Women's hockey sees mixed results across first 15 games

by Sam Stockton | 1/5/16 6:01pm

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By Annie Duncan

The women’s hockey team (4-9-2, 4-3-2 ECAC) is in the midst of a trying seven-game losing streak that began on Nov. 27 against then No. 1 University of Wisconsin.

The team kicked off the season with a win over then No. 5 Harvard University, but now sits at 4-9-2. With several players battling a number of injuries, the team has only held a lead in just two of the seven games.

The Big Green has been challenged by a schedule which had the team traveling for six of the most recent seven match ups — three played against teams with a top national ranking and one against an opponent in the receiving votes category. Over the course of the losing streak, the team has never allowed fewer than three goals and never scored more than two in a single game.

Off to a 4-2-2 start (including an impressive 4-1-2 conference record), the team travelled to Madison, Wis. to take on the undefeated Badgers on consecutive nights. Despite the team’s record, captain Laura Stacey ’16 said that the start was not perfect.

“It would have been great to get a few other points here and there, especially against Yale [University],” Stacey said in an interview following a 2-0 shutout victory over Union College on Nov. 14, the final win prior to the start of the current skid. “Even beating St. Lawrence [University] would have been awesome, but I think we’re in a really good spot and we’re playing some really good hockey.”

The trip to Wisconsin got off to an impressive start in a hostile environment at the Kohl Center in Madison. Badger forward Annie Pankowski scored the first goal of the night early in the first, but Lindsey Allen ’16 netted the bounceback goal less than two minutes later, her seventh goal of the season. The first period concluded with the score knotted at one.

However, the Big Green surrendered three unanswered goals in the final two periods and fell 4-1. The following night, the Badgers registered four more goals against Dartmouth and improved to a perfect 16-0-0 with the Big Green falling to 4-4-2.

The team then travelled to Hamden, Conn. to take on No. 4 Quinnipiac University where they suffered a 7-1 defeat, the clear nadir of the current losing streak, in a game in which they trailed 5-0 at the halfway point.

The following afternoon, the team travelled to Princeton University to face off with the Tigers. Stacey scored an unassisted power-play goal at 9:57 in the first period and the team held a lead for the first time since the victory over Union. The team lead for just over 20 minutes before three late second-period goals gave Princeton a 3-1 lead as the teams headed to their respective locker rooms for the second intermission. The Tigers added a shorthanded, empty-net goal late in the third to cement a 4-1 victory.

Next, the Big Green faced the University of New Hampshire. Allen scored early in the second period to tie the game at one with assists from Kennedy Ottenbreit ’17 and Eleni Tebano ’17 on the player advantage. However, just two minutes later the Wildcats reclaimed the lead on the strength of a goal by Cassandra Vilgrain. Devan Taylor extended UNH’s lead early in the third and a late rally, punctuated by an unassisted Ailish Forfar ’16 goal with just under five minutes to play, fell short. The Big Green fell for the fifth straight time, this time 3-2.

The Big Green’s next chance to climb out of the rut was its sole home game, a Dec. 12 matchup with the University of Vermont. The Catamounts found the back of the net twice in the opening frame, but Ottenbreit stopped the bleeding with a power-play goal assisted by Tebano and Stacey at the 16:32 mark of the period. Before the Big Green could capitalize on the momentum generated by the goal, Catamounts’ winger Victoria Andreakos scored just 40 seconds into the second. Once again a late Big Green rally, this time featuring a Stacey goal, fell short. The losing streak reached six games, though the team had lost the two most recent bouts by a single goal.

In the team’s first game of the new year, the Big Green travelled to No. 8 Northeastern University. Ottenbreit opened the scoring and the team held a 1-0 lead after the first period. However, three late second period goals by Northeastern put the Big Green in a 3-1 hole. The game ended in a 5-2 Northeastern triumph.

Coach Mark Hudak pointed to two major issues during the streak — consistency and injuries. He observed that, while the team was not playing terrible hockey, it was not performing consistently enough.

“The first Wisconsin game was pretty good,” Hudak said. “We just couldn’t seem to get the kind of consistency that we need.”

Catherine Berghuis ’16 emphasized the importance of consistently strong play.

“For 10 to 15 minutes a game, we have let things slide,” Berghuis said. “We need to play for a full 60 minutes or we’re not going to compete with the best teams. Games are sometimes lost in 10 to 15 minute spans.”

An emphasis for the team as they approach the stretch run of their season is competition in practice.

“We want to be competing hard in practice and pushing ourselves so the games feel easy,” Berghuis said.

Hudak noted the streak’s beginning coincided with the absence of Brooke Ahbe ’18, who has missed every game during the streak due to injury. Ahbe registered three goals and two assists during the team’s first eight games and has been unable to play since.

Hudak added that several other players continue playing despite nagging injuries, including Forfar who has played through a sprained wrist.

Stacey missed the Northeastern game as she competed for the Canadian National Women’s Development Team in the Nations Cup in Germany.

Still, the team did not offer these absences as justification for their defeat, as Allen said, they are “not an excuse, but they do affect how we’ve played.”

“We need to everyone healthy,” Hudak said. “We’re kind of slim in numbers right now. We’ve played good teams [during the streak]. Other than the Quinnipiac game and the second Wisconsin game, we’ve played a pretty good game.”

Fortunately for Hudak and the Big Green, the team expects to be back at full strength when they return to Thompson Arena this weekend against Colgate and Cornell Universities.