In the midst of a 3-16-2 season, it might be harder than usual to find positives for the women’s hockey team to build on. Bruno is hoping that a 2-2 tie against Union Jan. 23 might qualify, giving the team a boost for the final stretch of what has been a tough season for the Bears.
Erin Conway ’17 scored the equalizer with just 1:18 left in the third period to send the game into overtime. The game marked a bright spot in the team’s winter break stretch, a three-week period in which the Bears went 0-7-2.
The other tie came on the road Jan. 16 at Cornell. The draw with the Big Red was another third-period comeback for Bruno, as Cynthia Kyin ’18 scored her first career goal to knot the score at 2, 3:56 into the final frame. Brown’s only other goal was also a milestone: the first collegiate tally for Abby Niewchas ’19.
Sam Donovan ’18 touted the team’s persistence throughout challenging games during a tough season.
“Getting those two ties and coming from behind really motivated our team,” Donovan said. “It shows that we really don’t get down.”
The gauntlet of an ECAC schedule has proved difficult for a relatively inexperienced team. The conference is currently home to four of the 10 highest-ranked teams in the nation. Brown fell at No. 10 Princeton, No. 4 Quinnipiac and No. 7 Clarkson over the break. For a team with just three seniors and seven total upperclassmen, experienced teams have posed insurmountable challenges.
Donovan said the team often falls behind because of breakdowns during a short stretch of game time.
“If you look at scores period-by-period, we keep games pretty close for the first and second period,” Donovan said. “We’ve improved, and the scores haven’t always shown that.”
Bruno trailed by just one against Colgate and Merrimack after the first period and even led Quinnipiac. Unfortunately for the Bears, they went on to lose by at least three goals in each case.
Another encouraging sign for Bruno is the recent increase in offensive production, accompanied by a change in the team’s lines. Brown has scored two goals in four of the past five games, a stretch that included both of the team’s ties. While not overwhelming, these results constitute a marked improvement over the team’s previous offensive performances: The Bears were shut out or held to one goal in nine of 12 games to start the season.
Coach Bob Kenneally switched up the top lines, moving Samantha Swanstrom ’18 up to play with Donovan and Bridget Carey ’19, who had both previously been playing with Maddie Woo ’17. Donovan said the team has been working in practice to try to get comfortable with the new combinations.
With eight games to play, Brown has an outside shot at qualifying for the ECAC tournament, in which it hasn’t participated since the 2011-12 season. Bruno will need to finish in the top eight to play in the tournament. A conference record of 1-11-2 puts Brown in 11th place, nine points behind Yale (7-13-1, 6-7-1 ECAC), which currently occupies the 8th spot.
Luckily for the Bears, they will get two chances to make up ground on the Bulldogs this weekend. The teams will square off Friday at Yale — a game that will air nationally on ESPN3 — and then return to Providence to face off again against the Elis Saturday. Any scenario that has Bruno making the conference tournament almost certainly starts with two wins this weekend.
To do so, Brown will need to stop a balanced scoring attack from Yale, led by senior Janelle Ferrara, who tops the team with seven goals this season. Three other Bulldogs have contributed six goals, including junior Phoebe Staenz, the team leader in shots with 70 on the season. The Bears will look to use evolving offensive chemistry to beat Yale junior goaltender Hanna Mandl. Mandl has 452 saves this season, good for fourth in the ECAC.