If there is really safety in numbers, then the Harvard women's hockey team should be all right this season.
After a 10-18 record last year, due primarily to a dearth of skaters, the Crimson went out and acquired six freshmen and two transfers to complement its 11 returning players. Now Harvard only needs to prove that its quality is consistent with its quantity.
That quality will be crucial in replacing several key players. Lost to graduation are Christa Calagione '97 and Colleen Malek '97, leaving gaping holes in the defense. In addition, last year's leading scorer, freshman Tammy Shewchuk is taking the year off from school to train with the Canadian Women's National Hockey Team.
Shewchuk takes with her season-records for goals (38) and points (53), which she set last season. Her departure means that Harvard must look to its core of junior forwards for offensive production.
Jen Gerometta and Claudia Asano were the Crimson's second and third leading scorers last year, respectively, and they will have to increase their offensive production this year. The same is true of Elizabeth Ganzenmuller and co-captain Kyle Walsh, two heads-up players who combined for 30 points last season.
"Our returning players have a lot of experience," co-captain Jen Bowdoin said.
Gerometta and Asano are hard-nosed players whose strength and quickness are their biggest assets. Gerometta can change the complexion of a game just by stepping onto the ice.
"Jen Gerometta is a catalyst player," Walsh said.
Asano is a versatile player who will be called upon to play defense as well as showcasing her attacking abilities.
"Claudia Asano will do a great job," Bowdoin said. "She works hard on the ice and has the capability to score a lot of goals."
Asano might have to do most of that scoring with blasts from the blue line. She and fellow defenseman Christie MacKinnon and Melissa Milbert will anchor a defensive unit which needs to contain opposing offenses for Harvard to be successful.
MacKinnon and Milbert are consistent defenders who are not afraid to sacrifice their bodies for the benefit of the team. However, their key role will be leading Harvard's corps of young defenders.
Similarly, junior forward Kate Schutt, who returns to Harvard after two years of study at Berklee College of Music, brings veteran leadership and an infectious work ethic to the relatively young Crimson squad.
With so many new faces on the team, the performance of the freshmen will definitely factor into the Crimson's results. And it seems the veterans have a good feeling about their newest teammates.
"The freshmen are a solid group of players," Walsh said. "[They] have been doing a great job."
Two of Harvard's freshmen have already showcased their potential in the Crimson's 5-0 exhibition loss to the Toronto Junior Aeros last Saturday. Forwards Kiirsten Suurkask and Angie Francisco both skated well and showed signs of making significant contributions early in the season.
With only one senior on the team, Harvard is definitely young. But that one senior represents most of the Crimson's consistency over the past few seasons. A three-year starter at goaltender, Bowdoin owns most of the major records at Harvard and is on her way to more.
Last year she broke her own record for most saves in a season with 836 and set the similar mark for a single game with 53 saves against Northeastern. She is only 415 saves shy of the Harvard career mark of 2,107 held by Erin Villotte '95, and she needs just one more shutout to tie the Crimson career record of nine.
"Everything starts with goaltending," said Coach Katey Stone. "In order to win in this league, you must have solid goaltending."
However, Bowdoin's record-chasing quest will be on hold until December as she recovers from off-season hip surgery. This means that yet another newcomer, sophomore transfer Crystal Springer, will be called upon to perform early in the season.
Springer displayed good skills in her exhibition debut against Toronto, and she should keep the Crimson in close games until Bowdoin can take over once again between the pipes.
"[Springer] is a good goalie," Bowdoin said. "The hardest part for her will be making the adjustment to Division I hockey, but I think she'll do a good job."
Harvard's first opportunity to showcase its abilities comes this weekend as the team kicks off its season at the All-American Tournament in Minnesota. The Crimson will face Minnesota, Augsburg and Gustavus during the four-day tournament.
With a good core of experienced players and a solid crop of freshmen, Harvard is looking forward to a very productive season. Although many of the Crimson players have not proven themselves in game situations, Walsh believes that this team has what it takes to go a long way, and she refuses to place limitations on Harvard's potential.
"I'm really excited," she said. "We have a much larger team this year, and the enthusiasm is up. We know how to work hard and know how to hustle. We're gunning for the Ivies."