Feb. 21, 2009
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - Saturday's finale vs. Princeton at Ingalls Rink almost seemed like a microcosm of Yale's season. For more than 45 minutes, Yale battled the Tigers to a scoreless stalemate. But the Bulldogs hit a stumbling block early in the third period, allowing three goals in a span of just over two minutes, and a late comeback attempt came up short. The 4-1 loss brings an end to a rollercoaster year that saw highlights such as a win over then-No. 4 BU in November and a recent string of three straight shutouts, but ultimately the Bulldogs were not able to overcome a 2-9 stretch midway through that included five one-goal losses.
The team was hit hard off the ice, with five of the 22 players on the roster having their seasons ended early by injuries or illness and five others missing significant time during the year. The most visible symbol of the season remains the No. 17 t-shirts that all team members sported for the final five games in support of junior forward Mandi Schwartz, who was diagnosed with leukemia in December and is undergoing treatment back home in Saskatchewan.
"The reason we're so proud of our players is because of the way they handled the adversity they had to deal with," said Witt. "The people outside of the program do not know what went on with illnesses and injury. For these kids to commit and work as hard as they did under those circumstances is a victory in and of itself."
Prior to Saturday's game, the Bulldogs honored their eight seniors by introducing each of them in lieu of the starting lineup. That included defenseman Carlee Ness, who was one of those players whose season was cut short by injury. Ness dressed for the first time since November, and though she could not participate in the game due to her injuries she joined her classmates in the pregame introductions.
The game itself was a tightly contested affair until the third period. The Bulldogs were outshot 11-6 in the first, mainly because they spent six minutes killing penalties. Senior forward Crysti Howser helped kill off the second Princeton power play by blocking a shot, then later freezing the puck along the boards. During the third Princeton power play sophomore forward Bray Ketchum got off a short-handed shot after she broke up a pass at the Princeton blue line.
The Bulldogs were able to generate some chances once they were done killing penalties, including a perfect set up from senior forward Sarah Tittman. She brought the puck into the Princeton zone and crossed it to freshman forward Lauren Davis, but the Princeton defense collapsed on Davis to prevent her from getting the shot off. Tiger goaltender Kristen Young gloved a wrist shot from senior defenseman Carry Resor in the left circle with 33 seconds left in the period and three Bulldogs camped out looking for the rebound.
Yale (12-16-1, 8-13-1 ECAC Hockey) evened up the shots in the second period by avoiding any penalty killing; the lone Bulldog infraction was matched immediately by a checking call against the Tigers. The Bulldogs had several Grade-A chances throughout the period, starting a minute in with a wrister from Howser in front off a feed from senior forward Maggie Westfal behind the net. Young gloved that one, and three minutes after that she pushed aside a backhanded attempt from freshman forward Aleca Hughes that was set up by junior forward Caroline Murphy.
While skating 4-on-4 due to the matching penalties, Yale continued on the offensive. Senior defenseman Helen Resor carried the puck through the neutral zone and in for a wrister that Young saved with 12 minutes left in the period. Thirty seconds later Murphy's redirection attempt got behind Young but hit the cross bar and bounced out, yet another tough bounce that did not go Yale's way this year. Right after that Young squared up to deny another shot by Resor created by Hughes, who caused the Tigers to turn the puck over in their own zone. The final Yale chance of the period came when senior forward Danielle Kozlowski redirected a pass from Tittman just wide.
The Bulldogs nearly got on the board first when Ketchum set up Hughes with a pass through the slot five minutes into the third, but Hughes was not able to get enough on the puck to send it past Young. Right after that the Tigers started their run, with forward Christine Foster scoring at 5:45 to end a scoreless streak of 266:23 for Yale sophomore goalie Jackee Snikeris. Snikeris and the Bulldogs had been seeking their fourth straight shutout after blanking Union, Brown and Quinnipiac.
Foster struck again 90 seconds later, banging home a pass from forward Annie Greenwood, and the Bulldogs called timeout to regroup. But right after that, forward Melanie Wallace fought off a Yale defender to send in an unassisted goal to make it 3-0.
Young made a blocker save on a Howser wrister with 11:30 left, and as the final minutes began ticking down the Bulldogs were looking for just one more highlight. Fittingly, it came from three seniors. Kozlowski broke up an attempt to break out of the zone by Princeton, and got the puck to Tittman. The Yale captain skated through the right circle before backhanding the puck to Helen Resor, who was trailing at the top of the circle. Resor gathered the puck in and wristed it into the upper right corner for an emotional celebration; at that point every player on the ice was a senior (Kozlowski, both Resors, forward Kristen Stupay and Tittman).
Yale pulled Snikeris for an extra attacker looking for a spark in the game's final minutes. But Princeton (18-9-2, 15-6-1 ECAC Hockey) was able to keep the puck in the Yale zone for much of that time, and Helen Resor wound up having to save some sure goals. Greenwood finally put in an empty-netter with 41 seconds left.
Snikeris made 26 saves to finish the season with a .934 save percentage (currently seventh in the country) and a 1.67 goals-against average (currently 10th in the country). Health issues limited her to 15 games this year, but she made it clear that she is part of the foundation for Yale's future when she was on the ice. The only player in school history to finish a season with a higher save percentage was June Mendoza '80, who had a .951 mark in a 13-game season in 1977-78. And no-one in school history has made as many appearances as Snikeris did and finished with a lower goals-against average; Mendoza's 1.98 GAA in a 15-game 1978-79 season was the previous best.
Also of note was the fact that Snikeris' counterpart in goal, freshman Genny Ladiges, finished with a save percentage (.906) that compares favorably to freshmen campaigns from such Yale goaltending greats as Kazmaier Award finalist Laurie Belliveau '98 (.897 as a freshman) and record-setter Sarah Love '06 (.901 as a freshman).
The senior class leaves with 49 wins, third-most in school history.
"I know it didn't always show up in terms of wins and losses, but this class has accomplished so much over the last four years," Witt said. "We are proud of them."
Notes: Yale's pink sticks from last weekend's ECAC Hockey Pink at the Rink cancer fundraiser are available for bid at www.ecachockeycoachesvscancer.com until Monday. The Bulldogs are also still selling No. 17 t-shirts in honor of junior forward Mandi Schwartz, who has been diagnosed with leukemia.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity
Video by Neil Horowitz '09, Yale Sports Publicity