34 Saves for Leonoff
HAMDEN, Conn. – As the end of the regular season draws near, the Yale women's ice hockey team finds itself locked in a battle for ECAC Hockey's eighth and final playoff spot. The Bulldogs had a tall task Saturday afternoon, heading to TD Bank Sports Center to take on a Quinnipiac team that had won eight of its last 10 games and is jockeying for one of the four home ice quarterfinal spots. Thanks to 34 saves from sophomore goalie Jaimie Leonoff and goals by freshman forward Hanna Åström and junior forward Paige Decker, the Bulldogs came away with a 2-2 tie that gives them a crucial point in the ECAC Hockey standings.
Leonoff made a series of spectacular saves midway through the first period as a Yale power play was coming to an end. Shortly after denying a short-handed chance by Bobcats forward Nicole Connery, Leonoff made a quick kick save on forward Nicole Kosta and followed that up by stopping a point-blank shot by forward Olivia Brackett.
Leonoff's work paid dividends in enabling Yale to jump out to a lead when the Bulldogs finally got their chance on offense. Åström, left alone in the slot, banged home a feed from sophomore forward Lynn Kennedy at 9:19 to put Yale up 1-0. It was Kennedy's first point of the year after missing most of the season due to injury. Freshman forward Jamie Haddad also assisted on the play.
Two minutes later Leonoff had to react quickly again, as a shot was tipped and banged off the cross bar behind her before she was able to sweep it away with her stick.
Yale (4-17-2, 3-11-2 ECAC Hockey) extended its lead when a Bobcats goalie Chelsea Laden made the initial save on a shot by Decker but then let the puck slip in through her legs at 16:29. Junior forward Ashley Dunbar and freshman defenseman Kate Martini got assists.
Quinnipiac (15-9-3, 9-5-2 ECAC Hockey) switched goalies heading into the second, with Victoria Vigilanti replacing Laden. The Bobcats controlled play for much of the period but were continually stymied by Leonoff. During one stretch, the Bulldogs had to kill off two penalties in a span of 4:22, and Leonoff came up big. During the first kill she denied forward Kelly Babstock, who is eighth in the nation in goals per game. After another Quinnipiac shot hit off the pipe, Leonoff made a save on a shot by defenseman Cydney Roesler just as the power play ended.
After another penalty on Yale put the Bulldogs right back on the penalty kill, Leonoff slid across the crease to deny a one-timer from forward Erica Uden Johansson. After another save by Leonoff on a tough shot by Connery, junior defenseman Aurora Kennedy broke up a dangerous pass to Uden Johansson.
Despite a 12-6 shot advantage in the second, the Bobcats still entered the third down 2-0. But after successfully killing off a penalty early in the third -- Yale killed off all three penalties, and is 19-for-19 on the PK in the last five games -- the Bulldogs saw their lead vanish. Uden Johansson started the comeback by pulling QU within 2-1 by scoring off a rebound at 6:09.
After a Yale power play came up empty, Martini made a big defensive play to tip away a shot by Uden Johansson with 5:30 to play. As the game entered its final minute, Quinnipiac pulled Vigilanti for an extra skater. That paid dividends when Babstock slid the puck in front of the net and it deflected in with 29.5 seconds left to tie the score 2-2.
Leonoff and Vigilanti both came up with key saves in the final minute of overtime, including Vigilanti stopping a shot by junior defenseman Tara Tomimoto just before time expired.
The tie leaves Yale in 10th place in the ECAC Hockey standings, two points behind eighth-place Princeton with six games to play. The Bulldogs travel to No. 3 Harvard next Friday.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity