In its final game of the year, the Yale women’s hockey team was unable to stop No. 7 Harvard in the third period, losing 3–1 to cap a season marked by improvement.
Despite failing to make the ECAC playoffs, the Bulldogs (5–21–3, 4–15–3 ECAC) finished the year having been much more competitive than last season, when they won only one game and lost each game by an average of 4.17 goals.
“If you take our first weekend of games and compare that to our last few weekends, you would have no clue that we’re the same team,” forward Jamie Haddad ’16 said. “It highlights the progress we’ve made so far.”
In the first period against Harvard (21–5–3, 17–3–2 ECAC), the Crimson took the lead 5:54 into the first period on a goal by Mary Parker. However, the Elis clawed their way back into the game when forward Patricia McGauley ’14 was able to convert on a rebound with 8:01 left to play in the frame.
After a scoreless second period that saw goaltender Jaimie Leonoff ’15 make 12 of her 35 saves, Harvard was able to go ahead for good when Leonoff could not get enough of Kaitlin Spurling’s shot at the 4:30 mark in the third.
A late Yale power play proved unsuccessful, and after the Bulldogs pulled Leonoff for an extra attacker, the Cantabs converted on an empty net goal to make the final 3–1. It was the fourth empty-netter yielded by the Elis this season. The Bulldogs have been outscored 15–6 by their opponents in the third period in the month of February.
Compared to last season, though, the team has made huge strides. The Elis’ average margin of defeat this year was just 1.44 goals, helped tremendously by the emergence of Leonoff as the starting goaltender. She finished the season ranked 13th in the country with a .925 save percentage.
The Elis’ outlook for the future is rosy as well. Four of the team’s top five scorers, as well as the top three goal-scorers, are freshmen.
“I’m super excited for what my class has to offer,” Haddad said. “We all came in fired up and ready to play, but I don’t think any of us expected to contribute that much. It speaks a lot to the direction the program’s going to go in the next four years.”
However, despite the abundance of youth on the roster, the Bulldogs will have to fill a leadership void caused by the departing seniors. Seven seniors will be leaving the program, including captain Alyssa Zupon ’13.
“It’s been so motivational playing with [the seniors], and they’ve done such a great job guiding us in the right direction,” Leonoff said. “I don’t think this year could have been a success without them.”
As for what’s in store next year and beyond, Haddad is upbeat.
“I’ll be sad to see the seniors go, but I’m still extremely optimistic about what the future holds for the team.”
The Bulldogs finished the year tenth in the ECAC, four points behind Colgate for the final playoff spot.