Women’s hockey will take to the ice this year in an unfamiliar role, but one in which it hopes to get comfortable, opening the season as the defending NESCAC champions.
In her three years at the helm of the Ephs, Head Coach Meghan Gillis has taken a team that posted four wins the season before she arrived to 15 wins, a first-ever NESCAC title and a 2014 NCAA Div. III Tournament berth.
Last season, the women hosted the NESCAC semifinals and finals, posting a 2-0 win over Conn. College in the semifinal tilt before capturing the crown by defeating Bowdoin 4-1. The Ephs’ 2013-14 season then ended in the quarterfinals of the NCAA Div. III Tournament when they lost to eventual National Champion Plattsburgh State 4-1.
In addition to the NESCAC crown, the Ephs also had several other program firsts. The team had two All-Americans in the same season for the first time in forward Cristina Bravi ’14 and defenseman Hanna Beattie ’17. This duo also earned NESCAC honors as well. Both were named to the First Team and Bravi was accorded Player of the Year honors, while Beattie claimed the Rookie of the Year award.
Gillis was also the 2014 NESCAC Coach of the Year and a finalist for the American Hockey Coaches Association (ACHA) National Coach of the Year.
While the women lost key players in Bravi, who netted 20 goals and 20 assists, and Gabby Vukasin ’14, who tallied nine goals and nine assists, the Ephs have much talent returning and look to improve upon last year’s memorable campaign.
This season, Gillis returns three of her top five scorers and nine of the 11 who amassed double digits in points last winter. The Ephs have talent, depth and experience from one end of the rink to the other.
Defensively, Beattie is the top returning scorer having fired in 14 goals and assisting on 18 goals from the blue line. Assistant captain Caitlin Conlon ’15, Hadley DesMeules ’16 and Talia Simon ’16 are all battle-tested returners who will give Gillis plenty of options on defense. Conlon had 18 points last season, scoring one goal and registering 17 assists. Simon notched 10 points last winter with a goal and nine assists.
In addition to the above returning veterans, Gillis will have two first-year defensemen in Emily Elde ’18 and Candace Lu ’18 to mold into her system.
Goalie Charlie Billadeau ’15 returns after an 8-7-3 record in 18 starts in 2013-14. Billadeau compiled a .905 save percentage, allowed 2.64 goals a game and fashioned two shutouts last season. Billadeau has started 55 games for the Ephs and owns eight shutouts.
Backing up Billadeau will be Margaret Draper ’17. Draper started eight games last season, going 6-2-0 and posting three shutouts. Draper’s save percentage in her debut season was .897 and her goals against average was 2.23. Rookie Christina Cleroux ’18 is also expected to contend for time between the pipes.
Up front, Gillis will have senior leadership in Gwendolyn Schultz ’15, Perry McCarthy ’15, Sam Cutts ’15, co-captain Andree Heller ’15 and co-captain Nitsan Goldstein ’15. Last season, Heller scored nine goals and contributed eight assists for 17 points, and Schultz scored three goals and had seven assists for 10 points.
Also on offense, the Ephs return forward Michaela Levine ’16, who posted impressive numbers, netting 10 goals and assisting on another 10. In addition, Emily Krueger ’17, who was right behind Levine with 19 points on seven goals and a dozen assists, looks to contribute in a big way, as does classmate Chelsey Stevenson ’17 who contributed 11 points on four goals and seven assists a season ago.
Joining the Eph attack are Alex Lovaas ’18, Kearan Burke ’18 and Ellen Chiligiris ’18.
Gillis’s Ephs are ranked ninth in the 10-team national D3Hockey.com pre-season national poll.
The women will open the 2014-15 season on the road when they take on Wesleyan this Saturday at 7 p.m. On Sunday, the Ephs will play the Cardinals again at 3 p.m.
“The team is prepared to build off of a great season last year,” Goldstein said. “We are excited to play our first two conference games this weekend and have all of our hard work pay off.”