The 2013-14 season has been quite the ride for the women’s hockey team. After 10 straight seasons of finishing last in the NESCAC and missing out on playoffs, it’s safe to say that the only people who had high expectations were the team members themselves. However, these Cardinals proved scrappier than their doubters had expected. They stayed afloat early in the season, pulling off a win against Williams (the eventual third seed), a tie against Amherst (the eventual second seed), and another tie against Middlebury, who went undefeated in conference play.
Still, the Cardinals entered the final month of play with a 2-5-3 record; they weren’t dead last in the conference, but they knew they would have to finish strong if they wanted to keep things that way. That’s just what they did: in February, the Cardinals went 3-1-2, taking advantage of their chance to play against the conference’s weaker teams and finishing with a record of 5-6-3.
While their record was still sub-.500, it was good enough to clinch the fifth seed in the NESCAC heading into the playoffs. No other Wesleyan women’s hockey team has ever earned a seed that high.
Along the way during this historic season, several Cardinals also racked up personal accolades. Both of Wesleyan’s alternating starting goalies, Laura Corcoran ’16 and Corinne Rivard ’16, were among the top six goalies in the NESCAC in terms of save percentage. Jess Brennan ’17 scored more points than any other Cardinal in the last nine years, totaling 21.
All that is to say, the Cardinals had plenty of reasons to feel good about their chances heading into the postseason, even though they would be playing on the road.
For the first round of the NESCAC tournament, Wesleyan traveled north to take on Bowdoin on Saturday, March 1.
The Polar Bears opened the matchup at a furious pace, scoring their first goal just 3:47 into the game. Though the team wouldn’t score again until the third period, Bowdoin kept the pressure on Wesleyan all game, playing tough defense and keeping the Wesleyan net under constant fire. By the game’s end, Bowdoin had outshot Wesleyan 33-19.
Corcoran, who started in goal, kept the Cardinals in the game for as long as she could, but with such a sharply imbalanced shot differential, it was only a matter of time before the Polar Bears would sneak another shot past her. Bowdoin did so 2:34 into the third period, grabbing itself a 2-0 lead.
The Cardinals, desperate to get back into things, still only managed three shots throughout the entire third period. One of these shots came off the stick of Ellery Sarosi ’17 and found the back of the net on a Wesleyan power play. This brought the score back within reach; the Bowdoin lead was 2-1, but at this point, the game was less than four minutes away from its end.
Bowdoin’s defense held the rest of the way. Head Coach of Women’s Ice Hockey Jodi McKenna pulled Corcoran off the ice for the final 22 seconds, adding a sixth skater into the mix for the Cardinals, but they just couldn’t find a way to score another goal. The final buzzer rang, and Bowdoin advanced to the next round with a 2-1 victory.
The loss was surely hard to swallow, as these Cardinals were hopeful about their chances of making a real playoff push. However, in terms of playoff seeding, the 2013-14 season will go down in Wesleyan history as the most successful women’s hockey season to date. With key players such as Corcoran, Rivard, Brennan, and Jordan Schildhaus ’15 all returning next year, the women’s hockey team can be hopeful that this historic season signals the beginning of a major, long-lasting turnaround for the program as a whole.