October 21, 2008

2008-09 Outlook: Veteran Bulldogs Set Sights High

Oct. 21, 2008

NEW HAVEN, Conn. - A multi-million dollar renovation has brought a slew of changes to Ingalls Rink for 2008-09, with more in store within the next year. With all but two players returning from last year and a roster loaded with eight seniors, the Yale women's ice hockey team has high hopes that it can make the first season in the renovated facility a memorable one.

Here is a look at the 2008-09 Bulldogs:

Forward
Yale is counting on the senior class for leadership and scoring ability, and the five senior forwards bring that in spades. Sarah Tittman's election as captain by her teammates was a validation of her ability to lead by example. Tittman enjoyed a breakout campaign on the ice last year, tallying a team-high 12 goals (12-9-21) -- twice as many as she had in her two previous seasons combined. She also remained one of the team's top penalty-killers and a player committed to doing all the little things that aren't always reflected in the stats.

Classmate Crysti Howser has led the team in points for three straight seasons, including 29 (10-19-29) last year. After spending the summer training as part of USA Hockey's Under-22 team roster, the intensely competitive Howser appears primed to take her game to another level and bring the Bulldogs along with her. She is tied for fourth on Yale's all-time goals list (44) and is seventh on Yale's all-time points list (92). Maggie Westfal is another player with scoring ability -- she finished tied for fifth on the team in points last season (6-8-14) despite missing five games playing soccer for Yale.

Diminutive dynamo Danielle Kozlowski is one of those players who always finds a way to help her team win games, whether by diving to the ice to block a shot or scoring a momentum-changing goal (three of her nine career goals are game-winners). Kristen Stupay has been one of the Bulldogs' most reliable performers for the last three years, playing in 91 consecutive games before her streak was snapped near the end of last season, and she has 21 career points.

The junior forwards are also capable of contributing in many different ways. Mandi Schwartz is the consummate playmaker, adept at getting the puck away from the opposition and to her teammates in a position to score. She has 18 career assists and 27 career points. Caroline Murphy's hard work paid off last season, as she tripled her point total from the previous year (4-8-12) and earned the team's most improved player award. German Olympic team member Denise Soesilo has been hampered by injuries throughout her career, but when she is out on the ice she is a valuable contributor -- 17 points in 38 games.

There is only one pure forward in the sophomore class, but she contributed a good chunk of Yale's offense last year. Bray Ketchum finished third on the team in goals (nine) and points (20), displaying the type of stick-handling skills that cannot be taught. The Bulldogs expect more of the same from her in 2008-09.

The freshman class includes three forwards. Lauren Davis (Morrison, Colo.) comes to Yale from Colorado Select and St. Mary's Academy, where she won a pair of state championships. Aleca Hughes (Westwood, Mass.) has size (5-foot-10) and impressive bloodlines -- her father, George, and uncle, Jack, played hockey for Harvard, with Jack going on to play in the NHL. Her mother, Allison, played for BU, while her older brother, George, will play for St. Lawrence in 2009-10 and her younger brother, Gunnar, will play for Salisbury. Becky Mantell (Princeton, N.J.) joins the Bulldogs from the Connecticut Polar Bears, where she had 27 goals and 58 assists along with a +75 rating over the last two years.

Defense
The Bulldogs also feature a veteran defense, starting with senior Helen Resor. Resor, a presence on the ice at 5-foot-10 and owner of a dangerous slap shot, was on the U.S. Olympic team in 2005-06 and has one final year of eligibility. She contributed eight goals and 16 points last season. Resor's cousin, Carry Resor, has seen time at both defense and forward and can contribute at both ends of the ice. Classmate Carlee Ness made a successful return to the ice last year after missing 2006-07 due to injuries. She adds some all-important toughness to the blue line.

Junior Alyssa Clarke has been one of Yale's most reliable defenders for two years now, and earned honorable mention All-Ivy honors last year. In addition to patrolling the crease she is also capable of generating offense, with 14 assists and 21 points for her career. Berit Johnson is a valuable contributor who has 11 career assists and 14 career points. She also has the ability to play forward if needed.

The sophomore class includes Samantha MacLean, who proved to be quite a find for the Bulldogs last year. In addition to her defensive skills MacLean has a quick and powerful slap shot that enables her to contribute offensively as well. Versatile Lili Rudis saw action at both forward and defense last year.

The lone freshman defenseman, Heather Grant (Toronto, Ont.), has an impressive resume. She helped the Toronto Jr. Aeros to a PWHL championship in 2006-07 and served as assistant captain last season. She was a two-time team MVP at Lawrence Park School.

Goalie
Normally, losing the school's all-time leader in goals-against average to graduation would be a source of concern. But even with Shivon Zilis '08 consulting for IBM instead of making saves for Yale, the Bulldogs feel they are in good shape in net thanks to a unique arrangement from last year. Sophomore Jackee Snikeris split time in net virtually evenly with Zilis last season, and actually wound up setting a Yale record of her own (lowest single-season goals-against average, 2.18). Snikeris also had the fourth-best single-season save percentage in school history, .921. Combine those stats with the fact that she bookended her summer with appearances at USA Hockey's Under-22 team tryout camp and Warren Strelow Goaltending Camp, and it is easy to see why the transition is expected to go smoothly.

Freshman goalie Genny Ladiges (Almonte, Ont.), who was part of a platoon of her own last season with the NCCP's Ottawa Jr. Capitals, has the ability to contribute as well. She had a .921 save percentage and 2.03 goals-against average, earning a Provincial Silver Medal and a PWHL Championship Silver Medal. She also won a gold medal with Team Ontario Red at the 2007 Women's Under-18 National Hockey Championships.

Schedule
Yale complements the always-challenging ECAC Hockey schedule with games against some of the top teams in Hockey East this year. That includes New Hampshire and Providence, who both ended last year ranked or receiving votes in the national polls. BC, BU and Northeastern are also on the docket. The Bulldogs will also face either UConn or WCHA foe Wayne State in the second round of the Nutmeg Classic, the annual tournament featuring three Connecticut women's ice hockey teams.

The Bulldogs play a pair of regular season games against each of the other 11 ECAC Hockey teams. The top four teams in the conference then host teams 5-8 in the quarterfinals, and the semifinals and finals take place at the home of the highest remaining seed.

report by Sam Rubin '95 (sam.rubin@yale.edu), Yale Sports Publicity

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