Women's hockey skates to three points on weekend

Following a difficult loss to Cornell University last weekend, the women’s hockey team has stepped up its game in the final two matches of a four-game home stand this past weekend. Rensselaer handily defeated the Yale University Bulldogs by a score of 4-1 followed by a 1-1 tie against the Brown University Bears on Saturday afternoon. Regaining their composure and leveling out their conference record, the Engineers are now 4-6-4 overall and 2-2-2 in ECAC play. Yale, on the other hand, is winless in conference action with a 0-5-0 record and 0-5-1 overall, while Brown maintained a 1-4-3 overall record and is 0-3-3 in the ECAC.

Junior Sydney O’Keefe led the offensive rush on Friday, netting two goals in the 4-1 win. O’Keefe currently leads the team in goals with seven. Senior Whitney Naslund and freshman Audrey Stapleton also registered goals in the victory.

The game’s first goal also marked Stapleton’s first collegiate marker just 5:37 into the contest. Grabbing the puck in the neutral zone, Stapleton navigated through a pair of Yale defensemen and knocked the breakaway goal past junior goaltender Jackee Snikeris. The celebration was short lived, however, as Yale quickly found the equalizer just under a minute later. Senior Bulldog Caroline Murphy attempted to wrap the puck around junior netminder Sonja van der Bliek, but instead had her rebound flipped over the goaltender’s shoulder by freshman Danielle Moncion.

Neither team was able to register another point in the first, which saw both teams skate to a fairly even 11-10 shots on net in Yale’s advantage.

O’Keefe broke the drought 15 minutes into the second frame with what proved to be the game-winner. Senior Allysen Weidner ripped a shot on net, but was denied by Snikeris. O’Keefe was patiently waiting at the doorstep, however, and buried the rebound for her sixth of the year. Freshman Taylor Horton also earned an assist on the play.

Two late-period goals by Naslund and O’Keefe cushioned the victory for the Engineers in the third frame. With less than two minutes remaining on the clock, Naslund walked into the offensive zone and blasted a shot from the top of the far circle past Snikeris at 18:24. In an attempt to cut the two-goal deficit, Yale pulled Snikeris in favor of the extra skater, a move which ultimately hurt the Bulldogs. With an empty net at the opposite end of the ice, Rensselaer closed out the game with crisp passes between Horton and Weidner, ending with a quick wrister from O’Keefe at 19:22 to end the game 4-1. Van der Bliek earned her fourth win of the year, stopping 23 of 24 shots faced. At the other end of the rink, Snikeris finished with 18 saves in the loss.

“Our team came out with a lot of intensities from the beginning of the game,” said senior co-captain Laura Gersten. “That is one area we have been working to improve as a team in our game. We also had everyone going and were able to flow through all of our lines.”

Although Rensselaer came out with a single point against Brown the following evening, the score does no justice to a game dominated by the Engineers. Through 65 minutes of play, RPI outshot the Bears 38-17, including six in the sudden-death overtime period. Despite a strong effort from the Engineers, the team simply could not find the back of the net even with many prime scoring opportunities.

Weidner put the Engineers up 1-0 late in the opening period off a fluke play. Just trying to clear the puck from the neutral zone, Weidner flipped the puck into Brown’s end. However, the puck took an awkward bounce as freshman goaltender Katie Jamieson went to collect the puck, with the biscuit sliding straight into the net. The goal, an unassisted mark, was Weidner’s second of the year. “I was not expecting to score such a flukey goal, I just dumped the puck in on net, and it took an awkward bounce,” explained Weidner. “Their goalie played very well the rest of the game. We had our scoring chances and just couldn’t capatalize on them.”

RPI held a clear 12-2 shot advantage in the second period, but could not solve Jamieson in face of several chances from junior Kendra Dunlop and Horton. Rensselaer carried its lead through the first minutes of the third frame as Brown netted the game-tying marker at 3:41. Junior Bear Erica Kromm won a puck battle along the boards and sent it up to freshman Kelly Griffin, who cut across the crease and lifted the puck over van der Bliek’s shoulder.

With no clear winner at the end of 60 minutes, both teams fought for the win in the sudden-death overtime. Naslund had several point-blank opportunities through the five minutes of play as well as chances from several other Engineers, but simply could not come out with the win. Van der Bliek made 17 saves in the draw. The contest marked van der Bliek’s 63rd career start—just two short of the school’s all-time record. Jamieson, who was named the ECAC Goaltender of the Week, stepped up the challenge and stopped 38 attempts on the afternoon.

The Engineers return to action this Saturday in a non-conference match against Hockey East opponent the University of New Hampshire Wildcats, who are currently ranked fourth in the national poll. “We are all very excited to get to play at UNH. It is going to be a very competitive game. They have a big ice surface, so we hope to use our speed,” said Gersten. “Playing UNH gives us another chance to compare ourselves against a proven team and see and show how far our program has grown.” Puck drop is slated for 5 pm.