yale. It came when sophomore forward Caroline Murphy cleared the puck to center ice, then hustled after it and wound up getting off a short-handed shot that Wilson gloved. Tittman finished off the period by blocking Hawkins' attempted shot as time expired.

Right after Wilson turned aside a shot from right in front by Ketchum the Huskies got a power play that led to the game's first goal. Defenseman Bridget King knocked one past Zilis at 6:14 for a 1-0 UConn lead.

The Huskies would have extended that lead were it not for a pair of acrobatic saves by Zilis midway through the period. UConn thus appeared to have all the momentum on its side when junior forward Maggie Westfal got the worst of a collision with a teammate at center ice, skating gingerly to the bench as time was called. But Westfal was back out on the ice two minutes later and drew a penalty on the Huskies that turned into a Yale goal.

First, though, Zilis had to deny a shorthanded chance for UConn after a turnover gave the Huskies a 2-on-1. As the Yale power play was winding down, the Bulldogs set up patiently in the UConn zone. Westfal got the puck behind the net, surveyed her options, and headed towards the slot before sliding the puck to sophomore forward Mandi Schwartz for a shot. Wilson stopped that one but could not control the puck, and Tittman was perfectly positioned to scoop up the rebound and turn it into her eighth goal of the year at the 17:22 mark. The teams headed into the third period tied at one.

The Huskies went up 2-1 at 3:14 of the third when Nicole Tritter worked the puck off the boards to Brittany Murphy in the slot for a goal. But Yale responded quickly, once again thanks to a penalty drawn by Westfal. During the power play, junior forward Danielle Kozlowski knocked the puck past Wilson from right in front to tie the game at two. Junior forward Kristen Stupay and sophomore defenseman Berit Johnson assisted on the play.

Kozlowski then subtracted a potential goal for the Huskies by diving to the ice to block a shot by Samantha Reid three minutes later. But a minute after that, a turnover gave Hawkins the puck right in front of the net and she banged home her seventh goal of the year to make it 3-2.

The Bulldogs kept the Huskies within reach as the game wound down. UConn had a three-on-one developing when Guillemette hit the ice to smother Amy Hollstein's attempt at a centering pass. With 10 minutes to play Zilis turned away a tricky backhander from in front by Michelle Binning.

Penalties changed the complexion of the game's final minutes, but the Bulldogs kept the pressure on. During a 4-on-4 with four minutes left Schwartz just missed the chance to slide home a pretty pass from Westfal in front, and with 2:15 to play Yale was forced into penalty-killing mode after a high-sticking call. Thirty seconds later Kozlowski drew a tripping penalty on UConn to even things up, and right after that the Bulldogs pulled Zilis for an extra attacker.

There were several near misses for Yale in the final minute, including one puck that hit off Westfal stationed just outside the crease and went wide. Wilson made a save on a shot by Ketchum with 11.8 seconds left, and the Bulldogs fought all the way to the end even after that. A win on the faceoff by Schwartz enabled defenseman Samantha MacLean to slide the puck over to Ketchum for one last blast that Wilson got enough of to deflect wide.

The Huskies, who won the inaugural Nutmeg Classic three years ago, are the first team to win the tournament more than once. Quinnipiac, which won the tournament two years ago, defeated Niagara in a shootout after a 3-3 overtime tie to claim third place earlier in the day. Quinnipiac's Jamie Miller won the Laurie Belliveau Award as the goaltender with the best save percentage in the tournament.

Yale returns to Ingalls Rink Saturday to host Northeastern at 2:00 p.m.

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