Young Roster Includes Only Four Seniors
NEW HAVEN, Conn. - As the finishing touches are applied to the newly renovated Ingalls Rink, the Yale women's ice hockey team is ready to take the ice with a new-look roster. With eight seniors lost to graduation, the Bulldogs have brought in eight freshmen; 13 of the 21 players on Yale's roster are now freshmen or sophomores. Those young Bulldogs will be counted on as Yale looks to make a move up in the ECAC Hockey standings. The 2009-10 season opens Friday (7 p.m.) at Providence. Yale also hosts McGill in an exhibition at Ingalls Rink Sunday (2 p.m.).
Here is a position-by-position look at the Bulldogs:
The hope is that the exemplary work ethic and passion for the game shown by senior captain Caroline Murphy sets the tone for the forwards and the team as a whole. Murphy won the Blanning Award as Yale's most improved player two years ago, when she tripled her point total from the previous season (12 to 4). She followed that up with another solid campaign (2-5-7) last season. Coming from a family of officials, she has always been one of the team's most disciplined players - just 12 penalties in 85 career games.
Berit Johnson moved up from the blue line late last season, and the coaches liked what they saw from her as a forward enough to keep her there as 2009-10 gets underway. She has 15 career assists. The other senior forward is Mandi Schwartz, whose battle with leukemia sidelined her midway through last season after she had played in 73 straight games. She remains very much in the hearts and minds of everyone associated with the team as she recovers back home in Saskatchewan.
Junior Bray Ketchum will be one of the players Yale looks to for scoring after losing 26 of 53 goals to graduation. Ketchum, a second team All-Ivy League pick, tied for the team lead in goals last year with 13 and showed a knack for scoring in the games that mattered most -- all 13 goals came in ECAC Hockey conference games. She is a gifted athlete capable of producing highlight-reel plays at any moment. Another junior, Lili Rudis, has seen time at both defense and forward. She had been making dramatic strides before being sidelined by an injury late in the season.
The three sophomore forwards all are capable of contributing more this season. Lauren Davis earned the Bulldog Award for team spirit last year. Aleca Hughes was fourth on the team in points (7-9-16) and brings both size (five-foot-10) and scoring touch to the Yale lineup. Becky Mantell came to Yale with a proven record for scoring as a Connecticut Polar Bear (85 points in 83 games) and figures to be one of the players stepping up to shoulder more of the scoring load this year.
The freshman class includes more forwards (four) than any other class, and the team needs some immediate production from this group. Fortunately all of them have impressive resumes. Jen Matichuk (St. Albert, Alta.) tied the record for most points as a rookie on the St. Albert Slash three years ago, then became part of the inaugural season for Edge School's varsity program. Danielle Moncion (Round Lake Center, Ont.) finished her career ninth on Deerfield Academy's all-time scoring list, and captained three different sports. Natalie Wedell (Arden Hills, Minn.) attended USA Hockey's Open Olympic tryouts this past summer and was also chosen for the inaugural 2008 Upper Midwest High School Elite League East Metro team. Alyssa Zupon (Basking Ridge, N.J.) had 60 points in 54 games with the New Jersey Rockets last year and was the Mid Atlantic Women's Hockey Association scoring leader in 2007-08.
There is only one senior defenseman, but she's a good one. Alyssa Clarke was an honorable mention All-Ivy League selection two years ago and has been one of the team's most reliable defenders since her freshman season. She can also show some offensive skills when given the chance to carry the puck up, and has more career assists (22) than any other current Bulldog.
There's also only one junior defenseman, but again -- she's a big contributor. Samantha MacLean earned the Coaches' Award last season by following up her solid freshman season with another good year back at the blue line. She's a reliable defender with a slap shot capable of producing goals and assists. She has a string of 60 straight games played entering the season, one matched only by Ketchum among current Bulldogs.
Sophomore defenseman Heather Grant made an instant contribution last season, and could be even better this year. She got better as the season went on, including five points in the final 16 games after going scoreless in her first 10.
Just like the forwards, there are more defenders (three) in the freshmen class than any other class, so all figure to see plenty of ice time. Emily DesMeules (North Pomfret, Vt.) won the Junior Women's Hockey League and Assabet Valley tournament championship, and was a finalist in the Winterlude Showcase and Rochester Fire on Ice Tournament, with North American Hockey Academy in 2008-09. Jamie Gray (Calgary, Alta.), like Matichuk, was part of Edge School's first varsity season. She was a Top 46 Team Alberta U-18 Provincial camp selection in 2008. Tara Tomimoto was invited to the Team Canada U-18 Strength and Conditioning Camp and U-18 Evaluation Camp in 2008. She was also named top defenseman in the Major Midget Female Hockey League in 2008-09.
There have been many great goaltenders in Yale women's hockey history, but this might very well be the deepest corps of net minders ever in New Haven. Start with junior Jackee Snikeris, who has been editing the Yale record book with regularity in her first two seasons. Her goals-against average last season (1.67) was lower than any goaltender in Yale history; her .934 save percentage was higher than any goaltender in Yale history. She also recorded five shutouts, tying the school single-season record in that category despite being limited to 15 games. Just two years into her career, she is three shutouts away from tying the school career record in that category.
It doesn't get any easier for Yale's opponents when Snikeris is not in net. Sophomore Genny Ladiges' numbers last season were overshadowed by Snikeris', but they still place her among elite company. Her .906 save percentage was second-best for a freshman in school history -- better than the first-year numbers posted by All-American Laurie Belliveau '98 and NEHWA All-Star Sarah Love '06, among others. The only freshman with a better save percentage was, of course, Snikeris the year before. Expect Ladiges to continue pushing Snikeris for playing time.
Freshman Erin Callahan attended USA Hockey's Open Olympic Tryouts and has been a part of USA Hockey's player development program. She won back-to-back state championships, and was Central District runner-up twice, with the Wisconsin Wild U-19 team in 2007-08 and 2008-09. Her addition gives Yale a formidable trio of options in net.
Report by Sam Rubin '95 (email@example.com), Yale Sports Publicity