Eighth Annual Nutmeg Classic in Storrs for Yale This Weekend

The Yale women's ice hockey huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)
The Yale women's ice hockey huddle. (photo by Sam Rubin '95, Yale Sports Publicity)

Bulldogs Have Advanced to Championship Game Each of the Last Five Seasons

NEW HAVEN, Conn. – The Yale women's ice hockey team will look to re-kindle the magic that it has typically had in the Nutmeg Classic this Friday, facing Robert Morris in the first round at 7 p.m. at UConn's Freitas Ice Forum in Storrs. The Bulldogs have advanced to the championship game each of the past five seasons, winning it all in 2006-07. The tournament also features two of the other women's teams based in Connecticut (the Nutmeg State), Quinnipiac and UConn. The Bobcats and the Huskies play Friday at 4 p.m., and the winners of Friday's first-round games play for the championship Saturday (7 p.m.). The consolation game is 4 p.m. Saturday.

Yale (1-10-0, 1-5-0 ECAC Hockey) has seen some individual flashes of brilliance lately, and now must put together a total team effort. Freshman goalie Jaimie Leonoff (Montreal, Que.) had a remarkable weekend at No. 9 Mercyhurst last time out, stopping 115 of the 125 shots she faced (a .920 save percentage). Her 63 saves on Saturday were the most by a Yale goalie since 1998.

Meanwhile, Leonoff's classmate, forward Stephanie Mock (Cape Coral, Fla.), has been making more and more of an impact offensively with each game. Mock has five points in the last five games after getting just two points in the first six games. She now leads the team in scoring (2-5-7), one point ahead of sophomore forward Jackie Raines (London, Ont.) (5-1-4). In third is senior forward Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.), Yale's captain, who has scored at least one point in four of Yale's last five games and is at 1-4-5 for the season. Hughes is the only senior among Yale's top six scorers.

Raines had the game-winner in Yale's 5-2 victory over UConn in the first round of last year's tournament, played at Quinnipiac's TD Bank Sports Center. The Bulldogs fell to Quinnipiac 2-1 in the championship game, with junior forward Alyssa Zupon (Basking Ridge, N.J.) getting the lone goal.

Robert Morris (9-1-1, 0-0-0 CHA) is unbeaten in its last seven games, including three wins over ECAC Hockey teams (5-1 and 4-2 over RPI, 5-2 over Colgate). The Colonials, on average, have outscored their opponents by three goals per game (4.64 to 1.64). This is their first season under head coach Paul Colontino, and they have already surpassed last season's win total (6-21-7).

Colonials forward Rebecca Vint, who has scored in a school-record 11 straight games heading into Friday, is sixth in the country in goals per game and tied for 10th in the country in points per game (13-9-22 in 11 games). The CHA Rookie of the Month for October, she leads the country in power play goals with eight. Goalie Kristen DiCiocco is 11th in the country in goals-against average (1.76) and 15th in save percentage (.929).

RMU's lone weakness is a propensity for penalties (averaging nearly 14 penalty minutes per game) and a penalty kill that ranks 16th out of 34 teams in the country (84.1 percent). But the Colonials make up for that with one of the nation's best power plays, converting 29 percent of their chances.

Quinnipiac (7-7-1, 5-2-1 ECAC Hockey) is 6-2-1 in its last nine games, including a 3-0 win over Yale at TD Bank Sports Center Nov. 4 despite 41 saves from senior goalie Genny Ladiges (Almonte, Ont.). Should the Bulldogs and the Bobcats meet on Saturday, that will mean three games in less than a month between these two teams, because they will also meet on Dec. 3 at Ingalls Rink. Forward Kelly Babstock (9-9-18) leads the team in scoring, while goalie Victoria Vigilanti has a .897 save percentage and a 2.51 goals-against average. Chelsea Laden (.920, 2.97) was in net Tuesday night for the Bobcats' 2-1 upset of No. 4 Boston College.

The Bobcats have won the Nutmeg Classic twice: last year and in 2005-06.

UConn (2-11-2, 2-5-0 Hockey East) had won three straight Nutmeg Classics until last season, when the Bulldogs knocked off the Huskies in the first round. UConn's four Nutmeg Classic titles overall have each come at the expense of Yale, as the Huskies have beaten the Bulldogs in the finals each time -- three times by just one goal.

UConn snapped a six-game losing streak this past Sunday with a 3-0 win over Vermont. The Huskies scored just three goals during their six-game skid, but got goals from three different players Sunday -- forward Kayla Compero, defenseman Maggie Walsh and forward Jenna Welsh -- to beat the Catamounts. Nicole Paniccia made 28 saves for the shutout. She has a .931 save percentage and 2.22 goals-against average for the season. Defenseman Sami Evelyn leads the team in scoring (2-6-8).


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