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Following a historic 2021-22 campaign that featured the first Beanpot title and NCAA tournament berth since 2015, the No. 13/13 Harvard women’s ice hockey team begins the season in the midst of a transition. In addition to the new threads that the Crimson will wear this season, the team will feature many new faces when it kicks off its season at Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Oct. 15 versus Quinnipiac.
“We’re young compared to a year ago,” said head coach Katey Stone, who is entering her 28th season at the helm. “We are going to be learning as we go a bit more.”
This expected learning curve has been reflected in the media’s preseason rankings. After finishing last season ranked ninth in both the USA Today and USCHO poll, the Crimson started the season ranked 13th in each. Even after claiming the ECAC regular season title in 2021-22, coaches across the league are doubtful of Harvard’s chance to repeat. In the ECAC preseason poll, which is voted on by the conference’s coaches and sports information directors, the Crimson is picked to finish seventh behind fellow Ivy league schools: Cornell, Princeton, and Yale.
The Crimson will be without nine seniors from last year’s 22-win squad. This group includes defender Emma Buckles ’22, who led the team in plus-minus, and forward Becca Gilmore ’22, who paced the squad in assists and points. Harvard will attempt to replace their production with underclassmen, as only six of the 18 returning players are juniors or seniors. Along with the first-years, the beginning of the season will also be an adjustment for the sophomores.
“[With] a lot of depth in our senior class, a lot of our sophomores didn’t play a bunch of minutes,” Stone said. “They are still gaining a lot of experience.”
Out of the 12 returning sophomores, only four have recorded a goal, with forward Paige Lester pacing the group with three. Additionally, only one sophomore, defender Mia Biotti, recorded double-digit points. Goalkeeping is also an area where the Crimson lack experience, as sophomores Daisy Boynton and Alex Pellicci have a combined three career starts.
Throughout the offseason, the class of five first-years has made a positive impression through their high energy and potential for growth.
“They have great enthusiasm and there are tremendous opportunities for all of them,” Stone said.
Along with the departing senior class, the Crimson will have to replace the production from Taze Thompson and Lindsay Reed. Last year, Thompson ranked fifth on the team in goals and points, capturing Ivy League Rookie of the Year honors and a spot on the ECAC All-Rookie Team. After her brilliant campaign, she decided to transfer and will lace up her skates for Northeastern this upcoming season. Reed is also missing from the official team roster. The senior holds the Harvard record for saves in a single season and has the third-highest all-time career save percentage in program history (.927).
The leadership of the squad will fall onto the shoulders of its experienced seniors. All three of Harvard’s seniors, forward Anne Bloomer, defender Kyra Willoughby, and forward Kristin Della Rovere, will serve as captains this season. Stone has high hopes for the group.
“They are the engine for our team and will be all year,” said the reigning Ivy League Coach of the Year.
Bloomer will hope to build upon the scoring prowess that she showed last year. The Chicago native paced the team with 20 goals last season and posted the Crimson’s only hat trick of the season. Bloomer was also known for her late-game heroics, as she registered four game-winning goals throughout the season. Willoughby will serve as the anchor for the Harvard defense, and is coming off a season where she led the Crimson with 35 blocked shots and earned an All-Ivy League Honorable mention. Della Rovere, an ECAC and Ivy League First Teamer last season, will continue to lead the team from the center. She led Harvard with 403 faceoff wins and dished out a career-best 25 assists in 2021-22.
Building off of the team philosophy of last year, the Crimson’s playstyle will be predicated on its hard work and pre-game preparation.
“One of the biggest things for us to do is to make sure that we outwork everybody we play, and if we do we have a lot of good opportunities in front of us,” Stone said.
Harvard will open the season with a four-game homestand. Although the Crimson will have the added boost from the home crowd, the inexperienced squad will be tested early, as two of the matchups feature ranked opponents in No. 7/7 Quinnipiac and No. 8/8 Yale. The biggest test for the young squad will happen in November, when Harvard travels to Duluth, Minn. to take on No. 5/4 Minnesota-Duluth.
–Staff writer Christopher D. Wright can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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