November 26, 2011

UConn Tops Yale in Nutmeg Classic Consolation Game

Hughes Scores Lone Goal

STORRS, Conn. – Playing in the consolation game of the Nutmeg Classic for just the second time in the tournament's eight-year history, the Yale women's hockey team could not get past host UConn Saturday afternoon at Freitas Ice Forum. The Huskies, who had lost to Quinnipiac 4-2 in the first round Friday afternoon, scored one goal in each period to best the Bulldogs 3-1.

Despite the 0-2 record in the annual tournament featuring three of the Nutmeg State's women's ice hockey programs, this represented Yale's best weekend of the season defensively. The Bulldogs allowed only four goals total, and just two at even strength. And they did it with a corps of blueliners that is still far from full strength, even with senior defenseman Heather Grant back in the lineup after missing four games with an injury. The Bulldogs continue to rely heavily on two freshmen defensemen, Madi Murray and Kelsey Summers, along with junior Jamie Gray and sophomore Ashley Dunbar, who converted from forward to defense just two weeks ago.

"No question, we've worked on [defense] a lot, and it's starting to pay off a little," said Yale head coach Joakim Flygh.

Freshman goalie Jaimie Leonoff got the start for Yale, as the Bulldogs continued to alternate her and senior Genny Ladiges (who had 30 saves in Friday night's 1-0 first-round loss to Robert Morris).

"Genny played great last night, but Jaimie played so well last weekend [stopping 115 of 125 shots at No. 9 Mercyhurst], we had to give her another shot," said Flygh.

UConn scored the only goal of the first, with forward Jocelyn Slattery knocking in the rebound of her own shot for an unassisted goal at 9:22. The Bulldogs got their first power play of the game a minute later but were unable to convert. Overall, though, with 12 shots on goal Yale had a dramatic reversal from the slow start the previous day (two shots on goal in the first).

"We didn't play tentatively," Flygh said. "We did a better job moving the puck and supporting the puck. We played with more confidence."

The Bulldogs had some Grade-A chances early in the second. First sophomore forward Jackie Raines walked in from low in the right circle and put a shot on net from right in front that UConn's Nicole Paniccia stopped. Less than two minutes later, a loose puck in the crease with Paniccia out of position wound up getting poked back to Dunbar, who sent it to Grant. With Paniccia down, Grant went high with her slap shot but put it over the crossbar.

Shots were even until Yale took its second penalty of the period, and UConn peppered Leonoff with six shots during the power play. She stopped them all to keep the Bulldogs within striking distance.

In a span of 20 seconds later in the second period, though, the game swung dramatically in UConn's favor. First, a Yale pass through the slot found Raines all alone at the far post but her shot went wide. Spared the game-tying goal, the Huskies then went right down the ice and took a 2-0 lead when defenseman Caitlin Hughes scored at 4:10.

"We generated more quality scoring chances in this game than we had all year," said Flygh. "It seemed like we had open nets left and right. It's obviously discouraging when you miss those, but on the positive side, we are generating the chances."

Another missed opportunity at the start of the third also hurt the Bulldogs. After a hard slap shot by Grant, Paniccia left the puck off to her right. But as junior forward Alyssa Zupon crashed the rebound, a UConn defender got just enough of Zupon's shot to deflect it away harmlessly. Right after that a tripping penalty on Yale enabled forward Emily Snodgrass to extend the UConn lead to 3-0 with a power play goal at 1:31.

Yale, which had gone six periods without a goal, snapped its scoreless streak at 6:05 of the third when senior forward Aleca Hughes scored off an assist from freshman forward Lynn Kennedy. Hughes then nearly got the Bulldogs back within one. Right after a great save by Leonoff, Kennedy carried the puck up the ice for a 2-on-1, feeding Hughes for a shot that went just wide.

Another golden Yale chance went by the boards when a wraparound attempt by sophomore forward Paige Decker came up empty with 6:30 to play. With 1:48 to play the Bulldogs won a faceoff in the UConn zone and controlled the puck there for nearly a minute, giving time for Leonoff to skate off for an extra skater. But Yale could not get any quality shots through to the net even with the extra man, and the Huskies skated off with the win.

Yale finished with 29 shots on goal, one shy of its season high (30 vs. Northeastern). UConn's 31 shots tied the season low for a Yale opponent, and as a result this was the lowest shot differential (-2) for Yale in any game this season. Leonoff and Paniccia each finished with 28 saves.

Later in the day, Quinnipiac beat Robert Morris 3-2 to win the Nutmeg Classic Championship.

The Bulldogs return to Ingalls Rink next Friday for a 7 p.m. game vs. Princeton. The game is the annual "White Out for Mandi" fundraiser for the Mandi Schwartz Foundation that Hughes founded in honor of Mandi Schwartz '10 (1988-2011) and her courageous battle with cancer. Admission is free and the team is lining up pledges for donations based on the attendance total, with the goal of packing Ingalls with fans in white. Special white t-shirts are on sale, and there will be memorabilia auction at the game. Complete information is available on the White Out for Mandi page.

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

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