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Bulldogs within Three Points of Playoff Spot
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – Just two weekends of regular season games remain, and the ECAC Hockey women's standings are tightly packed near the eighth and final conference playoff spot. Yale is one of the teams in that mix, and the Bulldogs have a chance to make a move up in the standings as RPI (Friday, 7:00 p.m.) and Union (Saturday, 4:00 p.m.) come to Ingalls Rink for a pair of conference games this weekend.
Yale (4-18-2, 3-12-2 ECAC Hockey) is coming off a 4-2 loss Tuesday night at Dartmouth. That game was re-scheduled from Saturday due to the winter storm that hit the Northeast. While the Bulldogs were idle over the weekend, they slipped to 10th in the standings but remained within striking distance of the postseason. The two teams directly ahead of Yale in the race for the eighth and final playoff spot, Colgate and Princeton, have tough schedules ahead. The Raiders host Dartmouth and No. 5 Harvard (combined conference record 23-7-4) this weekend, while Princeton visits No. 6 Clarkson and St. Lawrence (combined conference record 26-8-2).
Close calls may ultimately prove costly for the Bulldogs in the ECAC Hockey standings. Yale has led or been tied in the third period of four of its 12 conference losses, and six of those losses have either been by one goal or two goals with an empty-netter. Still, the Bulldogs have shown plenty of signs of progress this season -- none more dramatic than the turnaround on the penalty killing unit. After killing off just 49 of their first 71 penalties (.690), the Bulldogs have gone 23-for-23 since, a span that dates back to the second penalty of the game vs. Brown Jan. 17.
Sophomore goaltender Jaimie Leonoff (Montreal, Que.) made 45 saves Tuesday at Dartmouth, her fifth game this year with 40 or more saves. She and Minnesota State's Danielle Butters are the only goalies in the country with 800 or more saves, as Leonoff has 801 and Butters has 850. Leonoff is 11th in the country in save percentage (.924), and has an even better mark (.935) since the start of December.
Yale's top defensive pair, freshman Kate Martini (King City, Ont.) and junior Tara Tomimoto (Calgary, Alta.), has also been posting impressive numbers. Martini's goal Tuesday night at Dartmouth moved her into the team lead in points (4-9-13), while Tomimoto's two assists gave her a team-best 10 for the year. With five games left to play, Tomimoto's assist total is already the fifth-highest by a Bulldog in the last four seasons. The speedy blueliner has also incurred just three penalties all year.
Freshman forward Jamie Haddad (Wilbraham, Mass.) leads Yale in goals with seven, and she is just the third Bulldog freshman in the last four seasons with that many goals. Right behind her is freshman forward Janelle Ferrara (Winthrop, Mass.) with six goals. Thanks in part to 19 goals from the freshman class, Yale has already surpassed its goal total from a year ago (33 this year, 31 last year). The Bulldogs have 12 power play goals, including five from Haddad. All of her scoring has come in conference games.
RPI (9-17-4, 7-9-4 ECAC Hockey) started the season 2-11-2 but has gone 7-6-2 since then, including a 4-3 win over the Bulldogs at Houston Field House Dec. 8. That game was a back-and-forth affair that saw each team take the lead twice, but RPI took it when it really mattered: forward Taylor Mahoney's goal with 1:07 left was the game-winner. Leonoff made 34 saves, while Kelly O'Brien made 18 for RPI.
Forward Alexa Gruschow leads the Engineers in scoring (10-12-22), including a team-best four goals on the power play. O'Brien has a .907 save percentage and a 2.36 goals-against average.
Union (7-20-3, 0-15-3 ECAC Hockey) brings a nine-game losing streak into Friday night's game at Brown. The Dutchwomen have scored just eight goals in that stretch, including three games where they were shut out. Forward Courtney Turner leads the team in scoring (5-8-13). Goalie Shenae Lundberg, a member of the world champion U.S. Under-18 National Team in 2011, has a .905 save percentage and a 2.92 goals-against average.
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Report by Sam Rubin '95 (firstname.lastname@example.org), Yale Sports Publicity