It’s been a long time coming for the women’s hockey team. Ever since the 2003-04 season, it’s been another year, another last-place finish for the Cardinals. Again and again, Wesleyan’s skaters would watch from the bottom of the NESCAC standings as every other team moved on to postseason play. But now the 10-year drought is over, and the season is not even finished yet.
The Cardinals hosted the Hamilton Continentals in a two-game series this past weekend. Wesleyan swept the series to clinch its ever-elusive playoff spot.
The teams first met on Friday, Feb. 7 for a showdown that was never much of a competitoin. Wesleyan got on the board in the first two minutes when Jess Brennan ’17 slipped the puck into the corner of the goal, and from that point forward the goals just kept coming.
Laura Wasnick ’15, Jordan Schildhaus ’15, and Captains Cara Jankowski ’15 and Sydney Morgan ’14 all also found the back of the net, providing the Cardinals with their five goals for the game. Jankowski, Schildhaus, and Brennan were also each credited with an assist. These kinds of stats speak for themselves: the Wesleyan offensive attack was on point all game long.
“Everybody on the team was fired up and knew what had to be done in order to produce a victory,” Wasnick wrote in an email to The Argus. “From our first line to our fourth, everyone did their job. I think the utter desire to win really helped all of us push to play our best.”
The Cardinal defense was also extremely successful, shutting out the Hamilton offense. Goalie Laura Corcoran ’16 continued her inspired stretch of play, recording 27 saves for her third shutout of the year. Corcoran’s save percentage of .944 is the best of any goalie in the conference. Her efforts have certainly been noticed and appreciated by her teammates.
“She has been a huge part of our team this year,” Wasnick wrote of the sophomore netminder. “She has played in many important games and has played really well. Part of her success comes not only from her pure talent, but the solid play in front of her, and the fact that we have two other great goalies who all push each other every day to become better.”
When the final buzzer rang, Wesleyan found itself on the winning end of a 5-0 game. Five goals is the largest margin by which the Cardinals have ever beaten the Continentals, but Wesleyan would not enjoy such a comfortable lead in the series’ second game. When they faced off again the next day, the game was tougher and more defensive than the one before.
Schildhaus and Brennan both scored once again, but that was all the scoring Wesleyan was able to muster. The Cardinal defense, however, was able to work with just those two goals.
Corcoran carried a bid for her fourth season shutout into the game’s final minute, when Hamilton’s scorers finally found a way through. The Continentals, desperate for a score at that point, had pulled their goalie in favor of an extra skater, and Hamilton was able to use that strength in numbers to create open shots on goal. One of these shots found its way past Corcoran with 35 seconds left in regulation.
Fortunately for the Cardinals, they were able to hold out the rest of the way through. They had gone into Saturday knowing what a win would mean, and it had finally come to fruition.
“We had girls literally crying tears of joy in the locker room,” Wasnick wrote. “Due to our past 10 years of not making playoffs, whenever we would pull off an upset, or a tie, other schools saw it as a fluke. This year we wanted that to change and to make a name for ourselves. We did that as we’ve consistently played well, tying Middlebury who is ranked number two in the nation, tying Amherst, and beating teams like Williams, Conn College, and Hamilton. These wins aren’t flukes anymore, and it’s nice to finally be respected as a competitive team.”
These Cardinals have already achieved history, but they are looking to go even farther.
“It’s a great feeling that we’ve clinched a playoff spot, but we are looking to try and get that fourth seed in order to get a home playoff game,” Wasnick wrote. “We have a week of practice ahead of us where we will continue to work hard and do the little things that have helped us get to where we are now.”
The historic weekend certainly has the team feeling optimistic, at least if Wasnick’s sentiment can be taken to reflect those of her teammates.
“I think we have a definite shot of winning the NESCAC tournament,” Wasnick wrote.