muscosportsphotos.com

The Yale women’s hockey team will begin its playoff campaign this weekend, traveling northward to take on Harvard in a best-of-three series.

The Bulldogs (16–13–0, 13–9–0 ECAC) finished their regular season this past weekend, tying their program record for number of wins in a year with 16 and breaking the record for conference wins with 13. Their success landed them fifth-place seeding in the ECAC playoffs, which begin this weekend.

“I thought overall we played well this weekend, with a big win against Quinnipiac,” forward Charlotte Welch ’22 said. “I think this week we can focus on our neutral and defensive zone play to ensure success this coming weekend at Harvard.”

Yale ended its regular season with a weekend of away games, taking on No. 10 Quinnipiac and No. 6 Princeton. Friday brought an impressive 4–1 win against the Bobcats — a team the Elis had fallen to twice earlier this season.

In the previous two games, the Bobcats came out on top over the Bulldogs with a final scoreline of 3–1. However, both were tight contests and the Elis made sure not to miss a step in their third encounter. Although Quinnipiac got on the board first, the Blue and White netted four straight goals to claim a 4–1 victory. Four different Bulldogs scored in this contest, demonstrating the overall dominance of the squad as the season wraps up. This duel was of utmost importance as the Bulldogs secured their fifth-place seeding for the ECAC tournament.

The following day, Yale and Princeton faced off. Though the Bulldogs grabbed an early lead, the Tigers were truly ferocious, scoring five unanswered goals in the remaining playing time to win the final game of the regular season. Yale’s lone tally came from forward Rebecca Vanstone ’22 — the goal was her second of the weekend and her 12th of the season. Vanstone and Welch lead the team in goals scored, closely followed by forward Elle Hartje ’23.

Penalties have played a large part in the Bulldogs’ losses. While Yale generally managed to stay out of the box against Quinnipiac, the team received a couple of minors against Princeton. In the previous weekend, Yale was assessed six penalties for a cumulative 23 penalty infraction minutes.

“That’s about discipline,” head coach Mark Bolding said. “This is playoff hockey: ups and downs, momentum swings… That’s the beauty of the game, so we have to figure that out. If that happens [later], your season’s over. So discipline is all it is. It’s all in your head… The mental mistakes will cost you at any level.”

As the playoffs begin, the Bulldogs can reflect on a historic regular season. Yale scored a combined 78 goals, compared to only 65 scored against. Goaltenders Gianna Meloni ’21 and Tera Hofmann ’20 made an impressive 426 and 186 saves, respectively.

This weekend, the puck will drop between the Elis and their Ivy rivals: Harvard. The Crimson (16–12–1, 15–6–1) has also had an impressive run this season, winning six of eight games in the final two weeks of its season. The two teams have played twice in the 2019–20 slate, with Harvard winning both matchups. But in each of these games, the Bulldogs outshot their opponents.

The games are scheduled for Friday and Saturday (with Sunday scheduled as a tiebreaker). If the Elis advance in this series, they will play the winner of the No. 1 Cornell vs. St. Lawrence matchup.

Last year, the Elis missed the ECAC playoffs altogether, finishing conference play with a 7–12–3 conference record. The year before that, in the 2017–18 campaign, Yale made the playoffs as the eighth seed with 18 conference points. This season, the Bulldogs have shown marked improvement with their new slate of coaches and players.

Bolding and his staff have made various changes which have certainly paid off, as reflected by the team’s relatively strong performance this season. Furthermore, the class of 2023’s performance shows great potential; forwards Hartje and Grace Lee ’23 rank top-five on the team in goals, assists and points.

This year’s overall record places the Bulldogs’ 2019-20 season in a tie with the 2004-05 squad’s overall record. In that year, the Bulldogs advanced to the second round of the ECAC tournament before falling to Harvard. At the time, Harvard was first in the ECAC for the second year in a row and made its second straight appearance in the finals of the NCAA tournament.

End-of-season honors were extended to defender Emma Seitz ’22, who was named to the All-Ivy second team, and forward Claire Dalton ’22, who received an All-Ivy honorable mention.

“The ECAC is historically a very strong league and that remains true this year,” Hartje stated. “That said, our team has proven both to ourselves and to outsiders that we can play with anyone.”

The puck drops between Yale and Harvard this Friday at 3:30 p.m.

Akshar Agarwal | akshar.agarwal@yale.edu

Alessa Kim-Panero | alessa.kim-panero@yale.edu