The women’s hockey team (6-9-1, 2-7-1 in-conference) struggled to find a consistent groove over its nine winter break games, compiling a 3-5-1 record while scoring 14 goals and surrendering 20.
They returned to campus on Jan. 3 with an out-of-league matchup against Plymouth State University, whom they outshot 36-12 en route to a 4-1 bashing. Captain Cara Jankowski ’15 led the way for the Birds, putting home two netters. Alex Horton ’18 also had a memorable game, sinking her first career goal in the opening period and then adding her first career assist 11 seconds later on Jenny Robinson ’17’s score.
The following weekend, though, was a forgettable one for the Cards. They teed off on Jan. 9 against second-ranked Middlebury in Vermont and fell hard, 6-2. The next day, they lost 3-1 on the same ice. That weekend was symptomatic of a big issue for the Cardinals thus far in the season: outmatched special teams play. The Cards had nine power plays over those two games, and scored just once on Jankowski’s eighth goal of the year, while the Panthers converted on three of their five man-advantages.
After the disappointing weekend at Middlebury, though, the women reacted with a well-played victory over Sacred Heart. Mackenzie McPike ’15 scored her fourth goal of the year in the second period, and that was all the Birds would need as the defense came up big in front of netminder Corrine Rivard ’16, who had to make only 11 saves en route to her first shutout of the season.
Later that week, the Birds snagged a point out of a weekend at home against the Bowdoin Polar Bears, who are now second in the league. Even after skating for the first 16 minutes, the Cardinals went on the power play, but Bowdoin struck for what could have been a demoralizing goal, netting a short-hander at 17:09 from just outside the crease.
Wesleyan continued to battle, and eventually equalized the score when Captain Jordan Schildhaus ’15 won a face-off in the Bowdoin end and Ellery Sarosi ’17 put a seeing-eye shot through traffic and found mesh.
The teams remained tied at one goal apiece through the majority of the final third, before Jess Brennan ’17 put through her second goal of the season amidst a scrum in front of the Bowdoin net with under four minutes to go.
Less than a minute later, though, the Polar Bears showed their grit with a rebound to even the score at two, which is how the regulation period ended. Through the overtime period, Wesleyan managed one shot to Bowdoin’s four, but Rivard kept the teams even, coming up big in the golden goal situation. She totaled 28 saves in the contest, and helped the Birds grab a tie despite fighting against a four on three after they took a penalty with 1:37 left in the match.
The Saturday rematch, though, was all Bowdoin. A rebound off a two-on-one in the first period gave the Polar Bears the only goal they would need, though they added a second in the middle period. After being outshot 15-8 in the first, Wesleyan maintained a modest 22-18 edge in the last two periods. Once again, they minimized penalties, only allowing one, but came up empty-handed on all four of their power plays.
The following Tuesday, the Cardinals hosted Salve Regina for their penultimate non-conference game of the season. After scoring in the first, Salve Regina maintained the puck on a delayed penalty and were able to pull their keeper in favor of an extra skater. They effectively executed with the sixth skater on the ice and doubled their lead.
Wesleyan outshot its opponent 32-20 in the contest, with many chances coming in the third frame, when they had three different man-advantages. Schildhaus scored the lone goal for the Cards, going end-to-end and putting home a beautiful unassisted tally, her seventh of the season. They looked to have a strong chance to snag a point when the Seahawks took a penalty with 1:59 left, but they were unable to capitalize after pulling their goalie, and Salve Regina threw a garbage time goal into an empty net with two ticks remaining. Laura Corcoran ’16 made 17 saves in the loss.
Having gone winless in three straight, the Cardinals entered last weekend in real need of at least one victory against third-ranked Conn College. They turned in their best game of the year behind a 17-save shutout from Corcoran. The game remained even in front of a raucous Spurrier-Snyder Rink crowd before Old Methodist Old Faithfuls Jankowski and Schildhaus connected for the latter’s eighth goal of the year on a two-on-one break, with Sarosi facilitating the break with a beautiful pass from the Cardinal end. Schildhaus put a shot in the high slot past the Conn keeper, tying her with her co-captain for first on the team in scoring and sixth in the NESCAC.
The rematch the next day saw McPike score her fifth goal of the year on a rebound in the first period, but the Camels evened the game at 15:08 of the middle frame. Wesleyan took its second lead of the game on Laura Mead ’16’s goal, before blowing the lead as Conn scored a power play goal with three minutes left in the game, sending the game into overtime.
The Cards put themselves in an ugly position with 2:02 left, taking a penalty and putting themselves down a player, effectively only having three women on the ice for the rest of the game. They killed the first 1:55 of the penalty, but with eight seconds separating them from their first three point weekend of the season, Conn put home the golden goal off of a face-off win.
The women currently stand at seventh in the conference, tied with Hamilton for the final playoff spot. They have three conference series remaining, all of which are against the other three weakest teams in the NESCAC. First, they face off against the Hamilton squad that has scored just five goals in-conference this year, then against Colby, which is 2-8 and last in the league, and finally, they close at home against Trinity, which sits in sixth place, one spot ahead of Wes. They must take victories during each of these weekends in order to prove their mettle and separate themselves from the teams they currently sit with in the conference standings.
The team currently ranks last in the league in penalty kill, stopping their opponents almost 80 percent of the time, while ranking eighth in power play, converting 13 percent of the time. They’ve earned wins or ties against some of the best teams in the league, like Williams and Bowdoin, but have only taken a point once in the second half of back-to-back series against NESCAC teams. Other teams seem to be adjusting and reacting to Wesleyan’s style of play better than vice versa, and the Cards must change that if they hope to string together any momentum heading into the postseason.