The women’s hockey team crushed Union last year, scoring 12 goals in two games and not allowing even one against the 3-5-1 Dutchwomen.
This year’s Union team is even worse than the one the Elis dominated last year. With as many wins (3), ties (1) and league wins (0) after 22 games as last year’s team had after nine, the Dutchwomen are clearly this year’s ECACHL whipping boy.
With the opportunity to extend their unbeaten streak to a program-record six games, the Bulldogs (7-10-5, 4-5-4 ECACHL, 8th) will host the Dutchwomen (3-18-1, 0-14-0, 11th) for a two-game set this weekend at Ingalls Rink. The Elis will have to maintain the high level of play that has characterized their past few games if they hope to take advantage of their struggling opponent and vault themselves up the league standings.
Defender Maggie Westfal ’09 said the Elis know the Dutchwomen can pull off an upset.
“We’ve decided we’re going to take Union very seriously,” Westfal said. “They played Brown very well, and they’ve given some other teams scares, so we’re going to treat them as seriously as we would any Ivy League team, because any team could beat us on any given day.”
If the Bulldogs hope to repeat last year’s shutout performance, Westfal will likely be a major part of it. The New Canaan native has played a big role in the Elis’ faster, more scoring-oriented defense ever since she and Kristen Stupay ’09 were switched from offense earlier this month.
Defensive scoring was a crucial part of the Bulldogs’ success last year, as defenders Erin Duggan ’05 and Olympian Helen Resor ’09 both finished in the double-digits in points. Westfal and Stupay appear set to continue that tradition, with Westfal scoring the game-tying goal against No. 7 Harvard last weekend.
Forward Christina Sharun ’07 said the whole team is impressed with the way Westfal and Stupay have been playing.
“Both of them responded so well to the challenge of switching to defense,” Sharun said. “They are young, but they’ve played with confidence and produced offense back there. A lot of the girls on the team look up to them because they’ve stepped up so much.”
Westfal said the Bulldogs will have to put a lot of shots on goal to deal with Union goalie Alex Zirbel, who has stopped 50 or more shots three times this season. But all of the shots do not have to be perfect, Westfal said.
“Sometimes we find ourselves waiting for the perfect shot,” she said. “Sometimes you should just shoot because you never know when it’s going to trickle in or you’re going to get a lucky rebound.”
The Elis also hope to take advantage of the friendly confines of the Whale. Goalie Shivon Zilis ’08, backup to the current ECACHL Goalie of the Week Sarah Love ’06, said that the crowd should help even with the Yale Precision Marching Band busy playing at the men’s basketball games.
“We always love our home games,” Zilis said. “In college sports especially, being in your home building gets the momentum going. We always use that to our advantage. After that long bus ride we definitely have the jump on them, so as long as we keep our focus we should get two W’s for the weekend.”
But despite the talent differential, home-ice advantage, momentum and history working in the Elis’ favor, there is still the potential for costly mistakes. Forward Crysti Howser ’09, who is one of the Elis’ key offensive weapons and is third on the team in points (6-7-13), said playing down to the Dutchwomen could be fatal for the Elis.
“They do have some weapons and we can’t take them lightly,” Howser said. “They’ve given some teams a really hard time. We will have to play at the same level we did last weekend, and if we do that we will be okay. But if we play down to them and don’t play to the best of our abilities, this team will sneak up on us.”