Women’s hockey downs Wesleyan

The seniors who skated off the ice at Lansing Chapman rink for the last time on Saturday have seen a lot of changes in their sport since they first strapped on skates as first-years. There is perhaps no sport evolving as rapidly as women’s hockey. With each passing year and incoming frosh class, the women are increasingly powerful and more experienced.

In their NESCAC quarterfinal game against fifth place Wesleyan, however, the Eph seniors were able to put to rest any notion that the hockey world had passed them by. In their previous meeting with Wesleyan, the Ephs claimed the victory on a game-winning goal with just five seconds left. No such last-minute heroics were necessary this weekend, however, as the Class of 2003 led women’s hockey to a 3-0 victory over the Cardinals in a game marked by an opportunistic Eph offense and suffocating defense.

The Ephs lost their first game in over a month last weekend to Bowdoin and saw themselves drop a notch in the national rankings to seventh behind Wisconsin River-Falls, a team that the Ephs defeated earlier in the season. Perhaps noting the lack of respect from the national media, the Ephwomen picked up right where they left off by playing what Head Coach Joe Milan called their “best 60 minutes, offensively, of the season.”

The game started inauspiciously for the Ephs, as Rachel Barr ’06 took a questionable checking penalty just 27 seconds into the first period. The Wesleyan offense took advantage of the power-play and peppered the Eph goal with several shots early in the game. Goalie Monelle Quevillon ’03, held strong, however, and the Williams defense quickly regained their composure.

The Ephs were also unable to take advantage of their power-play opportunities, as Wesleyan captain Liza Eckels earned two of her three penalties in a five minute span of the first period. Williams was able to find the net on an even-strength goal, however, as Julia Karoly ’03 scored, unassisted, at 15:32 of the first with a floater past Wesleyan goalie Elizabeth Courtney. Quevillon held the Cardinals scoreless on their seven shots, and the first period finished with Williams holding the 1-0 advantage.

The Eph defense made Quevillon’s job easy in the second, holding Wesleyan to a measly two shots. The offense played well, earning 8 shots on goal and racking up another goal from Gigi Stender ’05 at ten minutes of the period. Molly Wasserman ’04, who was back on the ice after sitting several games out with an injury, assisted on the goal. Erika Latham ’06 also earned an assist, scoring a point in her third consecutive game.

With the dominating play of Quevillon, Williams’ two-goal lead looked secure as the game headed into the final 20 minutes. Lisa Haney ’03 added a second insurance goal at 2:44 of the period with assists from Carrie Miller ’06 and Liz Toomey ’03.

Wesleyan’s offense came out slightly stronger in the third, managing seven shots and a couple close calls for the Eph defense, but Williams held strong as Quevillon tallied her fifth shutout of the season. It was her third in the last five games and her second flawless performance against Wesleyan.

The game may not have been very exciting, especially for those seated in the Ephs’ defensive zone, but it was definitely the kind of performance that should boost the team’s confidence going into the semifinals next weekend.

Milan said about the game, “Today was a typical game for us. We put a few in the net and relied on Monelle to not let much past her; obviously she didn’t let anything by today.”

The Ephs will face rival Middlebury in the semifinals at Bowdoin this coming Saturday. So far this season, the Ephs have tied and lost to Middlebury in two low-scoring games. In the semifinals of last year’s tournament, the Ephs became the first team ever to defeat the Panthers on their home ice on the way to a second place tournament finish. A victory over Middlebury is by no means out of reach for the Ephs, especially if they play with the same intensity that they have won with over the last several weeks.

“We’re fired up for our game against Middlebury. Their reputation of success makes them an easy team to get excited about,” Haney said. ”If we go into that game with confidence and keep playing as a team, I think we have a great chance at winning.”

First-place Bowdoin had a bye this weekend and takes on Colby in itssemifinal game, also on Saturday. Barring a stunning upset, the undefeated Polar Bears should advance to the NESCAC finals on Sunday. A guaranteed NCAA berth awaits the winner of that game. Hopefully the Ephs will have a shot at redemption against Bowdoin, who swept the regular season series with two hard-fought victories.