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HEINSIGHT: Give ’Em Something To Talk About

The women’s hockey team returns to the ice with a new team and revamped schedule that will give fans a lot to look forward to before Christmas this year

By John R. Hein, Crimson Staff Writer

For the Harvard women’s hockey team, it will be a November and December to remember.

One glance at the Crimson’s 2004-2005 season schedule draws immediate attention to the 11th month of the year, not only because of the sheer number of games the team plays in that month—12—but also because of the opponents that will be coming to the Bright Hockey Center.

In years past, the Crimson has had a tough time mobilizing fan support beyond the die-hards until its first big game of the season against Ivy and ECAC rival Dartmouth.

This year, however, Harvard will finally give them something to talk about before Christmas. After a few key Ivy and ECAC games for positioning within the division, Harvard hosts St. Lawrence, ranked No. 3 in the ECAC. Despite being ranked behind the Crimson, St. Lawrence has been a perennial threat for the league championship of late. Starting Nov. 26, the Crimson plays host to Western powerhouses Minnesota and Wisconsin—nationally ranked No. 1 and No. 5, respectively—in the Harvard Invitational.

Finally, Harvard hosts back-to-back games against a young and dangerous Minnesota-Duluth squad in early December. In short, how the Crimson fares through the November and early-December schedule will mean the difference between how the west was won come January or looking back at the winter of its discontent.

After all, this is a Harvard team that graduated arguably the best player in all women’s hockey in Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04—what will the buzz center on this season?

While Ruggiero is irreplaceable, Harvard just might offer something a bit different from last year’s team. Like last year, the goal of every game remains staying one goal ahead of the opponent. While much remains to be seen, there is a great deal of evidence to believe that this Harvard team has the potential to reach that margin more through offensive explosiveness than last year’s provided. A look at the probable starting lines for this weekend reveals just that.

Start with the first line. From left to right, the line reads Nicole Corriero, Julie Chu, and Sarah Vaillancourt. Corriero finished first on the team last season with 73 points—42 goals, 31 assists—while Chu racked up 56 of her own—15 goals, 41 assists.

The prospects of this one-two punch joined with the potential knock-out blow of Vaillancourt, the expected freshman phenom, inevitably leads oneself to past great Harvard trios and the reality that the line is sure to meet Minnesota’s triple threat of Krissy Wendell, Natalie Darwitz and Kelly Stephens, who combined for a total of 206 points last season.

And come February, should Harvard provide sufficient reason to draw a crowd, the first line should provide entertainment against Dartmouth’s top guns, Canadian national team players Gillian Apps and Cherie Piper.

But in order to have a track record of success this season, Harvard needs to learn from the mistakes of its past. For starters, staying healthy will be a key factor to winning. And more specifically, neither one player nor any one line will win a season’s worth of games for the Crimson.

Starting the season on the second line are sophomore Jennifer Sifers, who joins juniors Jennifer Raimondi and Carrie Schroyer, a trio that has the potential to be a legitimate scoring strike to back-up the first line of attack, but needs to establish itself early on in the season.

Also central to winning the tougher games will be utilizing depth late into the season and not relying on role players. Last year’s third line of Kat Sweet, Schroyer and Liza Solley was, as Harvard coach Katey Stone calls it, “the best third line in college hockey by far” because the line got its job done. This year, Caitlin Cahow joins the team of Sweet and Solley on the forecheck line.

Finally, fans should get excited because with the playoffs expanded to include eight teams, and with this team and the schedule of games at Bright this year, no one has to travel far to see playoff-level caliber games.

Like at the start of any other season, there is a certain degree of expected uncertainty regarding how the team will fare. But given the tremendous home schedule and the potential for a high-powered offense, fans of women’s hockey at Harvard have every greason to have great expectations for this season.

—Staff writer John R. Hein can be reached at hein@fas.harvard.edu.

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Women's Ice Hockey