The women’s ice hockey team (8-12-1, 3-10-1 NESCAC) lost a pair of games to Colby (13-9-0, 5-9-0 NESCAC) last weekend, dropping the women into last place in the conference and putting their once-high playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
The Cards squared off against their host Mules in Waterville, Maine, last Friday, Feb. 13 and Saturday, Feb. 14. Friday’s game was a heartbreaking 2-1 overtime loss, where Wes keeper Corrine Rivard ’16 stopped all but the first and last shots she saw.
Colby scored in the first two minutes of the contest, as Sasha Fritts netted her second goal of the season, with assists from Kailey Buxbaum and Breanna Davis.
Wesleyan scoring-leader and Captain Jordan Schildhaus ’15 countered at 9:10 of the second period, evening the score off an assist from Captain Cara Jankowski ’15. It was Schildhaus’s 12th goal of the season, and Jankowski’s seventh assist, which is second on the team. The two captains have combined for 39 of the team’s 91 points this season.
Rivard held strong after the initial miss, keeping the Cards even with the Donkeys through the remainder of regulation. She then saw three shots in the overtime period before the fourth one found its way into the net off the stick of Katie Tang.
Both sides effectively kept themselves out of the penalty box throughout the matchup, and each killed the two power plays they faced.
Heading into the Saturday matchup, Colby had hopped ahead of Wesleyan by one point in the league standings. Whichever team won the second end of the back-to-back would be in the driver’s seat for a playoff spot heading into the all-important final weekend of play.
Neither team was able to assert dominance in the opening of the third, as the squads hunkered down defensively and waited for the other team to make a mistake. Colby did hold a slight edge in shots, eight to seven.
Colby netted two in the second period and held Wes scoreless for the opening 59:32 minutes. With 2:30 left in the game, the Birds pulled their keeper for an extra attacker. With 28 seconds left, Jankowski found Schildhaus for the fourth time in as many games, cutting the lead in half, but ultimately, the result was still a loss.
Four-year letter-winner Laura Wasnick ’15 ranks fourth on the team in points and anchors the defense that holds court in front of Rivard. She offered some insight into the team’s losses last weekend.
“We can always work and focus on the little details, [like] making the easy breakout pass or executing our forecheck properly,” she said. “When we go back to basics and simply work our hardest, that’s when we have success.”
As the team proceeds into its final weekend, the women know that they are essentially in a two-game play-in series for the final playoff spot. They face a home-and-home with Trinity (13-6-2, 6-6-2 NESCAC) in the Battle of the Birds. They rank two points behind Hamilton, and three behind Colby. Hamilton and Colby face off against each other this weekend, and if one of those teams can sweep, they’ll guarantee a spot in the playoffs.
The importance of this weekend could not be more apparent for the team.
“[Coach] Jodi [McKenna] has been telling us that we’ve prepared all season for these games,” Wasnick said. “We need to trust and believe in ourselves, individually, and trust and believe that as a whole we’re ready to take on Trinity, play our game, and bring home a couple of W’s.”
“I think the most important thing Jodi has told us, though, is to ‘play with your heart on your sleeve’ as the passion and love for the game is what is going to make or break this weekend,” she said.
The 10th-ranked Trinity team has been hot as of late, having just taken three points in a weekend against sixth-ranked Amherst. It ranks first in the league in at 3.5 goals per game. Leading scorer Cheeky Herr ranks first in the NESCAC in goals per game. Trinity, however, has struggled mightily on the power play, scoring on just over seven percent of its man-advantages, which is about half of Wesleyan’s conversion percentage.
“We have seen game film of Trinity and thus know their forecheck and weaknesses of their goalie, so practices this week have been keying in on those aspects,” Wasnick said of the team’s preparations for this weekend.
“Trinity always comes out hard, we’re expecting that, so we know we have to be ready when the puck drops on Friday night,” she said.
The Trinity team, as Wasnick implied, enters every game with guns blazing, having scored 26 goals in the first period of this season. That being said, it’s also the Bantams’ highest scoring period, allowing 18 goals in that frame.
While realizing the importance of the games, as a senior, the implications of losses this weekend are not lost on Wasnick.
“I’m going to go out there and play my hardest to try to win,” she said. “I’m going to embrace every moment of these two games, as they may be the last games of the sport I’ve dedicated my entire life to.”
With two wins this weekend, the Birds will have the chance to enter the playoffs with a flourish, defeating a hot conference powerhouse. With a split series, they’ll need a little luck in the Hamilton/Colby series.
The puck drops on Friday, Feb. 20 at 7:30 pm at the Williams Rink in Hartford, before the conclusion of the regular season on Saturday, a 3 p.m. face-off at the Spurrier-Snyder Rink at Wesleyan.