It has been a season of firsts for the women’s hockey team: the first Ivy League win in two years and the first win over Cornell in over a decade. The team looks to add another first to the list this weekend.
Yale (9-18-2, 5-11-0 ECAC, 10 pts., 2-8-0 Ivy) has not won two games in a weekend yet this season. If the streak continues, the Elis’ postseason will begin and end this weekend when it travels to nationally ranked No. 9 Princeton for a best two-of-three series in the first round of the ECAC tournament. Yale is seeded No. 6, and Princeton is No. 3.
The Elis have been unpredictable all season long, at times resembling two entirely different teams. They have shown flashes of brilliance — coming back against Quinnipiac, battling nationally ranked No. 8 Providence to a 1-1 tie, upsetting Princeton — but they have been unable to string together two solid performances.
“We have our game, and we’ve shown we can play some incredible hockey,” Erika Hockinson ’04 said. “But we can be inconsistent.”
In a 24-hour span, Yale displayed some of its finest and ugliest hockey of the season Feb. 14 and 15. After losing to Princeton 6-2, the Elis dropped the Tigers 3-1 the next day in the second half of a home-and-home series.
“We played the best game of the season against Princeton the second game,” Hockinson said. “We were focused and intense. In the first game, we were flat.”
The series against Princeton followed a baffling series the weekend before. Yale defeated Colgate 4-2, avenging a 2-1 loss Nov. 9, but then fell to Cornell, a team the Elis beat 3-1 Nov. 8.
“We played crummy against Cornell,” Hockinson said. “We didn’t look anything like we did against Colgate or Princeton.”
Yet even more puzzling is Yale’s much improved performance in rematches. The storyline is all too familiar: Yale gets steamrolled in the first meeting and then scares in the second.
St. Lawrence routed Yale 8-0 Nov. 16 but then only squeezed by the Bulldogs 2-1 the next day. Boston College downed Yale 3-1 Nov. 24 but barely edged the Bulldogs 3-2 in overtime Jan. 3.
Yale’s inconsistencies stem in large part from defensive lapses and missed opportunities, which have hurt the team throughout the season. The Elis have seldom sustained their optimal level of play for 60 minutes. But when they do, they have shown they can compete with the best.
“We’ve come up big in big games,” Hockinson said. “When we play 60 minutes, we can stick with any team.”
The roller coaster nature of the season also may stem from the team’s youth. Yale’s stellar freshmen, led by Deena Caplette ’06, Natalie Babony ’06 and Sarah Love ’06, have been incredibly productive.
“The freshmen have brought so much to the team,” Hockinson said. “They are some of our hardest workers and have set a new level for the team.”
Their lack of collegiate experience has left them open to flightiness, which can be harmful for a team that relies so heavily on its underclassmen. But if the rematch rebound continues, Yale may surprise Princeton again this weekend.