In the final frantic race for regular season points and prominent playoff positioning, most teams rally around their senior leadership. For the women’s ice hockey team’s series at Colgate and Cornell this weekend, the seniors will have some help.

“We’re depending on our freshmen more and more,” assistant coach Harry Rosenholtz said. “And yeah — it’s dangerous to depend on freshmen.”

Yale will stare down danger again this weekend when it faces Colgate and Cornell in perhaps the biggest series of the season.

“We’ll need the freshmen to step up again,” Rosenholtz said.

This year’s freshmen have had few problems adjusting to the Bulldog system. Though their youth and inexperience has shone through at times during the season, they have established themselves as key players on the squad.

Natalie Babony ’06 leads the team in points and assists and Deena Caplette ’06 is third on the team in goals.

Goaltender Sarah Love ’06 took over the starting role from Nicolette Franck ’04 early in the season and has since impressed her coaches with her outstanding speed and range.

“Sarah Love is really making a name for herself as one of the best goalies in the region and in the country,” Rosenholtz said.

The freshmen’s maturity will receive perhaps its greatest test this weekend. The Colgate-Cornell series has countless ramifications for the Elis (6-13-2, 2-6-0 ECAC), who are fighting for a favorable position in conference standings.

“This weekend is huge for us,” Wallis Finger ’04 said. “Our whole season and post-season could be decided.”

Eight of nine teams in the ECAC qualify for the conference tournament and Saturday’s win over Vermont virtually secured Yale a bid to the event. But more importantly, regular season rankings decide the tournament’s seeding.

“Where we finish in the ECAC rankings defines where we end up in the playoffs,” Rosenholtz said. “We don’t want to have to face Harvard in the first round.”

Harvard, who sits atop the national rankings, will probably earn the No. 1 seed and take on the No. 8 seed. Yale, who was picked to finish eighth in the conference in preseason polls, is currently tied with Colgate for sixth.

Yale defeated Cornell (2-14-1, 0-7-1) 3-1, on Nov. 8, ending a two-year Ivy League losing streak, but fell to Colgate (10-14-2, 2-6-0), 2-1 the following day.

“We have a good chance to come away with four points in a weekend,” Finger said. “We beat Cornell once this year and played a close game with Colgate, though we would have liked the score to go the other way.”

To sweep this weekend and secure sole possession of sixth place in the standings, Yale will have to make offense its second priority.

“Team defense is critical for us,” Rosenholtz said. “It starts with the goaltender and we have a very strong goaltender in Sarah Love.”

But the Bulldogs will be without standout defender Erika Hockinson ’04, who is sidelined with a concussion.

“We’re a bit banged up,” Rosenholtz said. “But we are ready to rise to the challenge.”

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