The women’s hockey team had already accomplished quite a bit this season: just three quarters of the way through the season, it had skated its way to a playoff spot for the first time in a decade. Now the Cardinals have achieved history. Their play down the stretch helped them to lock up the fifth seed in the conference tournament, which is a better seed than any previous Wesleyan women’s hockey team has ever secured before.
Wesleyan concluded its regular season play with two weekend matchups against Trinity, a NESCAC rival that was tied with Wesleyan in the standings heading into the series. The teams first faced off on Friday, Feb. 21.
Captain Glenn Hartmann-Mattson ’14 opened the scoring in the game, notching her third goal of the year less than 12 minutes into the game. However, Wesleyan wouldn’t have long to enjoy their 1-0 lead. The Bantams came back with a fury, scoring twice within the following six minutes. By the end of the first period, the score was 2-1 Trinity.
From there, the breakneck pace at which the game opened began to stall. Both teams shored up their defenses, and there was no scoring for either side through the entire second period.
Ten minutes into the third period, the Cardinals found themselves still down 2-1.
That changed at the 11:32 mark of the third period, when Jordan Schildhaus ’15 netted a powerplay goal to even up the score. The goal came on an assist from Jess Brennan ’17, her second of the game and 12th of the year.
However, the Bantams weren’t finished yet. They bounced back immediately, scoring again just a minute later, giving them a 3-2 lead with just 7:30 left to play. It looked as though the Cardinals would be dropping the game, allowing Trinity to leapfrog them in the standings.
It stayed that way deep into the final minute. Wesleyan’s goalie, Corinne Rivard ’16, was pulled in favor of a sixth skater in a desperate attempt for an equalizer. The Bantams’ defense held tough against the extra attacker, fending off the Wesleyan offense until the very final seconds. With 15 ticks left in regulation, Schildhaus netted her second game-tying goal of the contest, knotting the score at 3-3 and sending the game into overtime.
The extra period was uneventful, as both sides failed to score and the game ended in a draw. Still, the tie held special significance for the Cardinals: it ended a 13-game losing streak against the Bantams.
Brennan’s two assists moved her up to 21 total points on the season, which ties the highest figure recorded by a Cardinal since the 2004-05 season.
But the weekend dramatics were not over yet. The Cardinals had one more game against the Bantams before ending their season, and this one was of particular intrigue. Given the tie in game one of the weekend along with Bowdoin’s loss to Amherst on the same day, if either team could emerge with a victory in the second Wesleyan-Trinity matchup, they would earn the fourth seed and the right to a first-round playoff game at home.
Wesleyan opened the game at a furious pace, propelled by desire for the tantalizing home playoff game. The Cardinals scored three goals before 15 minutes had elapsed. This incredible scoring run was largely fed by the play of Ellery Sarosi ’17, who scored the game’s first goal at the 1:57 mark, and then assisted Lilah Fones ’15 and Hartmann-Matson for the next two.
However, the Bantams would not go quietly. Trinity rallied back and then some, scoring four straight goals and taking a 4-3 lead by the 15:27 mark of the second period. After what seemed the strongest of possible starts, Wesleyan experienced a complete defensive breakdown.
Laura Corcoran ’16 had an uncharacteristically tough day in goal. Having once led the conference in save percentage, she allowed all four goals while recording just 16 saves. After the fourth goal, Corcoran was pulled in favor of Rivard, who shut Trinity out for the remainder of the game.
The Cardinals were determined to stay in the game, and the strong play of Rivard in relief gave them a fair shot. Finally, Fones scored her second goal of the game at the 5:08 mark of the third period, evening the score at 4-4. There would be no more scoring through regulation, or during the ensuing overtime, and the game ended in a tie once again.
This time, Bowdoin was able to take advantage of the tie, beating Amherst 1-0 to jump over both Wesleyan and Trinity, snatching the fourth seed for the Polar Bears.
Despite missing out on hosting privileges in the opening round of the playoffs, Wesleyan’s final NESCAC record of 5-6-5 was enough to earn them the fifth seed, the highest in team history. After the many achievements of the regular season, the Cardinals are hopeful for a strong postseason run. Wesleyan will start the playoffs with a first-round match at Bowdoin on Saturday, Mar. 1.