January 26, 2008

Youth Day: Freshmen Rudis, Snikeris Star in 5-0 Win Over Cornell

Jan. 26, 2008

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NEW HAVEN, Conn. - The Youth Day festivities brought plenty of young hockey fans to Ingalls Rink Saturday afternoon, and two freshmen gave them something to cheer about. Forward Lili Rudis scored her first career goal in the first period, and that wound up being the game-winner because goaltender Jackee Snikeris made 28 saves for her fourth shutout of the year. In all, five different Bulldogs scored in the 5-0 win over Cornell.

The final score does not indicate how important Snikeris was early on in this one. The Bulldogs were coming off a disappointing 4-1 loss to Colgate the night before. The Big Red had just administered a 5-1 drubbing to Brown in which they tallied five goals against the Bears' Nicole Stock, who is among the national leaders in save percentage. Snikeris, who has been rotating starts with senior Shivon Zilis, settled in for a busy night between the pipes against a team averaging more than three goals a game.

The first period seemed to be spent almost entirely in the Yale zone, as the Big Red claimed an 11-6 edge in shots. Even when the puck was in the Big Red zone Cornell frequently kept one player back at the Yale blue line looking for a breakaway attempt, and three minutes in they almost got one. A long pass found forward Liz Zorn, the team's leading scorer, behind the Yale defense with only Snikeris to beat. But the freshman sealed off the lower part of the net with her left leg and gave Zorn nothing to shoot at as she drove to the doorstep.

Rudis' goal changed the complexion of the game and wound up being the only cushion Snikeris would need. It came after Cornell failed to break out of its own zone effectively. Junior forward Kristen Stupay harassed the Big Red into a pass in the neutral zone that junior forward Carry Resor grabbed and quickly sent back toward the Cornell zone. The puck hit off a Cornell player at the blue line and bounced to Rudis heading down the center of the ice. She sent a speculative shot on net from 40 feet out that goalie Katie Wilson got a piece of, but it trickled past her and into the net at the 5:06 mark.

It was the first career tally for Rudis, who started the season as a defenseman but has been pressed into regular duty at forward because of Yale's small roster size.

"That was nice to see," said Yale head coach Hilary Witt. "Lili is playing the role that we've asked her to play, one that she's not used to, and she's doing a good job. Good things happen when you put the puck on that net."

Snikeris was truly put to the test when the Big Red went on a power play six minutes in. Karlee Overguard took a nifty backhand pass from forward Rebecca Johnston low in the right circle and quickly fired the puck across to Zorn, who appeared to have snuck behind Snikeris on the left side. But Snikeris reacted quickly, getting her right leg back in time for a spectacular stop.

Right after that Snikeris somehow spotted a dangerous shot from defenseman Melanie Jue in traffic, sticking it aside. Shortly after that power play ended, the Big Red had an odd-man rush developing when Snikeris came out aggressively and poked the puck away.

With eight minutes left in the period Johnston, a member of Canada's U-22 team, stick-handled her way through the Yale defense but Snikeris kicked her shot aside. The Bulldogs maintained a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.

"Snik was huge," said Witt. "She got us through some scary moments, and gave us some time to re-gain our focus."

The Bulldogs took control of the game early in the second. Two minutes in junior forward Carry Resor got off a shot that was blocked right to sophomore defenseman Alyssa Clarke high in the slot, and she ripped off a slap shot that made it 2-0. Two minutes later, after junior forward Crysti Howser won a faceoff in the Yale zone, sophomore forward Mandi Schwartz passed the puck to freshman defenseman Samantha MacLean. Her long pass towards center ice was deflected, and junior forward Maggie Westfal gathered it in behind the Big Red defense. She went stick side to beat Kayla Strong, on in relief of Wilson, for a 3-0 lead.

The next Yale goal came from some hard work in front of the net, as Howser knocked in a rebound after Westfal threw the puck in front and Schwartz put it on Strong.

With the way Snikeris was playing the 4-0 lead seemed safe, but for good measure junior defenseman Helen Resor came up with a spectacular defensive play of her own to help out her goalie. Yale had the puck in the Cornell zone when a pass deflected off a Big Red skate to Zorn in the neutral zone with no Yale defenders back. But as Zorn skated ahead Resor hustled after her. Resor held her stick up with one hand and got just close enough to be able to reach around Zorn from behind and skillfully knock the puck away as she closed in on Snikeris.

After junior forward Sarah Tittman worked to free up the puck, a feed off the boards from Schwartz to sophomore forward Caroline Murphy low in the left slot gave the Bulldogs their fifth goal with three minutes left in the period. It capped a three-assist night for Schwartz, who has seven points in the last eight games, and gave the numerous members of the Connecticut Polar Bears on hand for Youth Day something extra to cheer about -- both Murphy and Snikeris are Polar Bear alums.

That left most of the suspense for the third period centered on Snikeris, who has been playing as if it was her New Year's resolution to break the Yale shutout record. She made 11 saves in the final frame Saturday, including six on a pair of Cornell power plays. Since the calendar turned to 2008 she has won all four of her starts, including three shutouts. She has stopped 95 of 97 shots (.979) in that stretch and posted a goals-against average of 0.49.

"She's ridiculously focused," Witt said. "She's just going out there and doing exactly what she needs to do."

Snikeris, who has not allowed a goal in her last 121:18, now has four shutouts on the year and is one shy of the school mark set by Tiffany Bingham '89 in 1987-88 and equaled by Sarah Love '06 in 2003-04. Snikeris also upped her save percentage for the year to .928, good enough for eighth in the country. Her 1.80 goals-against average is lower than any Yale goalie has finished a season at (June Mendoza '80 had a 1.98 mark for a 13-game season in 1978-79).

With the win the Bulldogs (9-8-4, 7-6-1 ECAC Hockey) leapfrogged the Big Red (9-10-1, 6-7-1 ECAC Hockey) into sixth place in the standings. The top eight teams make the playoffs.

Yale travels to Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend.

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

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