After two disappointing nonconference games last weekend, the women’s hockey team is looking to start the season’s conference play on a better note this weekend with back-to-back games at Cornell and Colgate.

The Bulldogs (0–2, 0–0 Ivy) will challenge the Big Red on Friday evening and the Raiders on Saturday afternoon. The outcomes will affect the team’s standing in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.

Last year, the Bulldogs fell just short of a playoff run, losing their final game of the season to Princeton and finishing the season with a record of 8–12–2.

“We made some strides last year and over the summer, but we still have some work to do,” head coach Joakim Flygh said.

This is Flygh’s second year with the team. He became head coach in July 2010, replacing Hilary Witt. The five freshmen on the team this year are the product of his first recruiting season for the Blue and White. He said he was particularly looking to add speed and skill to the “strong core of returning players.”

Captain Aleca Hughes ’12 said that Flygh has brought great energy to the team and thatunder his directionthe team is focused on speed.

“It’s one of the main assets the coaches are looking for in their recruits,” she said, adding that speed work has been more heavily emphasized in the team’s practices and that the new freshmen are “a talented group of kids” who have great potential as players.

Forward Lauren Davis ’12 said that the freshmen have integrated nicely into the team. However, Kelsey Summers ’15 has had a rough start to her Bulldog career, missing the first part of the season due to an illness. She is not the only out-of-commission player —the team has been plagued with injury and illness in its early season.

“We had six players sit out on our practices on Wednesday and Thursday,” Flygh said. “We hope to have one back this weekend and a couple more back next week, if they progress.”

He added that three injured defensemen may be out for the whole season. A depleted roster will not be the only challenge for Yale this weekend: Friday’s game will pit the Elis against last year’s top team in the ECAC, Cornell. The Big Red had a conference record of 20–1–1 last season. Defenseman Heather Grant ’12 said she expects the Cornell to play a “very fast game.”

“Cornell will be a very quick and skilled team,” Flygh said. “We have to make sure we come ready to compete for a full 60 minutes.” He added that the Bulldogs will need to play a strong defensive game.

“Last weekend was tough,” Davis said. “But we had a focused week of practice and are ready [for the upcoming weekend].” She added that the Bulldogs will not approach the game against Cornell differently than any other game, although the team has worked on specific systems in practice this week to combat the way Cornell plays.

Defenseman Heather Grant ’12 added that the Bulldogs are not the most highly-skilled team, but are a very hard-working one and that will be their greatest strength.

This weekend’s games are the first two in a series of five away games for the Bulldogs. Next week, they will play Providence, Quinnipiac and Princeton.