NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Yale added another item to its season-long list of accomplishments Saturday afternoon, beating No. 10 Princeton 4-2 in ECACHL quarterfinal action at Ingalls Rink to win the best-of-three series two games to none.
The Bulldogs (16-14-1) now advance to the ECACHL semifinals for the first time in history, and will face either Dartmouth or Harvard on Saturday March 12 at Union’s Messa Rink in Schenectady, N.Y. The winner of the ECACHL championship receives an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Princeton (16-10-5) bowed out in the quarterfinals for the second straight season.
Much like the previous night’s game, the first period Saturday was a penalty-filled affair, though this time neither team could take advantage. Princeton had a 5-on-3 just five minutes into the game but failed to score, and on another Tiger power play later in the period the Bulldogs actually wound up getting the best scoring chances. Princeton goalie Roxanne Gaudiel (27 saves) stopped a short-handed Helen Resor shot, and the Bulldogs saw another chance at the net go just wide. Appropriately enough for the defense-dominated period, Yale captain Erin Duggan had the final highlight, diving to disrupt a Princeton two-on-one in the Yale zone during the waning seconds of the period to keep the game scoreless.
The scoreless tie continued well into the second period until Yale generated a two-on-one and converted. With the puck deep in Yale’s zone, Duggan passed to Deena Caplette along the boards and she was able to chip it past a Princeton defender to Sheila Zingler, who darted up the ice with Kristin Savard to her right. Zingler took the puck wide and deep and drew the defender with her, waiting until the last moment to fire it to the wide-open Savard, who banged it in high on Gaudiel’s stick side.
“Sheila made a great fake,” Yale head coach Hilary Witt said. “She looked like she was going to shoot, then made a perfect pass and Savard roofed it. It was just a beautiful goal.”
The previous night Yale had a penalty right at the end of regulation and managed to kill off the power play at the start of overtime for the win; on Saturday a penalty near the end of the second came back to haunt the Bulldogs in the third. A roughing call just 12 seconds before intermission gave the Tigers a man advantage at the start of the third, and Dina McCumber wristed a shot past Yale goalie Sarah Love 1:14 into the period to tie the score at one.
Before the large, partisan crowd of 825 at Ingalls Rink had time to worry, though, Yale struck back. Off a pass from Resor, Jenna Spring took the puck into the Princeton zone along the boards and slid a pass to Nicole Symington in the slot, where the Yale winger knocked it in low glove side only 44 seconds after the McCumber goal.
“I was really happy for Nicole Symington to get that goal,” Witt said in reference to the senior who had to battle her way back onto the ice after an injury knocked her out of the final three regular-season games.
Penalties then turned the rest of the game into a stop-and-go affair in which neither team was able to seize much momentum. A hooking call on Yale 37 seconds after Symington’s goal gave Princeton a chance to get right back in the game. Love made a couple of impressive saves to thwart that idea, and with 37 seconds left on the Tiger power play Resor drew a tripping call on Jackson that evened things up.
The Bulldogs got a power play thanks to a leg check call on McCumber 8:39 into the period but nearly gave up a short-handed goal, as only a terrific job of back-checking by Duggan disrupted a developing odd-man rush for the Tigers. Four more penalties — two matching on each team – were called in a stretch of 45 seconds midway through, and the Bulldogs had to kill off another Princeton power play with 7:34 left in the game. The Tigers called a timeout and managed to set up Laura Watt for an open slap shot, but Love got her glove on it to maintain the lead.
“She was great today,” Witt said of Yale’s junior netminder. “In the first period she kept us in the game. I think we helped her out a little bit more later on.”
Yale appeared to put the game out of reach with just 4:47 to play when Sheila Zingler stuck a rebound of a Resor shot past Gaudiel, but Princeton’s Heather Jackson scored just seven seconds later to set up a dramatic finish.
“It seems to go like that with them every single time,” Witt said of the Yale-Princeton series. “All four games that we played were back-and-forth, so we expected that today. I think our kids answered every time we had to.”
With 1:47 to play the Tigers pulled Gaudiel for an extra skater, but Deena Caplette won a faceoff in the Yale zone and Duggan then worked the puck out of the corner back to Caplette. She took the puck off the boards and out of the zone to Zingler, who happened to be celebrating her 20th birthday. She eluded a Princeton defender and skated in all alone, sliding the puck into the empty net for the goal that finally gave Yale breathing room. Eight more penalties marred the final minute of play but did not dim the celebration, as Yale swarmed Love (30 saves) after the win.
“Overall, we just did what we had to do,” Witt said.