Touch schedule might make for tough season at Yale

Phoebe Staenz - Yale (Sam Rubin/Yale Sports Publicity)
Junior Phoebe Staenz gives Yale leadership.  (Sam Rubin/Yale Sports Publicity)

Yale Bulldogs
USCHO prediction: Eighth
Coaches’ prediction: Eighth
Last season: Seventh (15-15-1, 12-10-0 ECAC)

The names
This figures to be a key season in the evolution of the Yale program. The Bulldogs have thrust themselves back into the playoff mix with consecutive seventh-place finishes. Now, they have to deal with the graduation of one of the key contributors in their renaissance, goaltender Jaimie Leonoff.

“There’s going to be an emphasis in helping out our goaltenders,” coach Joakim Flygh said. “To have someone like Jaimie, her caliber, she bailed us out a lot in the past, but now we’ve got to do a better job of playing better defensively.”

That doesn’t mean that the Yale philosophy is being totally rewritten.

“We have to play better team defense as a whole, but we’re not going to change the way we play the game,” Flygh said.

The options for a replacement in the net are senior Rachelle Graham, freshman Kyra O’Brien, and Leonoff’s backup from last season, junior Hanna Mandl.

“We’re going to have to figure out early on who is going to be our starter and give us some strong play,” Flygh said.

Yale is in better shape on the other end of the ice.

“I think that we had some good numbers offensively,” Flygh said. “Whether it be even-strength scoring or the power play, I liked a lot of stuff we did.”

The Bulldogs did enough stuff to rank fifth in league scoring. Seniors Jamie Haddad and Janelle Ferrara, and juniors Phoebe Staenz, Krista Yip-Chuck, and Taylor Marchin topped 20 points, with Marchin doing her damage from the blue line.

“We’re welcoming five new freshmen to our team this year,” Flygh said. “They’re all going to bring a different element to our team. Certainly feel some of them are capable of stepping into our line-up right away.”

The numbers
The schedule provides a challenge, as the Bulldogs face five of the eight teams that reached the NCAA tournament in March.

The prognosis
This looks like a year where Yale will be kept busy fighting off challenges from below more so than making a push up the ladder. However, a group of seniors that played a big role in the program’s revival may yet have something to say about that.

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