Courtesy of Dominic Pencz

While several members of the women’s ice hockey team have been spending their leaves of absence participating in internships or training at home, defender Tabea Botthof ’23 decided to dedicate her time and talents to competition in Germany. On March 14, Yale women’s ice hockey player Tabea Botthof ’23 helped her German team, ESC Planegg, to their eighth championship title. 

The 5-foot-9-inches Erding, Germany native had plenty of experience playing in Europe prior to this year, after spending two seasons with ESC Planegg in the top-tier German Women’s Ice Hockey Bundesliga, or DFEL. Botthof explained that her decision to return to the DFEL was heavily influenced by the onset of the pandemic and cancellation of Ivy League competition. 

“When they announced that we weren’t going to have a season, I decided that it would be best to just take the year off to be at home and play there,” Botthof said.

Botthof told the News that she was surprised at how smoothly and successfully the DFEL regular season unfolded despite various lockdowns and COVID-19 restrictions in Europe. She added that she was grateful for the opportunity to reunite with her “second family” once more.

In the two seasons she previously played with the ESC Planegg Penguins, Botthoff tallied a total of 14 points in 27 regular season contests, notching six goals and eight assists. During the 2020-21campaign, the Yale defender nabbed 10 points in 24 games, which included eight helpers and two goals. 

When asked about her best contributions to the team, Botthof credited her aggressive, physical style of play for her success on the ice. 

Fellow Penguin Jacyn Reeves — one of the two American forwards on Planegg this past season — also praised Botthof’s helpful encouragement, ability to create offensive situations and tenacity.

“She always made practices better with her bubbling personality and hard work,” Reeves said. “She would push others to be better which, in turn, helped our team be better overall. Tabea always made me laugh on and off the ice and I would gladly play with her again.”

In addition to their regular season success, Botthof and Reeves were able to participate in the Final Four Championship with Planegg. The hockey club had previously secured a spot in the finals last year before the match was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, Planegg not only made the playoffs but ultimately took home their eighth championship title. 

In past seasons, the playoffs had consisted of the top four teams competing in a “best-of-three” series to determine the championship matchup. But this year, teams participated in “best-of-one” semifinal games before the winners of each contest advanced to the finals.

Bothoff celebrates with teammates following their win in Füssen. (Courtesy of Michael Kahms)

“It was awesome just having the top four teams of the league there,” Botthof said. “There was a lot of pressure to be able to win those two games because everything really just depended on those two games, but it was so much fun.”

Reeves shared similar sentiments, adding that the postseason seemed to go by “very quick[ly]” for her. The Ohio State alumnae also commended her team for their depth and support for one another over the course of the regular season and postseason.

Despite the change in playoff format, Marcel Breil, the ESC Planegg head coach, applauded the competitive nature of all of the games.

“They were fast, fair games that were always explosive,” Breil told German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, as translated by the News from German. “There has been a substantial increase in this regard in recent years.”

In 2019, Bothof played in the Women’s World Championship on the German national team. (Courtesy of Dominic Pencz)

Although the DFEL season concluded last week, Botthof’s time playing hockey in Germany did not. The 20-year-old is also a member of the Germany women’s national ice hockey team and has represented her home country at two IIHF World Championships. Botthof is currently taking part in the first of three national team camps in preparation for the 2021 IIHF Women’s World Championships in Canada.

She described the great sense of pride and satisfaction she feels when donning the black, red and gold.

“It’s just such an honor and I’m just so happy every time I’m able to,” Botthof told the News from Füssen, home of the German Ice Hockey Federation training center. “I love to just have a little bit of a change up to play with girls that usually play on other teams in the league. Hockey is also on an up right now in Germany so it’s getting much more attention, especially women’s hockey, which is great to see.”

While Botthof always enjoys competing at home, she also expressed that she misses spending time with her fellow Bulldogs. She said that returning to New Haven will be “like moving from one good thing to another” and is excited to get back to Ivy League competition. 

The finals of the Final Four tournament were played in Füssen, a neutral location for all teams.

Trisha Nguyen | trisha.nguyen@yale.edu

Correction, Mar. 25: An earlier version of this story attributed the first and second photos to Botthof. In fact, Dominic Pencz took the first and Michael Kahms took the second. The story has been updated.