Elis poised for success in ’06-’07

Last season, the women’s ice hockey team finished 8-8-4 in the ECACHL, smashed two team and five individual program records and sent defender Helen Resor ’09 to the Olympics with Team USA.

But looking ahead to the 2006-’07 season, team members would take issue with anyone trying to argue that the Elis have already reached their peak.

Despite opening the season 1-3 over the past two weeks, the Bulldogs have high hopes for the season ahead, motivated at least in part by a strong mix of experienced players and talented newcomers.

“We have all but three players back from last year’s team,” head coach Hilary Witt said. “[That means] we have experience, and that is very important.”

The loss of three players sounds deceptively small, but forward Deena Caplette ’06 and goalie Sarah Love ’06, who were named to the ECAC All-Star Team, and forward Lisa Jacque ’06, who served as the team captain, were players whose skates cannot easily be filled.

This year’s team does boast a large number of veterans; there are eight seniors, a significant fraction of the twenty-four girls on the roster this year. The eight sophomores and six freshmen round out a squad that is dominated by neither upperclassmen nor rookies.

“We actually have a great balance this year,” forward Kristin Savard ’07 said. “We benefit from having a large sophomore class with a ton of experience. We do have a good number of freshmen, but they’re all very hard workers and extremely talented.”

While many of the players are young, they certainly have experience and talent to contribute to the team. Denise Soesilo ’10 played for the German national team before making her Yale debut. The team also welcomes back Team USA member Helen Resor and last year’s leading scorer, forward Crysti Howser ’09, who racked up 12 goals and 13 assists.

The blend of players of all ages is not the only advantage the Bulldogs hold this year, team members said.

“We have a lot more depth this season [than in the past],” Savard said. “Last weekend, we saw how much of a difference that can make. We rolled four different lines during the last game, and everyone was contributing. That hasn’t happened before.”

Those contributions made all the difference, as Yale managed its first season win in a 4-1 game against Cornell in Ithaca, N.Y. Though the Big Red was coming off a victory over Brown while Yale had just endured a 4-3 overtime loss at Colgate, the three points scored by Resor, as well as 26 saves by goalkeeper Shivon Zilis ’09, helped the Elis come out ahead.

“We have more potential than ever this year,” Savard said. “Our record isn’t where we would like it to be right now, but that’s because we’ve lost games due to little mistakes. We’re improving every game and we know what we need to work on.”

The four points scored in the Cornell game were the most the Elis have racked up in a regular season game this year. Before the 4-3 loss this past Friday, the previous two games resulted in losses of 2-1 and 3-1.

“We have more team speed than we’ve had in the past, [and] we need to take advantage of that more,” Witt said. “If we can do that, we’ll have many more scoring opportunities.”

With a victory under their belts, the girls are now looking ahead to the two home games this coming weekend. On Saturday at 2:00 p.m., they will face Quinnipiac. Just twenty-four hours later, they will again don their skates and helmets, this time to play against Princeton.

Though the Bulldogs have faced the Princeton Tigers in a scrimmage this season, this will be the first regular-season match between the two. The exhibition game resulted in a loss for the Elis, but Savard said that could actually serve to spur the squad on to victory.

“We felt that [the game against Princeton] was a game that could have gone either way,” Savard said. “And Princeton is a major rival for our team, so I know we’ll be ready to go come Sunday.”

With the speed, experience and talent that Witt describes, the Bulldogs’ optimism about the season to come transcends even a less-than-ideal record.

“[Though we lost the game against Boston College on October 21], everyone was fighting, fighting for the puck, battling hard,” Soesilo said. “One of the team’s philosophies is that you want to give it everything.”

And while a championship would be ideal, Witt said, it’s not absolutely necessary.

“My goal for this team is to walk away … at least with the knowledge that they did everything they possibly could to be successful,” she said. “No regrets.”

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