Women’s ice hockey kicked off the season last week with its now-traditional opening weekend matchup against Little Three rival Williams (1-1-0). The result has also become tradition, it seems, as the Cards (1-1-0) and Ephs split the opening pair for the fourth consecutive season.
The women entered the matches hoping to buck that trend and send a message to the rest of the NESCAC by grabbing both ends of the opening set against the reigning conference champions last weekend, but they suffered an early setback by losing last Saturday’s season opener 3-1.
Wesleyan kicked off the scoring by netting a power play goal midway through the second period. With a player advantage, Madzie Carroll ’17 sent a long pass out of the neutral zone to Lottie Barton ’16, whose initial try was blocked by the Williams netminder. Jess Brennan ’17, reigning Wesleyan goal leader, plugged home the first goal of the game off Barton’s rebound, giving the Birds a 1-0 advantage.
The Cardinal lead, though, was short-lived. Less than three minutes later, Eph forward Gwen Schultz cut behind the Wesleyan net and wrapped a shot around on her forehand side, beating the blocker of Wesleyan netminder Corinne Rivard ’16.
Rivard, who will be splitting the time with Laura Corcoran ’17, finished the game with 21 saves. Wesleyan, though, held the advantage in shots, 27-24.
There was uncertainty entering the season as to where Williams, which entered the game ranked 11th nationally in Division Three by USCHO.com, would find its offensive production after graduating its top scorer Cristina Bravi. Night one answered some of those questions.
Two freshmen teamed up to net the game-winner; Candace Lu found Ellen Chiligiris in the 18th minute of the second period, for her first of two assists. Williams netted its third of the game with 15 minutes left on the clock, when a shot from near the blue line was tipped in past Rivard by a Williams forward.
Wes turned on the back burners for a late push in the final two minutes of play. The Cards pulled Rivard, put an extra forward on the ice and simultaneously went on a power play with 1:45 left, but they just couldn’t find the back of the net.
The next night, though, was a different story.
Wesleyan posted a 5-0 shutout, led by Mackenzie McPike ’15, with two goals, and Corcoran, who had a fourth career shutout. That victory was Wesleyan’s biggest win over Williams since 1994, long before NESCAC play began.
Once again, the Birds jumped to an early lead, when McPike put home a rebound off a shot by Brennan at 7:26 in the game’s opening period.
The teams traded blows through the remainder of the first period, which ended with Wes clinging to a 1-0 advantage. The women upped the lead to two at 7:01, when Captain Jordan Schildhaus ’15 cut through traffic and netted her first goal of the season.
McPike found nylon again two minutes later, when she put a low shot by the blocker of the Williams goalie.
Not to be outdone by her fellow seniors, Captain Cara Jankowski ’15 got in on the scoring action in the third period, adding third and fourth insurance goals to bury the Ephs. Her first was a wrister out of a set piece, assisted by Schildhaus, and she found another on a breakaway wrist shot in the high shelf.
Corcoran tallied her fourth career shutout in her 18th start minding the crease, with a huge assist coming from the Red and Black defense.
Wesleyan will travel to Amherst (2-0-0) this weekend to face off against the Lord Jeffs on Friday and Saturday. The Jeffs enter the game coming off a sweep of the Hamilton Continentals. If the Birds hope to win at least a share of their first Little Three crown since 1998-1999, they must win at least one against the Jeffs, a squad they haven’t beaten since 2003-2004. Last year, Wes tied Amherst, which was their first non-loss since that same season.