The clock struck midnight for women’s hockey on Friday as Yale ended the Tigers’ Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) playoff run with a 3–1 loss in New Haven.
The No. 5 Bulldogs, who are the second seed in the ECAC tournament, overcame an early Tiger goal to move on to the championship game where they will face No. 4 Colgate. The loss eliminates the eighth-seeded Tigers, whose win over Harvard in the quarterfinals was the first time an eighth seed beat a first-seed in the ECAC tournament.
Despite their underdog status, Princeton started the game strong. After a few chances, the puck bounced off the boards to first-year defender Dominque Cormier, who had pinched up to keep the puck in the offensive zone. Cormier let go of a wrist shot through traffic that was deflected past Yale goalie Gianna Meloni by first-year forward Mia Coene for a 1–0 Tiger lead just 2:53 into the game. Princeton held the Bulldogs scoreless throughout the opening period, with senior goalie Rachel McQuigge stopping all eight shots she faced.
Even with a powerful game opener, the Tigers could not hold off the Bulldogs forever. After drawing a penalty, defender Emma Seitz snuck one past McQuigge for a power play goal to tie the game 1–1 6:34 into the second period. With 32 seconds to go, forward Claire Dalton made it two straight for the Bulldogs, giving them a 2–1 lead. Finding themselves trailing by one as they headed into the third, the Tigers looked to mount a comeback.
Princeton put as much pressure on Yale as they could in the third, outshooting the Bulldogs 8–2. Meloni stood tall, stopping all eight and keeping Princeton off the board. With just 56 seconds left, forward Elle Hartje potted an empty-netter to make it 3–1 and seal the win for Yale. This is the first time the Bulldogs have advanced to the ECAC championship game.
Despite the loss, Princeton still accomplished a lot this season, especially given their circumstances. Top scorer Sarah Fillier did not play this year since she was training with Team Canada, and first-year forward Sarah Paul missed most of the season due to an injury. As a result, the Tigers struggled to score for much of the year, averaging only 1.8 goals per game. However, the team’s excellent defense and goaltending allowed them to sneak into the ECAC playoffs, where they pulled off the historic first round upset over Harvard. The team will now look to next season, where they return all but four players and get Fillier and Paul back.
Ben Burns is an Associate Sports Editor at the ‘Prince’ who typically covers basketball, hockey, and soccer. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @bwburns5_.