Women’s hockey off to icy start

Going into this weekend’s games, the Williams women’s ice hockey team hoped to build on the momentum from their strong opening weekend. They came up with mixed results, losing to Hamilton 5-4 and defeating Union 4-1. Coupled with their Nov. 24, 8-0 loss to Yale, the team’s record now stands at 3-2-1.

Against Union, the Ephs jumped out to a 4-0 lead and cruised to an easy 4-1 victory. The Ephs were led by Cara Shortsleeve ’00, who had two goals and one assist, Molly Venter ’02, who had two assists; and Sophie de la Barra ’02, who scored one goal and assisted on another.

The team’s first goal was scored by Shortsleeve 6:33 into the first period off of an assist from de la Barra. A few minutes later, at the 10:12 mark, the Ephs struck again, this time with de la Barra finding the back of the net. Shortsleeve and Venter were credited with the assists. 13:51 into the second, Shortsleeve notched another point, scoring off of passes from Venter and Alexis Scott ’00. The fourth and final Williams goal came at 2:04 into the third, courtesy of co-captain Julie Ruscek ’99; the assist was credited to Amanda Weber ’02.

The lone Union goal came late in the third period, well after the Ephs had put the game out of Union’s reach. Williams thoroughly dominated the Union squad, out-shooting Union with 51 shots compared to the Dutch women’s 17. Co-captain Kate Niederhoffer ’99 had an excellent game, stopping 16 shots on goal.

The team was not so fortunate against Hamilton, though, suffering a tough 5-4 overtime loss after tying the game with two goals during the last five minutes of regular play. In this game, it was Hamilton who got off to the fast start, notching a considerable lead in the first period. Hamilton capitalized on the opportunity to dominate a Williams squad that did not seem quite ready to play in the first period.

Down 3-0 after the first period, the Ephs came out flying in the second period ready to take back the game that seemed almost out of reach. Venter began the Williams rally, scoring 11:17 into the second period, assisted by Kristen Lee ’01 and de la Barra. After holding Hamilton scoreless the rest of the second period, Shortsleeve scored Williams’ second goal less than 5 minutes into the third period off of a pass from Venter. Just as the game seemed to be within reach for the Eph squad, Hamilton answered with its fourth goal a few minutes later (8:47), widening their lead to two goals.

Even though they were down, the Ephs would not give up their hopes of winning the game. Just over five minutes later, they again came within one goal of the Continentals when Emily Small ’00 scored the Ephs’ third goal during a scramble in front of the Hamilton net, assisted by Caitlin Bowler ’02 and Victoria Goldman ’01. With less than two minutes on the clock, Williams pulled their goalie to throw a sixth skater on the ice, and Scott capitalized on the offensive overload to put the puck in the net and tie up the score at 4 goals apiece. Shortsleeve was credited with the assist.

Despite their impressive comeback, the Ephs were unable to pull out the overtime win as Hamilton scored the winning goal just 49 seconds into the extra period. Niederhoffer finished the game with 23 saves.

For Ruscek, the Hamilton game was an emotional one that the team feels both proud of and disappointed with. In her mind, while the team’s miraculous comeback from the 3-0 deficit reflected its heart and drive, their slow start signified their need to work “on turning their pre-game focus and preparation into instant energy on the ice, starting in the first period.”

Venter felt the same way, “We’ve had problems starting each game at the top of our play. We were frustrated after the Hamilton game because it shouldn’t have gone into overtime. We were the better team.”

Nevertheless, Venter, like Ruscek, felt that the comeback demonstrated the team’s determination, noting that the team showed more heart in its loss to Hamilton than it did in its victories over Bates and Union.

The Ephs weren’t expected to compete against Division I Yale. For the first period, however, the Ephs held strong as they allowed Yale only one goal. Niederhoffer saved 14 of the 15 shots she faced, including three saves within a span of 30 seconds. But in the second period, Yale’s fleet of skaters took over, scoring four more goals en route to an 8-0 victory over the Ephs.

The team’s next game is at home Jan. 8 against Division III powerhouse Middlebury.

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