By Rick Menning
NEW HAVEN, CT-- When the Quinnipiac and Yale women's collegiate hockey teams meet again in the Nutmeg Classic over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend on the University of Connecticut campus, it will be tough to top this past Saturday's showdown at Ingalls Rink.
The two ECAC Hockey opponents, separated by a less than a 10-mile drive down Whitney Avenue, provided a super high level of excitement during their matinee encounter on the Bulldogs' home ice.
The Bobcats made the most of their opportunities and prevailed 3-1, but a highly motivated Yale squad made it an extremely tough go for the visitors.
In fact, Quinnipiac Head Coach Cassandra Turner had high praise for the Bulldogs after watching the hosts combine strong playmaking with consistent rushes for one top quality scoring chance after another.
"Yale ... played incredibly hard today. They dominated the play for the most part," said Turner following the two-hour thriller that saw Yale apply pressure from start to finish.
Battle lines form
Considering the supercharged mindset that the Bulldogs maintained over the entire 60 minutes, coach Turner took pride in the Bobcats' ability to respond to all the challenges and come away with the 'W.'
"I thought we showed some real character and grit, and we showed our composure to score when we had our chances. That's so important," continued coach Turner, whose team was coming off a 5-3 victory at Brown University on Friday. "We just kept battling out there."
Yale's fast-paced attack and ability to control possession time had the Bobcats looking for a way to respond as the visitors were limited to only two shots on goal over the first 10 minutes.
Bulldogs' head coach Mark Bolding, who watched his team come out extremely strong after a tough 2-0 setback to Princeton at the Whale less than 24 hours earlier, had plenty of positives to direct toward the Quinnipiac skaters.
"(The Bobcats) are a really experienced team. They defend well and are well-coached, so you really have to make your odd-man rushes and your chances count."
Praise all around
Coach Bolding was quick to credit Corinne Schroeder's goaltending as Yale outshot Quinnipiac, 32-19.
"(Schroeder) was very strong, square to the puck and not many (rebounds) ... that makes it more of a challenge," he continued.
"We had plenty of chances; there was no shortage of scoring opportunities," said coach Bolding after watching the Bulldogs swarm the crease at numerous times in the game.
However, Schroeder stayed composed amidst a barrage of high-percentage shots that Yale directed her way.
"Corrine is an outstanding goaltender,' coach Turner said. "She's calm in the net ... she's confident and we're incredibly excited to have her."
A balancing act
Once again, the Bobcats showed their ability to achieve success in scoring from whatever line happens to be on the ice. That has been a tremendous asset since the start of the season.
"I think that's going to be the case all year," Turner said. "When you're winning games, you're going to see production from our entire team. I think that's a big part of how we play and something we will continue to focus on moving forward."
Quinnipiac, which remains undefeated with eight wins and two ties through the season's first 10 games, capitalized on a power-play opportunity with only 49 seconds remaining in the first period.
Junior defenseman Kate Reilly received a perfect cross-ice feed from Olivia Mobley and wristed the puck from the right circle past Yale goalie Pia Dukaric for the 1-0 lead right before the team went into the locker room. It was Reilly's second goal this season.
Despite falling behind because of the late goal, the Bulldogs remained relentless and took the play to the Bobcats throughout the second period.
Yale goalie Pia Dukaric faced her biggest challenge with eight minutes gone in the middle frame when Quinnipiac junior Jess Schryver stole the puck inside Yale's blue line and raced all alone for a clear breakaway.
Dukaric read the play correctly and kept the puck just outside the near post with a solid glove save.
"I'm always trying to be on top of the puck and be fast (to the opponents' rush). I showed what I'm capable of but I think I'm capable of more," Dukaric said after finishing with 16 saves. "It was a good weekend ... but there's still things to improve on."
Yale's persistence paid off at the 12:46 mark of the second period when Vita Poniatovaskaia provided the equalizer off a scramble around the crease.
Like Reilly's goal, Poniatovaskaia's tally also came on the power play.
"Honestly, I feel like I was very lucky to score today," said the Chelyabinsk, Russia native. "I got the puck from my teammates ... I'm just very happy and thankful that I get to play for such great teammates."
Charlotte Welch had the primary assist, giving her five helpers in four games this season.
No power shortage
The Bulldogs did everything in their power to grab the lead after pulling the game even at 1-1.
Emma Seitz had some top tries from the left circle, while defensive linemate Greta Skarzynski had good looks from the high slot and the right circle. Meanwhile, Addie Burton was also a threat down deep as was Kaitlyn Rippon.
"We brought a lot of energy to this game. We just kept trying and trying to score," Poniatovaskaia said. "We have a lot of good players and I think we can win a lot of games."
The Bobcats responded over and over again to Yale's charges, and sophomore Nina Steigauf put Quinnipiac back in front with a rising wrister that she deposited over Dukaric's stick.
Steigauf's fourth of the season was made possible by Taylor House's great work in the trenches. House dug the puck out of traffic along the boards and found Steigauf in the low slot.
Yale and Quinnipiac continued to battle, and the score stayed at 2-1 until junior Alexa Hoskin came through with her seventh goal of the season with 2:27 left on the scoreboard clock. Sadie Peart, who started the 2-on-1 breakout from the neutral zone, logged her ninth assist in the Bobcats' 10 games.
All in all, a tremendous showdown and one that will most likely draw growing excitement for the rematch during the Nutmeg Classic Nov. 26-27 in Storrs.
Big weekend ahead
Quinnipiac and Yale continue with their ECAC schedule as the calendar moves into the pivotal month of November for both southern Connecticut squads.
The Bobcats (8-0-2) are back inside the Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena at the People's United Center for games Friday, Nov. 5 and Saturday, Nov. 6.
Union College comes to Hamden for a 6 p.m. contest on Friday, while RPI pays a visit at 3 p.m. on Saturday.
The Bulldogs (2-2) travel to New York for games against Cornell (Nov. 5) and Colgate (Nov. 6).