Last weekend, the women’s hockey team’s playoff hopes were crushed after two hard-fought defeats to Trinity (15-6-2, 8-6-2 NESCAC). The women (8-14-1, 2-12-1 NESCAC) went into the weekend knowing they had to win at least one game of the home-and-home if they hoped to vault ahead of eighth-seeded Colby for a playoff spot, but they were unable to do so against the streaking Bantam squad.
In Friday’s matchup, Wes flew ahead of the 10th-ranked Bantams early on a 1:10 score from Laura Mead ’16. Mead redirected a shot from Lilah Fones ’15 for her third goal of the season, and Fones’s first assist.
Soon thereafter, in the eighth minute of the game, the Bantams evened the score and jumped ahead when Lucy Robinson scored her team-leading 15th goal of the year and Emma Tani potted her seventh, both on power plays.
Both teams went on two power plays in the second period, but they were ultimately fruitless for each side.
Trinity scored its only non-special teams goal of the match at 3:06 of the third, when Caroline Howell netted her second goal of the year. The team added another power play score in the seventh minute as well.
Wesleyan hopped back into the game at 10:33 of the final third. Abby Rutt ’17 earned her third assist of the year on a shot that was deflected in by Ellery Sarosi ’17 for her fifth goal of the year to bring the team within two.
The Cardinals went on the power play off of a penalty with 1:44 left, ensuring that they’d have a power play for the rest of the match. Wesleyan pulled Corinne Rivard ’16, who had 31 saves during the evening and threw 13 shots on net in the period, but came up empty. Trinity added an empty netter with 23 seconds left.
The next day, the team had the opportunity to stay in the playoff picture if it secured a win in front of its home crowd at Spurrier-Snyder Rink.
The game was evenly matched through two periods. Trinity opened scoring in the eighth minute, but Wesleyan countered quickly with a goal from Jess Brennan ’17. Brennan received the Madzie Carroll ’17 pass from the left point and gained control of the puck before spinning nicely for the low backhander that found nylon. Mead also assisted the goal.
Robinson scored again in the second, with just 33 seconds before the period ended to give Trinity the 2-1 lead. Robinson then assisted a Tani goal in the fourth minute of the final third that extended the Bantams’ lead to 3-1.
The Cardinals refused to quit as Sarosi cleaned up a scramble in front of the left side of the Bantam net and beat the keeper to bring the Redbirds within one. Captain Cara Jankowski ’15 earned her ninth assist of the year.
Wesleyan came close to notching the tying score, with leading scorer and Captain Jordan Schildhaus ’15 finding space for a one-on-one with five minutes left before being stopped by the goalkeeper. Brennan also had a similar chance in the final three minutes.
Rivard stopped 26 of 29 shots she faced while opposing keeper Sydney Belinskas stopped 18 of the 20 she faced for Trinity.
While perhaps frustrated at the ultimate result, Schildhaus and Jankowski were both encouraged by the way the Birds competed in every single game of the year.
“Coming off of a successful 2013-2014 season and having all but three returning players, we were able to come into weekends knowing that we could play with anyone,” Schildhaus said. “Although our season didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to, we battled hard every game and never let up.”
“Our biggest team success, I think, was having the confidence and knowing we can play with anyone,” Jankowski added. “That is something that hadn’t happened for this program for a long time.”
Caitlin Bray ’15 expressed similar sentiments after the final game.
“Our team this year was well aware of the big goals and expectations for ourselves and embraced them without doubt, even to a point of fault,” Bray said. “There was not one girl in the room who didn’t honestly believe we could make it all the way, and that in and of itself is a huge step forward from my freshman year.”
The Cardinals are graduating perhaps their finest class of players ever, nine in total, in 2015. NESCAC 2011-12 Rookie of the Year Schildhaus is leaving an illustrious legacy for the team. She led the team this year with 13 goals and 10 assists and scored 40 goals with 32 assists over the past four years to go along with two all-NESCAC selections. Jankowski, a two-year captain who was second on the team with 17 points this season, also totaled an impressive 51 points over her career.
Looking back at her Wesleyan career, Jankowski says she has learned immensely important lessons from her time playing here.
“[I’ve learned] what it takes to work to move up from the bottom, how to communicate and function as a team, how to focus mentally and physically simultaneously,” Jankowski said. “Looking back I’ll always remember my teammates and coaches because they made it worth it!”
Also leaving the team will be Laura Wasnick ’15, who has been anchoring the Cardinal D for the past four years and also broke out offensively with seven points this season. Seniors Mackenzie McPike, Hannah Jellinek, Alicia White, Bray, Fones, and Mackey Hemphill have all contributed in different ways as well since 2011.
While it’s difficult to take the jersey off and hand it to the next generation of players, Bray said she is happy with what the seniors are leaving behind.
“We have laid the groundwork that is required to make the women’s hockey team a successful program on the score sheet which is saying a lot based on where we are coming from,” she said. “The path has not been straightforward or easy, but it is something we have all committed ourselves to.”
“My hope is that we continue playing with pride as ambassadors of Wesleyan,” Bray said. “Because that is what the job truly is and with that we learn to expect only the best from ourselves and accept whatever may come as a result. I know the girls that are on the team are exceptional people more than capable of commanding respect from the league.”
Jankowski and Schildhaus also both had advice for the younger players on the team.
“Know what it takes to compete in the NESCAC and battle your way to the top,” Jankowski said. “You’re capable of anything if you buy in and execute on a daily basis.”
After her final game as a Cardinal, Schildhaus was reflective, leaving some more sentimental advice for the younger Cards.
“Enjoy every single second and leave it all on the ice. These are your last four years playing ice hockey, so you have to treat every game like it’s your last one.”