Courtesy of Steve Musco

Yale has seen tremendous production from its rookie class this season, and no first year has been more impressive than forward Rebecca Vanstone ’22. Her 12 goals and 19 points lead the team, a sterling achievement in her debut season.

Vanstone has shown little issue adjusting to the play of the college game, with her first goal coming in the team’s first official game of the season against Princeton. Although the Bulldogs were ultimately defeated by the Tigers, Vanstone rode this goal-scoring momentum into the rest of the early season. She had a dominant weekend in the middle of November, recording tallies in two straight games against Clarkson and St. Lawrence. She has also scored multiple goals in two games this season — including a two-goal, one-assist performance in December against Vermont. Vanstone’s most dominant showing came against Brown, in which she scored two goals and set up two others. Her offensive production has been pivotal for the Bulldogs all winter.

“Anytime you have a freshman who steps on and leads the team in goal scoring, it is always a positive,” Coach Joakim Flygh said. “She is someone who has a knack for putting the puck in the net. She’s done a great job adjusting to college hockey and getting up on the scoreboard. We are excited to see what she can do in the future.”

Vanstone, of Mississauga, Ontario, was a stand-out player at her high school. Hockey talent runs in the family — her father played college hockey at Brock University. Vanstone attended St. Martin Secondary School and played junior hockey for the Mississauga Jr. Chiefs, with whom she tallied 70 points in 76 appearances. Her dominance soon attracted Team Canada, and she was invited to their U-18 August Camp. In 2017, she won the National Championships with Team Ontario Red. Along with her current teammate Claire Dalton ’22, Vanstone appeared in all five of the team’s games en route to the championship.

While she excelled in high school competition, her rise to college success was not without setbacks. In seventh grade, Vanstone was diagnosed with scoliosis, which put intense amounts of pressure on her spine. As a result, she was forced to stop hockey and eventually needed to have brain surgery in order to alleviate the condition. The surgery carried only a 60 percent chance of success, but she came through the procedure healthy. Deciding that she wanted to recommit herself to hockey after recovering, Vanstone began doing morning training sessions and extra skating in order to catch up.

“I definitely think that this experience helped me find my passion,” Vanstone said. “It made me find that love of hockey again. That obstacle made me have a drive. You need to love this sport to get up at 5:30 in the morning and do extra skating.”

That drive has shown in her play this season, especially when the Elis win. The forward has scored eight times and assisted five goals in Yale’s seven victories. Overall, she averages .83 points per game, good for 23rd in the ECAC and first on Yale’s roster.

Vanstone rounds off a lethal group of first years for the Bulldogs. Her fellow forwards Dalton and Charlotte Welch ’22 have contributed a combined eight goals and 23 assists. Dalton has chipped in with five strikes and 11 helpers, while Welch has three goals and 12 assists. First years have also been influential on the defensive end. Defenders Tabea Botthof ’22 and Emma Seitz ’22 have been crucial for the Eli backline. Seitz has also managed nine assists, while Botthof has netted thrice.

“As a first year, what she is doing is pretty incredible,” captain and forward Emma Vlasic ’19 said. “To play with her in the first part of the season was really fun. She clearly has the scoring touch and is fun to be around in the rink. She sees the ice really well, and we’ve been really lucky to have that.”

Vanstone and the Bulldogs play against Colgate at 6 p.m. on Friday, followed by a Saturday afternoon matchup against Cornell at 3 p.m.

Eamonn Smith | eamonn.smith@yale.edu