This winter, Yale women’s ice hockey is gunning to extend its ECAC Hockey playoff appearance streak to three consecutive years.
The 2017–2018 Bulldog team (10–17–4, 8–12–2 Ivy) seemed to be on the cusp of breaking out last season but struggled to string consistent wins together. But even throughout a somewhat tumultuous season, the Elis still posted big wins as they handed ECAC rival Quinnipiac two losses in a row at the beginning of January this year. But the Bulldogs were not done there and beat the Bobcats again at the end of February.
“I think we have a lot of great new talent to add to a strong core from last year’s team,” said Greta Skarzynski ’21. “We’ve been working hard in preseason, and I think we have a great shot at winning important games and being competitive.”
Coming off of their third consecutive season of 10 wins and 17 losses, the Bulldogs are led by forward and captain Emma Vlasic ’19. The Elis open Ivy League play this Friday, Oct. 26, on the road at Princeton, last year’s second-place Ivy League finisher.
The Bulldogs went 5–4–1 in Ivy competitions last season, claiming fourth in the Ivy League. In their first Ivy matchup of the year, the Elis blew out Dartmouth 5–1. Yale got into a groove at the end of January as it bested Brown twice, took down Harvard and demolished Dartmouth 6–0 — demonstrating the capabilities of the Elis last season. In total, last year’s team beat Brown and Dartmouth twice each, beat and tied Harvard, but lost to both Cornell and Princeton two times each.
Ties were a big factor in the Yale season last year. Often dramatic, the Bulldogs posted four deadlocks during the previous season. They played a tense 2–2 stalemate versus Rensselaer. In the Nutmeg Classic, the Elis went into a shootout with Quinnipiac after neither team could break the 3–3 score in regulation. Yale played archrival Harvard to a 2–2 result and also drew Big Ten opponent Penn State 2–2.
Yale also drew then No. 2 Clarkson in the first round of the ECAC playoffs, an incredibly tough matchup for the Elis. Clarkson, at that point, was sporting a 29–4–1 record overall and was having a terrific season. The Bulldogs fought hard, but, in the end, the Golden Knights bested the Elis in two games to put an end to Yale’s 2017–2018 season.
This will be the ninth season at the helm for Joakim Flygh, the head coach of women’s ice hockey. During Flygh’s tenure, the Bulldogs have made the ECAC playoffs four times, and they hope to repeat their success this season.
“We can get up in the ECAC standings a bit more than last year and get some good wins,” said Charlotte Welch ’22.
In the 2018–19 ECAC Preseason Coaches Poll, Yale ranked eighth out of 12 teams, coming ahead of both Dartmouth and Brown. Defending national champion Clarkson — who ended the Bulldogs’ playoff aspirations last season — was picked by 11 of 12 coaches to repeat as conference champions.
Last season, Yale had significant contributions from multiple first years, namely forward Skarzynski and defender Lauren Moriyama ’21. Skarzynski caught fire in her debut season, netting 14 goals and adding 12 assists. Her 26 points on the season earned the Lake Forest native an All-Ivy Second Team spot, while her 14 goals also topped the team. Moriyama was stalwart in defense, stepping into a large role right away. She featured in 29 games and managed four points from the backline, an impressive achievement.
The Bulldogs experimented with three different goalkeepers last season, so it is unclear who will be between the posts for the opening game. Goalkeeper Tera Hofmann ’20 played the most games of the three — with 17 appearances — and saw success. She sported a .918 save percentage and posted a 37-save shutout against Quinnipiac in a win. Gianna Meloni ’21 featured in 16 games and recorded a save percentage of .924. She was an All-Ivy Honorable Mention and racked up three shutouts in the month of January. Finally, Kyra O’Brien ’19 played in six games last season and stopped 28 shots in Yale’s 5–0 blowout of Dartmouth.
Captain Vlasic is looking to continue the breakout season she had last year. The Illinois native posted a career high 18 points last year. She doubled her total from her sophomore season and scored 12 goals for the Elis. In total goals, she only trailed Skarzynski and was named to the Academic All-ECAC Team. She also managed two game-winners last season, which were vitally important goal contributions. Vlasic is a proven leader on and off the ice.
The Bulldogs played McGill in an exhibition game on Oct. 13. The two sides battled hard and finished in a 4–4 tie. The game saw a goal from Vlasic early on, but the scoring did not stop there. The two teams exchanged blows until the game stood at 4–3 in favor of McGill late into the third period. Then, with five minutes to play, forward Rebecca Vanstone ’22 leapt on a loose puck in front of the McGill goal and knotted the game at 4–4. The game went to overtime and ended as a draw. The “exhibition” turned out to be quite a contentious affair.
The Yale team opens their season at Princeton on Friday at 6 p.m.
Bentley Long | firstname.lastname@example.org
Eamonn Smith | email@example.com .