WOMEN’S HOCKEY: A season preview with coach and captain
The Yale women’s ice hockey team will look to build on last year’s success as expectations set a high bar.
Last season, the Yale women’s ice hockey team clinched the program’s first-ever ECAC Regular Season Championship and finished with a resounding 28–4–1 record. However, after falling to Northeastern University in the NCAA quarterfinals in March, the Bulldogs are looking for more.
“Being a good team can motivate you to try and touch the top of the mountain, and I think that’s the plan, especially after a tough loss last year in the NCAA quarterfinals on home ice,” head coach Mark Bolding said.
Since taking over bench duties in 2019, Bolding has led a complete resurgence of the program. In just a few years, the Blue and White have quickly transitioned from a mid-table team to a powerhouse in the sport.
This year, the Elis finished second in the ECAC preseason poll, a clear sign that coaches around the league have come to view Yale as a consistent force.
“When I came in as a first-year, Yale women’s hockey did not even make league playoffs the year prior,” captain Elle Hartje ’24 said. “Now, fast forward to my senior year, we have forced coaches around the league to recognize that we are a dominant force. The sky’s the limit for our team this year.”
With external expectations high coming off of last year’s success, Hartje and Bolding have both emphasized the need to quickly establish a new team identity for this year’s squad. In her new role as team captain, Hartje has placed a heavy emphasis on personal accountability and making sure that the team is focused on their end goals.
For Bolding, the graduation of former captain Claire Dalton ’23 left big shoes to fill in the leadership department. However, Hartje, a standout on and off of the ice, is more than capable of filling that void.
“Elle has been a key contributor since she has arrived and is really valuable off the ice, as well with her involvement in campus activities and in the classroom,” Bolding said. “She certainly has the realization that her actions are being watched, so I think you’ll see an even more focused player and leader in her this season as she serves as our captain.”
While Hartje has set the standard high for her teammates with her approach to the game, she has been equally invaluable as a dynamic, two-way player. Last season, she finished with a team-high 52 points, on her way to securing an All-ECAC Hockey first team selection and All-America honors. Recently, her individual success has earned her a spot on the Preseason All-ECAC team, alongside teammate and starting goalie Pia Dukaric ’25.
Replacing a talented senior class from last year will be difficult, but Hartje, Dukaric and other upperclassmen are poised to rise to the occasion.
“Graduation impacts every team at every school, and we are no different,” said Bolding. “Replacing [Charlotte] Welch ’23 and Dalton, in addition to [Emma] Seitz’s ’23 offense, will be handled but is a difficult challenge. However, players like Anna Bargman ’25, Jordan Ray ’26, Carina DiAntonio ’26, Naomi Boucher ’26, and senior Kiersten Goode ’24 will do their best as upperclassmen to fill the void offensively and help Elle out with additional leadership.”
Although the Elis have a very strong squad, replicating their regular season dominance from last year will be no mean feat.
On a recent ECAC Hockey preseason media call, Princeton head coach Cara Morey talked at length about the strength of the conference.
“I think that we always talk about the ECAC as the best league in college hockey. It’s definitely the deepest. It’s the hardest league to play in,” Morey said to the media.
Bolding will be counting on returning players to step up their games, and he will look for contributions from Yale’s highly touted class of first-year recruits. The Bulldogs have brought in four American and three Canadian women to strengthen the program.
The Bulldogs will drop the puck on their 2023-24 season Oct. 20 at Princeton.