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Yale women’s ice hockey is gunning for greatness after a disappointing year that saw the departure of former head coach Joakim Flygh and the subsequent hiring of Mark Bolding to take his place.

Last season, the Bulldogs finished 8–18–3 (7–12–3 ECAC Hockey), marking the first time the Elis had failed to reach 10 wins in four seasons. The team also missed the ECAC Hockey playoffs for just the second time in the last six seasons, but the year did have its highlights — Yale pulled off the upset of the century when it defeated then No. 2-ranked Clarkson for the highest-ranked defeated opponent in program history.

“Our expectations of success are high especially with the new coaches and our first years stepping in,” forward Greta Skarzynski ’21 said.

In addition to Bolding, the Elis will now skate alongside five first years as well as new assistant coaches Danielle Blanchard and Grant Kimball. Bolding coached two national championship teams in Division III women’s ice hockey at Norwich University, while Blanchard was a part of seven national championship-winning squads during her tenure as a player and coach at Plattsburgh State. Kimball comes to New Haven after serving as the inaugural head of Aurora University’s women’s ice hockey program in the 2018-19 season.

Watch out for forwards Rebecca Vanstone ’22, Claire Dalton ’22 and Charlotte Welch ’22. Vanstone led the team last year with 21 points, marking her for a tie at 30th place conference-wide, while Dalton’s 18 and Welch’s 17 points were good for ties for 42nd and 49th place in the conference respectively. Kaitlyn Rippon ’22 will also headline the pack of forwards. The team will miss former captain Emma Vlasic ’19 — but the growth of last year’s first-year class should more than make up for the lost talent.

Sophomores also headline the back third for the Bulldogs. Emma Seitz ’22 and Tabea Botthof ’22 look to improve upon stellar first-year campaigns — Seitz in particular dominated the blue line, as the All-Ivy Second Team skater appeared in all 29 games for Yale.

“I think the biggest difference … is the intensity and shift in accountability,” Rippon said. “I think everyone’s on the same page and we’re working really hard on and off the ice. We want to win.”

The upper-level players will also contribute heavily. Goalkeeper Tera Hofmann ’20, who ranked eighth in total saves and ninth in save percentage last season in-conference, will likely be the key player of the season. The senior has shown flashes of brilliance, such as when she squelched then-reigning national champion Clarkson in last year’s 5–1 rout. Expect a pair of Ontarian seniors to play a big role as well, with defender Saroya Tinker ’20 and forward Sophie Veronneau ’20 to help stabilize the young front and back lines. Captain Laura Anderson ’21, also a lineup regular, will play a key part in shaping this year’s squad.

Forwards Becca Foggia ’21 and Skarzynski will also receive minutes; both played in all 29 games last season. Forward Tess Dettling ’21, too, will have significant game time after missing the first half of last season due to injury.

“We’re just making sure that day in and day out, we’re learning how to compete hard,” Bolding said. “We’ve got some good ability, we’re starting in a place many new coaches would love [to be in]. We’ve got some great talent, good veterans, some nice [first years]…”

Yale returns almost all key members of last year’s core squad, and now championship-winning coaches will be at the head of the program.

The influx of five first years may give this squad the edge it needs to regain a slot in the ECAC Hockey postseason tourney, if the performances of this year’s sophomores are any indication. Forwards Elle Hartje ’23, Kiersten Goode ’23 and Grace Lee ’23 will make their collegiate debuts this year alongside defender Sofie Zander ’23 and goalkeeper Courtney DeNaut ’23. Hartje has played for the USA U-18 Women’s National Team, while Lee was a member of the Unified Korean Olympic Team at the 2018 Winter Olympics. This combination of youth and coaching talent should allow the Bulldogs the push they need to get over the hump on its conquest for the ECAC Hockey title.

The Bulldogs already beat McGill University in a 4–2 scrimmage earlier this month, and will take the ice for the first pair of regular season games against Long Island University on both Friday evening at 7 p.m. and Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. at Ingalls Rink.

 

Bentley Long | bentley.long@yale.edu

Akshar Agarwal | akshar.agarwal@yale.edu