Women’s hockey looks strong

Determined to improve upon last year’s dissapointing 9-14-1 finish, the Williams women’s ice hockey team came out of the season’s first weekend with a win and a tie.
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In their first match and home game of the season, the Lady Ephs came out in full force and pummeled the Bates squad 11-1. Outstanding forward Cara Shortsleeve ’00 led the way with four goals and two assists. Alexis Scott ’00, a Princeton University transfer, picked up two goals and two assists.

Sophie de la Barra ’02, Victoria Goldman ’01, Molly Venter ’02, and Kristen Lee ’01 all contributed to the rout with goals of their own. De la Barra, Venter, Lee, Emily Small ’00, Laddie Peterson ’02, Caitlin Bowler ’02, and co-captain Julie Rusczek ’99 each added assists.

The Ephs dominated the game with outstanding defense, as Bates could only muster 11 shots on goal. Eph netminders Kate Niederhoffer ’99 and Becky Sanborn ’01 combined on a 10-save effort.

The strong Eph effort continued the next day against a tough Bowdoin squad ranked higher than the Ephs in the preseason ECAC polls.

Despite playing their second game in two days, the Ephs came out strong, scoring a goal 10:58 into the first period. The goal came on a Williams breakaway, with de la Barra scoring off of assists from Venter and Shortsleeve.

The Eph defense, lead by Niederhoffer in goal, held strong throughout the game, with Niederhoffer saving 24 of the 25 shots she faced on goal. During the third period, both teams had many opportunities to take over the game but strong play by Niederhoffer and Bowdoin goalie Sue Bernard forced the game into overtime. The Ephs and Polar Bears battled for the victory during the five extra minutes but came out deadlocked at the end.

Coach Amy Carlson, who is in her first season as the Williams coach, was satisfied with the tie. “We showed that we can compete with one of the best teams in the league. We weren’t expected to compete with Bowdoin, but we did. A tie for us is like a win. A tie for them is like a loss,” said Carlson.

Carlson felt the team did especially well considering the team was only playing two offensive lines during the game, and did so without any major communication problems.

Others on the team also feel good about the team’s performance. “We showed this weekend that we can dominate over a tough team and earn ourselves a spot in the playoffs,” said de la Barra. “The victory over Bates and the tie with Bowdoin is what we needed to send a message to the league, so the weekend was a huge success,” said Shortsleeve.

This year’s team certainly has a different feel to it. As head coach, Carlson has played an important role in setting a more intense tone. Carlson, a standout player and ’96 graduate of Division I Providence College, takes over Williams’s head women’s hockey position after serving as an assistant women’s hockey coach and head softball coach at Middlebury.

The largely freshman and sophomore squad has taken well to Carlson’s system of play. “Coach Carlson is skating us hard and it’s paying off. We’ve all learned a whole new set of systems that we’re working into our game,” said de la Barra. “Sometimes, it seems tough to put all of [the systems] together for those of the thick-skulled variety like myself, but we’re learning and it’s paying off.”

The team hopes to build upon this weekend’s success in their upcoming games against Yale and Hamilton. Shortsleeve feels that the team’s “exceptional hustle and heart, along with a lot of speed and game sense,” should fuel the team to great success this season. Their road is tough, as they compete in the Northern division, the toughest of the four ECAC divisions, which includes top-ranked Middlebury, as well as Rensselaer and UVM, all three of which were ranked higher than Williams in the preseason coaches poll.

Nevertheless, the women feel that if they continue their high level of play past this weekend’s games, a playoff spot can be earned.

The Ephs take the ice this afternoon at 4:15, as they face off against division I powerhouse Yale.