After narrowly missing a playoff bid last season, the women’s hockey team is loaded with young players, led by a new head coach, and ready for a fresh start.
The Elis kick off the 2010-’11 season tonight for the first of two season-opening games against non-league opponent Vermont.
At the helm for the Bulldogs is Joakim Flygh, who replaced Hilary Witt on July 28 after Yale’s head coach of eight seasons abruptly decided to depart the program to pursue other interests in May. Flygh split his past six seasons of coaching with three at Minnesota-Dulth followed by three at Harvard. During that time, his teams made five NCAA Tournament appearances.
Yale finished 10–16–3 overall last season, with an 8–13–1 mark in the ECAC. The Elis were tied with Dartmouth for eighth in the conference — the last place that would have been good enough to earn a slot in the ECAC playoffs — heading into the final weekend of regular season competition, but ultimately Yale dropped to tenth and finished three points out of playoff contention.
Considering the coaching change and influx of young athletes on Yale’s squad this year, Flygh said the team still has “a lot to learn.”
“I think we’re looking forward to playing more games and finding out more about ourselves,” he said.
The team is indeed young, with seven freshmen and eight sophomores — as compared to four juniors and five seniors — making up the 24-person roster. Flygh said four of the freshmen are playing in Yale’s top three lines, and that those players will need time to adjust to the pacing of college games.
Flygh said the team is skilled at goaltending and aims to be defensively strong this season. As for the attack, he said the Elis will need to “be creative” with special teams.
“We can generate a lot of quality chances,” he said. “We just need to take advantage of the opportunities we create for ourselves.”
Forward Bray Ketchum ’11 returns as last year’s top scorer, with 23 points on 12 goals and 11 assists. Forwards Aleca Hughes ’12 and Alyssa Zupon ’13 followed Ketchum with 17 and 16 points, respectively.
Goaltender Jackee Snikeris ’11 anchored Yale’s defense in the 2010-’11 season, totaling nearly 1,412 minutes in goal and tallying a 2.47 goals-against average. Snikeris recorded the lowest single-season goals-against average in school history in 2008-’09 at 1.67, and is on track to break the Yale career goals-against average record held by June Mendoza ’81.
Snikeris said Flygh has increased the tactical level of the team’s play, and that they are adapting to the new style.
“It’s not too much different, it’s still hockey, but there are definitely a few differences here and there,” she said. “We’ve been working on our power play and penalty kill a lot, and our forecheck this year is more aggressive than we’re used to.”
As for the weekend’s away games against Vermont, Flygh said he thinks the teams will be well matched.
The puck will drop against Vermont at at 7 p.m. tonight. Yale faces off against the Catamounts at 2 p.m. on Saturday.