Last year’s season was a long struggle for the women’s hockey team. Yale started the season on a seven-game losing streak and managed just one win over the course of the 29-game season. But in its third season under the leadership of head coach Joakim Flygh, the Bulldogs are looking to make some major improvements.

With a talented squad returning, the Elis have already started the season on a good note, beating the Toronto Jr. Aeros 2–0 in an exhibition game Saturday.

“We looked real good for the first 30-35 minutes,” Flygh said. “It’s the beginning of the season. We played well defensively and we executed.”

The Bulldogs hope that this year’s team can capitalize on the exhibition win and translate it into regular season victories. Last year’s record, 1–27–1, was the worst in Yale’s 35-year history of varsity women’s hockey, but goalkeeper Jaimie Leonoff ’15 said that last season is in the past and the Elis are looking ahead to this year.

The Bulldogs will benefit this season from Flygh’s growing experience with the team and greater consistency in the coaching staff.

“I’ve learned a lot and I keep learning every day,” said Flygh. “The returning players know the assistants and what’s expected of them, and they’ve done a good job getting back in shape.”

This year, the Elis are missing last season’s leading points scorer, Aleca Hughes ’12, along with three other seniors, but this year’s seniors come into the season with tremendous experience. Both captain Alyssa Zupon ’13 and forward Danielle Moncion ’13 have played in 87 games each over the past three seasons, while defenseman Jamie Gray ’13 has played in 85. According to Coach Flygh, Zupon, the leading career scorer among Yale’s returners, “has a very good understanding of the team dynamic, and she leans on the senior class to help lead.”

Zupon and the seniors will be leading six new freshmen joining the Bulldogs on the ice this season: defenders Ali Austin ’16 and Kate Martini ’16, goalkeeper Rachelle Graham ’16 and forwards Janelle Ferrara ’16, Jamie Haddad ’16 and Hanna Åström ’16.

Other major returnees for the Bulldogs include forward Jackie Raines ’14, last season’s top scorer (9-3-12), forward Stephanie Mock ’15, who scored 11 points for the Elis last season and starting goalkeeper Leonoff, who started eight games last year at goalie.

Another player who could make a big difference this year is defender Tara Tomimoto ’14, who spent 18 months over the last two years off the ice due to a concussion.

“It was unbelievable to play in the game,” Tomimoto said of her return to action. “I had worked so hard and sacrificed a lot to get healthy, so it was amazing to finally play again.”

Yale defeated the Aeros Saturday with a goal from forward Ashley Dunbar ’15 and Haddad’s first goal in a Yale uniform. Getting the first win was nice, but Flygh and all players interviewed agreed on this year’s top priority: making the playoffs.

“We’re looking to start [the season] off on a strong note so we can carry the momentum into the rest of our games,” Tomimoto said.

“We want to make sure we’re competitive, play better hockey as the year goes on and be playing our best hockey in February,” Flygh added.

The squad opens the regular season with a game tonight at Robert Morris University and a Saturday night game at the Rochester Institute of Technology.