Following the unexpected departure of its coach, the Yale women’s hockey team will attempt to improve on last year’s disappointing tenth-place ECAC finish.

Joakim Flygh was named head coach of the team on July 28 after Hilary Witt, who served as head coach of the Yale’s women’s hockey team for eight seasons, abruptly decided to leave the program to pursue other interests in May.

Flygh served as an assistant coach at Harvard the last three seasons after a three-year stint at Minnesota-Duluth. Over those six seasons, his teams appeared in five NCAA Tournaments.

“I am excited to be a part of Yale University, where there is a wonderful tradition of academic excellence and where there is a rich history in athletics,” Flygh said in astatement. “I am impressed with and pleased by the support that is in place to have a very successful women’s hockey program.”

Witt left Yale as the women hockey program’s winningest coach, racking up 96 wins during her tenure. The Canton, Mass., native guided the Elis to six ECAC playoff slots, including a berth in the semifinals during the 2004-’05 season.

“It was probably the most difficult decision of my professional life, but it was something I felt like I had to do,” Witt said in an interview. “I can’t put into words how much I appreciate what [Athletics Director] Tom Beckett, [Senior Associate Athletics Director] Wayne Dean and the entire Yale athletic department, and especially my players over the years, have done for me.”

Witt joined the program as an assistant coach in 2001 and took over the helm as head coach for the 2002-’03 season. That year marked the first of three straight years the Bulldogs broke the school record for single-season conference wins. The 2004-’05 squad also set the record for overall wins, with 16.

Beckett said in a statement that the Department of Athletics is grateful to Witt for all her work with the women’s hockey program. Witt said her resignation announcement likely came as “a little bit” of a surprise to Yale athletics, but she added that she is leaving “on very good terms with the athletic department.”

While at Harvard and Minnesota-Duluth, Flygh worked under Katey Stone and Shannon Miller — two of the most successful coaches in Division I women’s hockey. Stone has 339 wins, while Miller has 291 in her career. Both rank in the top five among active coaches.

Flygh began his coaching career as a graduate assistant of the men’s team at New England College, his alma mater.