March 2, 2006
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - To advance in the ECACHL playoffs, the Yale Bulldogs must do something they have never done before: beat No. 2 St. Lawrence. As the eighth-place team in the ECACHL, Yale travels to Canton, N.Y., to take on the first-place Saints in a best-of-three quarterfinal series Friday through Sunday.
Yale (11-13-5, 8-8-4 ECACHL) has to believe that it is better than its eighth-place finish would indicate. The Bulldogs actually scored more goals (51 to 50) and allowed fewer goals (45 to 50) in conference play this year compared to last year -- but last year they finished 12-7-1 in those games. That earned them fourth place and home-ice advantage in the quarterfinals, which they parlayed into a 2-0 series win over Princeton and their first trip to the ECACHL semifinals. This year's 8-8-4 record in conference play dictates a much tougher route to the semis.
St. Lawrence (28-3-2, 16-2-2 ECACHL) has plenty of gaudy statistics. The Saints are second in the NCAA in scoring offense (4.06 goals per game), scoring defense (1.18 goals per game), power-play percentage (.231), penalty-killing percentage (.904), scoring margin (2.88) and winning percentage (.879).
St. Lawrence also has plenty of individual stars as well. Sophomore forward Sabrina Harbec leads the country in points per game (1.87, 24-34-58 in 31 games) and assists per game (1.1, 34 in 31 games) while placing seventh in goals per game (.77, 24 in 31 games). Freshman forward Carson Duggan is second in goals per game (.87, 27 in 31 games) and 14th in points per game (1.29, 27-14-41 in 31 games). The Saints also have freshman forward Marianna Locke, whose 10 power-play goals place her third in the country.
Both of the Saints' goaltenders have posted impressive numbers as well. Sophomore Meaghan Guckian leads the country in save percentage (.944) and goals-against average (1.03), while senior Jess Moffat is fourth in save percentage (.939) and fifth in goals-against average (1.33).
To beat the Saints, Yale will likely need a standout performance from the only Bulldog ranked in the top 20 in any national categories: senior goaltender Sarah Love (Bayfield, Ont.). She is 15th in save percentage (.921) and 17th in goals-against average (2.31).
Love is on a roll entering the post-season. In her last nine games, she has a .939 save percentage and 1.57 GAA. She has allowed only eight goals at even strength in that stretch, underscoring the importance of Yale staying out of the penalty box against St. Lawrence's strong power play.
Offensively the Bulldogs look for leadership from their top line of senior forward Deena Caplette (Winnipeg, Man.), freshman forward Crysti Howser (Wilmette, Ill.) and junior forward Jenna Spring (Cranbrook, B.C.). Those three have combined for 24 of Yale's school-record 51 goals in conference play, including a team-best 10 from Spring. Howser has been hot of late, scoring 10 points in her last seven games.
Spring (five), Caplette (five) and junior forward Sheila Zingler (Wausau, Wisc.) (four) have combined for 14 power-play goals, and the Bulldogs as a whole are ranked No. 9 in the country in power-play percentage (.181).
As daunting as the trip to the North Country can be, Yale's last two visits provide some reason for the Bulldogs to believe. Last January 13, goals by Caplette and senior forward Lisa Jacque (Markham, Ont.) gave Yale a 2-1 lead heading into the third period. Three power-play goals in the game's final 18 minutes helped St. Lawrence avoid the upset.
The Bulldogs' visit to Appleton Arena during the 2004-05 season was also a close loss. Yale grabbed a 2-0 lead in the first on goals by junior forward Kristin Savard (Framingham, Mass.) and Spring, only to see St. Lawrence score three times in the second thanks to a 12-3 shot advantage. Yale evened things up with another goal from Savard midway through the third, but two minutes later St. Lawrence got the game-winner.
Yale also had one-goal losses against the Saints in both the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. Savard and Spring had goals in a 3-2 loss Feb. 6, 2004 at Appleton. Love made 44 saves in that game and 47 the next night in a 5-2 loss. She also had 36 in Yale's 2-1 loss to the Saints Nov. 17, 2002 at Ingalls Rink.
Overall, Yale is winless (0-24-1) in 25 meetings with St. Lawrence since the teams first played Nov. 16, 1986.
The history of the No. 8 seed in the ECACHL playoffs is not a good one - since the league switched to a best-of-three quarterfinal series in 2002, no No. 8 has won a game and the No. 1 seeds have outscored the No. 8 seeds 58-5. It is interesting to note, however, that St. Lawrence has lost at least one game in each of the last three first-round playoff series that it has hosted, and lost a series 2-1 to Brown in 2002-03 as the No. 4 seed.
The ECACHL semifinals and championship will be held at the highest remaining seed Mar. 11 and 12. The other quarterfinal match-ups are:
report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity