Dec. 22, 2004
A 23-day stretch without games comes to an end for Yale Jan.1 at Maine, followed by a trip to No. 6 New Hampshire on Jan. 2. The No. 10 Bulldogs (9-5-0) will attempt to re-capture the momentum of their school-record tying six-game win streak, which was snapped just before the break by No. 5 Mercyhurst.
The Bulldogs, who were recently among the top choices in USCHO.com's poll about the biggest surprises of the season, have much to build on as they begin the second half. They enter the break in first place in the ECACHL for the first time in school history, and are off to their best start ever. The top four teams in the ECACHL will have home ice advantage in the first round of the conference playoffs, and one team from the conference will earn an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. There will also be five at-large bids available for the NCAAs, as the field has expanded to eight teams this year.
Maine (8-5-2) will be coming off a 19-day break when the two teams meet at noon in Orono on New Year's Day. The Black Bears bring a four-game winning streak into the contest, and senior forward Cheryl White is on a roll individually - she had four goals in the last two games before the break. Overall she is third on the team in points (8-3-11) behind senior forward Tristan Desmet (8-5-13) and sophomore forward Sonia Corriveau (5-7-12). In goal, Lara Smart made 57 saves in two games against the Bulldogs last year (a 1-0 Yale win and a 2-2 tie) but has graduated, leaving the goaltending duties to sophomore Rachel Gettings (.902, 1.92 GAA).
New Hampshire (12-3-1) is off to a strong start despite a roster that includes only one senior and three juniors. Sophomore goaltender Melissa Bourdon is a two-time USCHO/ITECH Women's Division I Defensive Player of the Week who sports a .910 save percentage and 1.96 goals-against average. The Wildcat offense has three players with over 20 points: sophomore forward Nicole Hekle (11-18-29), senior forward Stephanie Jones (12-9-21) and junior forward Lindsay Hansen (4-16-20). Yale is 0-16-1 against New Hampshire overall, having tied the Wildcats 1-1 last season.
The Wildcats have the most effective penalty kill in the country at .948, but the Bulldogs are close behind - they are fourth at .898. One of the keys to those penalty kills is junior goaltender Sarah Love, who is within striking distance of her own school single-season records for goals-against average (2.38 this year, 2.25 last year) and save percentage (.920 this year, .931 last year). Yale has also benefited from increased offensive production so far this season, as senior defenseman Erin Duggan (7-6-13) leads the team in scoring and is on pace to exceed her production from last year (3-15-18) - as are 10 of the other 14 skaters on the Yale roster.
The trip north starts a challenging second half for Yale that includes 12 road games and only three home games. Nine of those 15 games, and seven of the road games, are against teams that are either ranked or among those receiving votes in the national polls.
report by email@example.comSam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity Department