All eyes are now on the No. 9/9 Harvard women’s hockey team (1-1-1, 1-1-1 ECAC) as it begins its 2015-2016 season with sights set on not only making it to the national championship game once again but also taking home the trophy this time.
The 2014-2015 campaign was the most successful season the women’s hockey program has had in five years, as the team posted a 27-6-3 (16-4-2 ECAC) record. The squad never lost consecutive games, taking home an Ivy League title, Beanpot championship, and ECAC titles in both the tournament and regular season along the way.
In marquee games, the Crimson avenged a 10-2 loss to then No. 2/2 Boston College—not once, but twice—to win the Beanpot in February and to advance to the final round of the NCAA tournament a month later before falling to top-ranked Minnesota in the finals.
Now, going into the 2015-2016 season, it’s a new year, with new faces but the same goal. As it has been for the past few years, the Crimson is one of the teams to beat.
“We had a great season last year, so that kind of puts a target on our back,” co-captain Michelle Picard said. “But honestly, Harvard has such a great tradition of being an excellent program so every year we have a target on our back. We just, every game, go out there, looking to play our best.”
After a strong showing in the preseason with a 3-2 defeat of McGill, with freshman forward Grace Zarzecki scoring the game-winning goal, the Crimson faltered in its opener with a close loss on the road against Dartmouth put pulled out a scoreless tie with No. 4/4 Clarkson at home on Oct. 31.
“Dartmouth was a tough loss for us, but we definitely learned a lot.” Picard said. “We...have to play our game and have confidence in our game.”
The Crimson seemed to gain confidence following the tie, ending the weekend on a high note with a 3-2 win over St. Lawrence when senior forward Miye D’Oench matched her career high of three points with two goals and an assist, and sophomore forward Haley Mullins scored the game-winner.
To keep up the momentum from the St. Lawrence game and to repeat the impressive results of last year, the team will need to rely on the its veteran seniors to guide it through the season full of tough competition.
“We’re pretty young right now,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “We’re a different team than we were last year. We’re going to keep our sights set on that Frozen Four, but we have a lot of work to do along the way.”
With captains like Picard, a former Olympian and two-time captain, and Maschmeyer, a 2014-2015 ECAC goaltender of the year finalist and NWHL draftee, Harvard seems to be in good hands. But with them knowing that the dynamic will be different after losing six seniors who made a huge impact, the need to develop the newcomers early will be among Maschmeyer and Picard’s tasks.
“We have a great group of freshmen, and everyone who’s returning is more than capable of filling those shoes,” Picard said. “It’s a new year and that just comes with new challenges and new roles, but everyone’s stepping up.”
Stone’s incoming rookie class hails from Ontario and five different states. Forwards Zarzecki, Erin Ozturk, Bradley Fusco, and Audrey Warner and defensemen Kaitlin Tse and Kate Hallett bring a multitude of talents and experience to the team. Many of them were multi-sport athletes in high school, and all helped lead their respective teams to conference championships.
“Our freshmen are great,” Picard said. “They’re a great group of girls. It’s been so fun to get to know them these first couple of months, and it’s really exciting to see how good they are and how good they’re going to be.”
The initial task is an obvious one—get the incoming players acclimated to the hockey program as soon as possible, and have them start contributing as soon as possible.
“That’s the fun part about coaching—you get new blood,” Stone said. “And the new blood has to learn the Harvard hockey way. They’re going to step up when they’re ready to step up.”
It seems that the freshmen are already stepping up and learning the Stone way, with Zarzecki and Tse already making their presence felt on the ice. Each has earned a point through the early matchups.
With such depth and talent on the team, the women’s icehockey team has the potential to control its destiny.
—Staff writer Katherine H. Scott can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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