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Yale Bulldogs skyrocket to opening-weekend success in women's hockey

By Rick Menning

NEW HAVEN, CT-- The Yale University women's ice hockey team made an incredibly emphatic statement with a pair of shutout victories during its opening weekend of regular-season play.

In fact, emphatic might be an understatement as the Bulldogs were firing on all cylinders against both Saint Anselm College and Sacred Heart University on Friday and Saturday nights.

After steamrolling past the Hawks 8-0 at Ingalls Rink on Friday, the Bulldogs were equally potent road warriors one night later with a 7-0 conquest over the Pioneers in Fairfield.

Bulldogs' junior Claire Dalton (24) rocketed ahead with three goals and three assists for a team-leading six points as Yale opened its season with a sweep of non-conference opponents. (File photo credit: Nina Lindberg/Yale University.)

From superior goaltending, to defensive disruptions, to neutral zone execution leading to complete offensive prowess, the Bulldogs were relentless in bursting out to a 2-0 record over their non-conference foes.

Juniors Claire Dalton and Rebecca Vanstone led the way with three goals apiece, while senior Tess Dettling and sophomore Elle Hartje each added a pair of goals. First-year Bulldogs Emma DeCorby, Ania Trummer and Vita Poniatovskaia were thrilled to achieve their inaugural goals to start their careers at Yale.

Dalton not only struck at equal strength, but also found the back of the net on the power play and even shorthanded. Her goal off an assist from Charlotte Welch while also killing off a penalty in the second period against Sacred Heart was commendable.

Senior Greta Skarzynski was likewise part of the weekend scoring fest for the Bulldogs, whose all-out assault was evidenced in 98 total shots on goal taken by the squad over the two games.

"I think we have a great group of forwards who are all super fast and super aggressive," said Yale's team captain. "I think we made a lot of really great plays getting it down deep in the zone and just controlling the puck down there."

Skarzynski, who is part of the Bulldogs' top defensive line with Emma Seitz, loves the production throughout the roster whether it be scoring goals or using the forecheck to set up rushes.

"It's super exciting to see how much depth we have. I think this is a very special group from our top players producing down to that freshman line getting some points up," Skarzynski said. "It's really great that everyone has that mindset to just go out there and work as hard as they can."

Dalton, who as a sophomore was named the team's Most Valuable Player after providing 36 points, is off to another hot start in her junior campaign with a team-leading six points (3 goals, 3 assists) over the first two games of 2021-22.

Totally about team

Hartje (2 goals, 2 assists) and Welch (4 assists) are tied for second in total points with four. The Yale foursome of Olivia Muhn (3 assists), Grace Lee (goal, 2 assists), DeCorby (goal, 2 assists) and Vanstone (3 goals) all have three points in the early going.

The tenacity in the offensive zone was off the charts all weekend, a fact that Yale head coach Mark Bolding noted has been the result of a month and a half of focused and energized practices and buying into the game plan.

"We've been able to put some lines together, and they've worked hard on zone entries and an offensive (mindset)," Bolding said. "They just want to compete and play, and they have confidence."

DeCorby, who was named the Rookie of the Year in 2018 while playing on the Under-16 Team Saskatchewan squad, scored the first goal of the season for Yale at the 7:23 mark of the first period in Friday's game with a riser over the shoulder of Saint Anselm starting goalie Allie Kelley.

"I'm smiling from ear to ear. It's a great start and I couldn't be happier," said DeCorby, who is part of the all-around defensive unit that not only focuses on preventing opposing rushes but also starts the surges into the other end with intense puck pursuit.

"This year we're a really deep team and so with all the lines rolling we're really fresh. Everyone is giving it their all every shift," she continued.

Getting to the point

In all, nine different Yale players came through with goals -- and an amazing 17 tallied at least one point -- to support the fortress-like efforts of senior Gianna Meloni (Friday/18 saves) and first-year player Pia Dukaric (Saturday/11 saves) between the posts.

Bolding emphasized that solid goaltending is a must nowadays with all the talent in the collegiate women's game.

"At the end of the day in women's hockey, the offensive ability is getting better year after year," he said. "So we're going to have to have goaltenders who can stop (shot totals) in the high teens and even the high 20s to win games (consistently)."

Great first impression

Yale made its regular-season debut on Friday at home and immediately showcased its powerhouse skills and resolve in front of a national television audience on the ESPN Plus network.

The Bulldogs were supercharged and on the attack during a four-goal outburst in a first period that saw four different players light the lamp.

The Yale squad struck for three of those initial four goals within a three-and-a-half minute span of the opening 20 minutes.

After Decorby's season-opening goal, fellow first-year player Anja Trummer upped the advantage to 2-0 with a low liner past Kelley's glove side just over three minutes later. The goal followed a great play by Emma Harvey (assist) at the blue line to keep the puck onside.

"It was amazing to score in the game in the home opener. I really, really loved it. I had so much fun," said Trummer, who hails from Stockerau, Austria. "We're a team of really hard-working players. Everyone gives their all every single shift."

Fast and furious play

The Bulldogs continued to apply pressure deep in Saint Anselm territory and it paid off with two quick-strike goals within a 20-second span (13:40 and 14:00). Vanstone made it 3-0 before Lee followed right behind to extend the cushion to 4-0.

Yale added two more goals in the second period, continuing a theme of close-range success at finding openings with their solid positioning around the net.

Hartje held her ground in heavy traffic in front of the net and poked home a rebound 4:15 into the middle frame, and Skarzynski joined the scoring spree with a one-timer on the power play at 15:05.

Welch and Dalton provided the assists on both second-period goals. Welch had the primary helper on Hartje's tally and Dalton provided the first assist on Skarzynski's goal.

Big weekend ahead

With East Coast Athletic Conference (ECAC) opponents Princeton and Quinnipiac ready to visit the Whale in New Haven on Oct. 29 (6 p.m.) and Oct. 30 (3 p.m.) respectively, the Yale skaters are riding a tidal wave of momentum for the upcoming match-ups.

"It (was) definitely important to start out strong and show other teams that we are going to be a team that's hard to play against," Trummer said. "We're not going to give any team an easy time and especially (at Ingalls Rink)."

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