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Playoff Spot Within Reach as Quinnipiac, Princeton Visit
NEW HAVEN, Conn. – With a spot in the ECAC Hockey playoffs still within reach, the Yale women's ice hockey team hosts its final games of the year at Ingalls Rink this weekend. After playing Quinnipiac Friday at 7:00 p.m., Yale plays Princeton at 4:00 p.m. Saturday for Senior Day. The Bulldogs will honor goalie Erin Callahan (Kenilworth, Ill.), defenseman Emily DesMeules (North Pomfret, Vt.), defenseman Jamie Gray (Calgary, Alta.), forward Jen Matichuk (St. Albert, Alta.), forward Danielle Moncion (Round Lake Center, Ont.), forward Natalie Wedell (Arden Hills, Minn.) and forward Alyssa Zupon (Basking Ridge, N.J.), Yale's captain. Zupon will also be recognized for her selection as one of five finalists nationwide for the BNY Mellon Wealth Management Hockey Humanitarian Award.
Yale (4-19-3, 3-13-3 ECAC Hockey) slipped into 10th place in the ECAC Hockey standings last weekend after losing to RPI Friday and tying Union Saturday. But the Bulldogs are still within striking distance of the team currently holding the eighth and final playoff, Princeton -- and they have a game in hand on the Tigers. Due to winter storm Nemo, Yale's game at Harvard that was originally scheduled for Feb. 8 has been moved to Tuesday Feb. 26. The Bulldogs thus could finish with as many as 15 points; Princeton currently has 12 points. Yale will have to do plenty of scoreboard watching this weekend, as the Bulldogs also face competition for the eighth spot from Colgate (ninth place, 11 points, at Union and RPI) and Brown (10th place, 10 points, vs. Princeton and Quinnipiac).
Close calls may ultimately prove costly for the Bulldogs in the ECAC Hockey standings. In addition to holding the lead at one point in all three conference ties this year, Yale has led or been tied in the third period of five of its 13 conference losses -- and six of those 13 losses have either been by one goal or two goals with an empty-netter.
Still, the seniors can depart knowing that they have seen the team make significant progress in their final year. Compared to last season, the team has decreased its goals allowed per game by 42 percent and increased its goals scored per game by 29 percent. The Bulldogs' power play effectiveness has increased by 44 percentage points from a year ago, and their improvement on the penalty kill has been even more dramatic. En route to improving the PK by 46 percentage points this year compared to last year, the Bulldogs have killed off 29 consecutive penalties -- a span that dates back to the second penalty of the game vs. Brown Jan. 17.
The seniors have combined for seven goals and nine assists this year, including the first career goal for Gray. The Bulldogs' top four scorers include three freshmen -- defensemen Kate Martini (King City, Ont.) (6-9-15), forward Jamie Haddad (Wilbraham, Mass.) (7-5-12) and forward Janelle Ferrara (Winthrop, Mass.) (6-6-12). No other ECAC Hockey team has that many freshmen among its top four scorers, and only one (Union) even has two freshmen in its top four. Martini was just named ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week after scoring three goals in three games last week.
Sophomore goalie Jaimie Leonoff (Montreal, Que.) comes off a busy week in which she made 105 saves in three games. She is third in the country in saves (861), trailing only Danielle Butters of Minnesota State (928) and Nicole Paniccia of Penn State (881). Leonoff has averaged more than 35 saves per game at home (33 per game on the road). Her .924 save percentage places her 12th in the country.
Junior defenseman Tara Tomimoto (Calgary, Alta.) has been another key part of Yale's defensive improvement. After missing all of last season with an injury, Tomimoto has skated in every game this year as part of Yale's top defensive pair with Martini. With four assists in the last three games, Tomimoto now leads the team in assists with 12 -- the most by a Yale player since U.S. Olympian Helen Resor '09 had 14 in 2008-09.
Quinnipiac (17-10-4, 11-6-3 ECAC Hockey) skated to a 2-2 tie with Yale when these two teams met three weeks ago in Hamden, with freshman forward Hanna Åström (Örnsköldsvik, Sweden) and junior forward Paige Decker (New Preston, Conn.) scoring Yale's goals. That was part of a seven-game unbeaten streak for the Bobcats, a streak that ended last Saturday with a 1-0 loss at No. 7 Clarkson on a goal with 5.1 seconds left. Goalie Victoria Vigilanti, who came on in relief of Chelsea Laden in the game vs. Yale, has gone six straight games without allowing more than a goal. She has a .970 save percentage and a 0.86 goals-against average in that span. For the season, her save percentage is .914 and her goals-against average is 1.98. The Bobcats also feature one of the country's most dynamic offensive players in forward Kelly Babstock, who is sixth in the country in goals per game and 10th in the country in points per game (28-24-52 in 31 games). Forward Nicole Kosta, a Canadian U-18 team member who has 27 assists and is +31 for the year, is another player Yale must keep an eye on.
Princeton (10-15-2, 5-13-2 ECAC Hockey), which plays at Brown Friday night, would clinch the eighth and final playoff spot with a pair of wins this weekend. The Tigers rallied for three goals in the third period to beat Yale 3-1 the last time these teams met. But after beating Brown the next day, Princeton has since dropped three of four and allowed the playoff spot to remain up for grabs. The Tigers have swept the Yale-Brown trip every year since 2008-09, however.
Forward Corey Stearns (5-26-31) is Princeton's top scorer. Goalie Kimberly Newell has a .915 save percentage and a 2.97 goals-against average.
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Friday's game vs. Quinnipiac will be televised via tape delay on CPTV Sports. Visit http://www.cptvsports.org for more information.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity