Battle of Whitney Ave.: Quinnipiac Women’s Ice Hockey Comes Out on Top

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Photo: Quinnipiac Athletics

Ben Yeargin

The Battle of Whitney Avenue always brings hype to the People’s United Center. A healthy crowd of 774 came out on Friday to support the Quinnipiac women’s ice hockey team as it took on the Yale Bulldogs.

The No. 9 Bobcats pulled out the upset over the No. 6 Bulldogs, winning 4-1.

“I know they were really excited to play in front of a crowd and to have the student section,” Quinnipiac head coach Cass Turner said. “I really hope that we can continue to draw up that support for the remaining meaningful games.”

Not only was this a big rivalry game, it had serious playoff implications for both teams too.

With the win, Quinnipiac guaranteed itself a home playoff series in the quarterfinals of the ECAC Hockey conference tournament. Yale has been battling the Harvard Crimson for the No. 1 seed in the conference, so it was a must-win game for both teams.

Action began early as Bobcats graduate forward Renee Saltness forced a turnover off of Bulldogs senior defenseman Greta Skarzynski. Saltness’s turnover skittered back to sophomore forward Sophie Urban, who passed the puck up to sophomore forward Olivia Mobley. Mobley backhanded the puck to Saltness who lifted it just over the right shoulder of Yale goaltender Gianna Meloni.

The Bulldogs responded right back as star sophomore forward Elle Hartje fired an assist right in front of the net to first year forward Anna Bargman, who floated a shot over the right shoulder of Bobcats graduate goaltender Corinne Schroeder. Bargman’s tenth goal of the season helped the Bulldogs even the score at 1-1.

Finally in the first, with a little over four minutes left in the first period, Quinnipiac sophomore defenseman Kendall Cooper buried a wrist shot from the high right side of the offensive zone, scoring her fifth goal of the season and reaching 20 points for the first time in her career.

The Bobcats left the first tied with the Bulldogs 1-1. But the second and third periods would tell a completely different story.

Sophomore forward Nina Steigauf showed off her stick work finessing around Skarzynski, then finding junior forward Jess Schryver who had the easy finish on Meloni. Cooper again shined in the game, earning her second point on the day.

“I think balancing both defense and offense is important, and I think as much as I can contribute to the team is great,” Cooper said.

After two, the Bobcats had a commanding 3-1 lead over the Bulldogs. However, the Yale offense was still ferocious. The Quinnipiac defense was tested in the third, but it passed with flying colors.

Schroeder was nearly impeccable, going 38-39 on saves, making incredible saves on a relentless Yale forecheck, and saving all 14 shots faced in the third period.

“I was just worrying about the next shot, one at a time, and it seemed to work well,” Schroeder said.

To cap off the game, Mobley took advantage of the Bulldogs’ empty net, tapping the puck away from junior defenseman Emma Seitz and scoring an easy backhanded goal to seal the game for the Bobcats.

With the win on Friday, Quinnipiac clinched home ice for the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals.

“It’s fun to play here,” Turner said. “It’s huge to finish in the top four. You end up with a better seed and a better opportunity to continue to the NCAA Final Four tournament.”

The Bobcats have their senior night on Saturday against Brown at 3 p.m. in the People’s United Center.