McGauley Scores for Yale; Leonoff Makes 35 Saves
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – The Yale women's ice hockey team battled right to the end of the 2012-13 season Tuesday night at the Bright Center against No. 7 Harvard. The Bulldogs had the game tied 1-1 heading into the third period thanks to a goal from junior forward Patricia McGauley, but the Crimson wound up going ahead with 15:30 left in the game and adding an empty-net goal for a 3-1 win. Sophomore goalie Jaimie Leonoff finished with 35 saves.
Harvard (21-5-3, 17-3-2 ECAC Hockey) was 10-1-1 at home heading into Tuesday's game, and needed a win to clinch a share of the Ivy League title with Cornell. Yale (5-21-3, 4-15-3) was looking to play spoiler, similar to the way the Bulldogs had knocked off their rival Princeton 4-2 this past Saturday at Ingalls Rink. But they wound up with another frustratingly close loss in a season that was full of them. This marked the seventh time this season Yale has lost a conference game either by one goal or by two goals with an empty-netter. Just four more points in the standings would have been enough to earn the Bulldogs a playoff spot.
The Crimson controlled play for most of the first part of the first period, including a goal by forward Mary Parker at the 5:54 mark. But the momentum began shifting shortly after Yale was called for a penalty at 8:49. The Yale penalty killing unit of senior defenseman Jamie Gray, sophomore forward Lynn Kennedy, freshman defenseman Kate Martini and senior forward Danielle Moncion prevented the Crimson from getting any shots through to the net. Then, with a minute left on the Yale penalty, the Crimson incurred a penalty for having too many men on the ice.
While Yale was unable to score on that power play, the Bulldogs were able to quell Harvard's offensive momentum. And when a scoring opportunity finally materialized shortly after the power play ended, the Bulldogs took advantage of it. After getting the puck from sophomore defenseman Madi Murray in transition, senior forward Natalie Wedell found herself wide open just inside the blue line and teed up a slap shot from the left side. That was Yale's first shot on goal of the game, and Harvard goalie Laura Bellamy was able to make a kick save on it. But there was nothing she could do when McGauley pounced on the rebound and sent it right back on net, sliding it past Bellamy to tie the score 1-1 at the 11:59 mark.
Another Yale power play went scoreless shortly after that, but Harvard continued to struggle to generate the scoring chances it had been getting early in the game. With five minutes to play in the period the Crimson was finally able to get a shot through, but Leonoff made the save on forward Samantha Reber and a pair of Yale players tied up forward Jillian Dempsey to prevent her from getting to the rebound.
The Yale power play unit finally got a shot through to Bellamy on its third power play of the first period, but Bellamy gloved that wrister from the left circle by Kennedy. The teams went into the first intermission tied 1-1.
Neither team was able to generate many Grade-A chances in the second period. Leonoff stopped all 12 Harvard shots, while Bellamy had to make just two saves to keep Yale off the scoreboard. Only three penalties were called in the period, and two of them were matching, so the only power play belonged to Harvard. The Bulldogs killed off that penalty late in the second, and the scored remained 1-1 heading into the third.
Yale killed off another penalty early in the third, and finished the season killing off 39 of the last 40 penalties.
The game-winning goal for Harvard came in a particularly frustrating fashion, as Leonoff got a piece of the shot by forward Kaitlin Spurling but it bounced in off her glove to put the Crimson up 2-1 at the 4:30 mark.
Leonoff bounced right back to deny Reber on a breakaway five minutes later, and the game headed into its final minutes with Yale still within striking distance. Bellamy stopped a long shot by Wedell with 4:30 to play, but with less than three minutes to go a penalty on Harvard enabled Yale to set up in the Crimson zone. After Bellamy made a save on a shot by junior defenseman Tara Tomimoto, Harvard was able to clear.
Yale got the puck back into the Harvard zone, but Bellamy turned aside a shot by Martini. Shortly after that the Bulldogs pulled Leonoff for an extra attacker, but Harvard immediately took possession of the puck. Parker skated in from the neutral zone and deposited the puck in the empty net to make the score 3-1 with just 1:32 to play.
The Bulldogs were able to get all of their healthy senior skaters out onto the ice for one last shift, as Gray, Moncion and Wedell were joined by forward Jen Matichuk and forward Alyssa Zupon. Moncion and Zupon finished with a rare accomplishment, having played their entire careers (116 games) without missing a game.
Yale now turns it attention to the offseason, looking to build on a season where the Bulldogs increased their goal production by 35 percent over last year and where Leonoff established herself as one of the top goalies in the country, ranking 13th with a .925 save percentage.