Sports

Women’s hockey stuns No. 9 Colgate, No. 6 Cornell

Bears defeat two top-10 ranked teams in comeback victories, jump out to early 5-2 record

By
Sports Editor
Sunday, November 4, 2018

Down 3-1 in the second period Saturday against Colgate University, it seemed that the women’s hockey team was headed for a third consecutive loss and a 3-3 record after a promising start. But after two upset comeback victories over top-10 nationally ranked teams, goalie Calla Isaac ’20 said the Bears’ season has taken on a completely different outlook.

“It definitely will fundamentally change how our team plays, just give us more confidence going into the next few games,” Isaac said. “It is just a game, but that’s the first time in 14 years that we’ve swept those two teams, so it proves that we’re a different team this year.”

Those two teams are Colgate, ranked ninth in the country, and Cornell, ranked sixth. The Bears played Colgate Friday and Cornell Saturday and came away with two come-from-behind 4-3 upset wins. Forward Sena Hanson ’20 scored two goals in each game, including both game-winners.

Newly hired Head Coach Carisa Wahlig praised Hanson’s performance. “She’s got an amazing shot, she’s a power forward, a very powerful player and very team-oriented,” Wahlig said. “She’s one of those players that will do whatever it takes.”

Hanson, Wahlig said, is also taking a leadership role on the team. “We’ve talked with (Hanson) about being an upperclassman and really showing her side of her leadership, which is (that) she’s very vocal on the ice … (and) on the bench,” she said. “From what we’ve seen from her, she’s definitely a player that we can count on in the clutch.”

Seven games into the season, the Bears’ 5-2 record is a welcome development, particularly after a 2-27 campaign in 2017-18. Hanson and Isaac offered similar explanations for Bruno’s newfound success: an improved cohesiveness, brought about at least in part by Wahlig and her coaching staff.

Wahlig’s leadership, Isaac said, has the team working harder than ever and working together. “She’s definitely brought our team together as a family,” Isaac said. “We’re one unit now, working for each other.”

When Wahlig was hired, her first order of business was reshaping the team’s culture. “Last year, we weren’t really a cohesive unit. We came for hockey, and our team culture was just going through the motions,” Hanson said. “This year, everyone’s holding each other accountable, Coach Wahlig is making sure that we’re all staying positive and supporting each other. It changed so much that we’re even hanging out outside of hockey.”

With these off-ice changes, the Bears entered a weekend of games against nationally ranked opponents with a 3-2 record and a culture of cohesiveness and competition. “We knew they were tough teams,” Isaac said. “They’re ranked teams. We were definitely an underdog in this game, but we went in just wanting to fight, to take it to them, to prove who we are. We want people to not take us for granted.”

Hanson’s goal-scoring powered Bruno’s offense: seven games into the season, she has scored six goals after scoring eight over 29 games in 2017-18. “I’ve worked on the mental side of hockey a lot,” she said. “I’ve been talking to Coach Wahlig a lot about staying focused and staying consistent shift after shift.”

On Friday, Bruno also notched goals from forwards Tina Paolillo ’22 and Lizzy Gross ’22. On Saturday, in addition to Hanson’s two goals, Veronica Alois ’20 and Abby Nearis ’21 both scored.

Isaac, meanwhile, anchored the Bears’ defense. “(Isaac) played out of her mind,” Hanson said. “She was making some big saves the whole game.” In both upset wins, Isaac posted scoreless third periods.

“She’s a competitor,” Wahlig said. “She wants to compete, and she can be relied on in the clutch. That’s huge to have a goalie like that.”

Entering the second period against Colgate, Bruno trailed 3-1. “In the dressing room, we were all just like, ‘we don’t want to lose, we want to win,’” Isaac said. “We all just banded together.”

Hanson credited the coaching staff for the turnaround. “We were in the locker room, and our coaches come in, and they say, it only takes one or two shots to tie it up. Lucky bounce here or there…” she said. “It really just sparked something in us, and we started to work hard.”

Though both games ended in Brown wins, only time will tell whether the weekend was a fluke or the start of a winning era for Brown women’s hockey. There are some indications that it may not be: In the weekend wins, the Bears were outshot 41-25 against Colgate and 41-20 against Cornell.

“That’s definitely something we need to work on,” Isaac said. “It’s always a goal to outshoot the other team. We need to get more shots on net.”

But Wahlig said that being outshot was not entirely unexpected, nor was it necessarily a bad thing. The Bears made adjustments to their defensive system to adapt to the faster forwards of a nationally ranked offense, she said. These adjustments meant that the opposition would almost certainly take more shots. “We wanted to limit the number of quality shots that the other teams took,” Wahlig said. “So I didn’t care if we got out-shot, as long as the quality of their shots (wasn’t) very good. Yes, we didn’t have as many shots, but we got more quality shots.”

Even after beating two top-10 nationally ranked teams, the Bears need to continue working hard every weekend, Wahlig said. “It’s great, we got two great wins, but those two great wins don’t guarantee success the next weekend. You have to show up and be ready to go every game,” she added.

While these two wins were just two of 29 games on the schedule, “for the girls, it shows them that if they really put the work in and are disciplined, that they can compete,” Wahlig said. “That’s something that they needed to see early on.”

The Bears will return to the ice Friday against Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (2-5), and when they do, they will return not as the 2-27 team of 2017-18, but rather as the team whose most recent games were back-to-back wins against top-10 nationally ranked opponents.

“We’ve been working so hard, we’ve put in so much work in the offseason,” Hanson said. “It makes us realize that we can compete with all the teams in the conference. …This really gives us hope that our hard work is actually paying off.”