When goaltender Jaimie Leonoff ’15 graduated from the Yale women’s hockey team last season after posting the second-best career save percentage in Yale history, questions loomed about whether this year’s Bulldogs would be able to match, or surpass, their ECAC Hockey first-round berth from 2014–15 without the same stalwart in net.
A year later, the Elis (10–16–1, 9–10–1 ECAC Hockey) — though unable to achieve their goal of a top-four finish and first-round tournament bye in the conference — are still hanging onto a potential postseason bid at eighth place in the ECAC, which they can keep with a strong performance this weekend. A large part of that chance can be attributed to two performers on the offensive side of the ice that, until this year, had not established themselves as statistical leaders for the Bulldogs.
Captain and forward Janelle Ferrara ’16 and defenseman Mallory Souliotis ’18 have seen a transformation in their play this season, leading the team in goals and assists, respectively, after not placing top 10 on the team in those categories last year.
“[Ferrara has] really stepped up on the ice and I am not surprised at all that she has tripled her goals scored,” goaltender Hanna Mandl ’17 said. “Janelle’s been an exceptional captain this year, and always has the team’s best interest on and off the ice. She really is the heart and soul of this team and I have no doubt that she will lead us to championships.”
Ferrara has scored 11 goals this season — significantly more than her totals of three her junior year and six her sophomore and freshman seasons.
The team captain was brief when asked about the increase in performance, saying that she has been placing herself in better scoring opportunities and is more willing to shoot the puck. Head coach Joakim Flygh, however, further elaborated on Ferrara as a player.
“Janelle is a very cerebral hockey player; with her skill set she creates extra time for herself and plays with a lot of poise,” Flygh said. “She has always worked on getting better since she has been at Yale. This year she has embraced the idea of shooting the puck more and with that she has been producing more. She is someone that always shows up to compete whether it is in practice or during games.”
Some of Ferrara’s most crucial goals included two in the Elis’ 4–3 conquest over fellow Connecticut rival, No. 4 Quinnipiac, after the Bulldogs fell to the Bobcats 6–3 only one week prior. Her performance in this matchup prompted the league to name her ECAC Hockey Player of the Week on Nov. 5.
Ferrara also helped tie the score against Union on Dec. 5 — which gave her team the opportunity to defeat the Dutchwomen 2–1 with a goal from forward Phoebe Staenz ’17 in overtime.
While Ferrara has entered the stat sheet mostly through her goals this season, her 49 career assists, which rank in the top 10 of all time in Yale history, have also earned her respect on the ice.
“Janelle is a great teammate because she is willing to do whatever is best for the team,” defenseman Kate Martini ’16 said. “She is completely unselfish, and is always willing to help a teammate in any way she can.”
Meanwhile, though Souliotis’ position may imply that her main role is on defense, the sophomore has contributed more offense, in terms of points, than anyone else on Yale’s roster.
Souliotis leads the team in both assists, with 19, and points, with 23. Souliotis already holds the Yale record for assists in a season by a defenseman and is nine assists away from the record among Yale skaters in general.
“Mallory has worked very hard since the moment she joined our program and deserves all the success she has been having this season,” forward Hanna Åström ’16 said. “Her positive energy is infectious to those around her, and you can always count on her to cheer when you’re feeling down.”
During her first season donning the Yale uniform, Souliotis saw action in 26 out of 31 games for the Elis. In competition she scored one goal and assisted on eight, giving her a total of nine points ending the 2014–15 season.
She finished her freshman season by receiving the Wendy Blanning Award for the most improved player in a season, setting the stage for the breakout performance seen on the ice this year.
“I definitely feel more confident this year compared to last year, and I think that has translated onto the ice,” Souliotis said. “I am definitely stronger and faster, and I am creating a lot of offensive chances. It’s just a product of all the hard work during the summer and offseason.”
That hard work will be tested for one more weekend, and potentially more, at St. Lawrence and Clarkson on Friday and Saturday, respectively.