Last season was trying both on and off the ice for the women’s ice hockey team, but a young Bulldog squad is looking forward to a new start.

Yale finished the 2008-09 season with a record of 12-16-1, 8-13-1 in the Ivy League, one which they hope to improve on, starting with this weekend’s trip to Providence for a 7 p.m. showdown on Saturday.

Led for the eighth season in a row by head coach Hilary Witt, the Elis are eager to come out strong against a team that they beat 2-1 in overtime last year.

Providence has already played four games this season and should provide a test for the Elis.

With eight freshmen and only four seniors, this year’s squad is a relatively young one. Murphy refutes the idea that their youth could be a hindrance.

“Some may be wary of having such a young squad, but the [freshman] class clearly has a lot of depth and I expect only great things,” she said.

The team will have to do without two of its graduating stars from last season, defender Helen Resor ’09 and forward Crysti Howser ’09.

“It’s always tough to replace seniors,” coach Witt said.

She does, however, have the utmost confidence in her current squad to continue their momentum and carry the team forward, she said. She called her team different from past teams and considers this a very exciting prospect. Captain Murphy believes these departures have spurred the team on to share the burden of goal-scoring more equally. Bray Ketchum ’11 will no doubt play a large role in filling this attacking void, as she will hope to continue her blistering form from last season, during which she scored 13 goals and had 10 assists.

“[Losing Howser] has created lots of new goal scorers and I have faith in the freshmen forwards,” Ketchum said.

Yale will also look to improve on its performances in the Ivy League after finishing fifth last year, just above Brown. This was a somewhat disappointing result but understandable given the many obstacles it had to overcome. The season was riddled with injuries and had many ups and downs — by far the most significant of these being forward Mandi Schwartz’s ’10 cancer diagnosis midway through the season.

After a successful preseason, coach Witt’s spirits are high as she believes she has “a nice little squad.”

The lack of action in the trainer’s room is definitely a good sign, since the team came through preseason training relatively unscathed — Lili Rudis ’11 had the only long-term injury. This year’s captain, forward Caroline Murphy ’10, believes that the team is extremely well prepared for its first game after the “most arduous” preseason training during her time at Yale.

Coach Witt is confident that with a little bit of luck, the women’s hockey team could be in for an exciting season.

“[We just need to] play as a team, play together and stay healthy,” Witt added.