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In Tough Division III, Women...s Hockey Can Take Away Positives

By Kyle Baxter

Young and overmatched was the theme in the MIT Women’s Hockey Team’s 12-0 loss to St. Anselm last Saturday. MIT had some problems putting shots on net, as well as handling the St. Anselm’s umbrella offense. Although this game looks terrible on paper, the Engineers have a slew of positives to take away from it. However, before jumping into the positives of a loss, it is important to cover a few things about college hockey in general.

College hockey is unlike any other collegiate sport in many ways. First, it is localized in only two geographical zones: the northeast and the upper midwest. Second, the top college teams recruit a significant percentage of their players from Europe, Russia, and Canada. Finally and perhaps most importantly, in college hockey there are only two divisions, Division 1 and Division 3. Division 2 hockey was eliminated a few years ago because of to a lack of teams. So many schools in Division 3 belong in Division 2, and when given the choice to move up to Division 1 or down to Division 3, they chose the league where they would be most competitive — Division 3.

St. Anselm is a pure Division 2 school, playing down in a Division 3 league. Their roster consists of players from high schools with top hockey programs, and even a player who played for a Division 1 team. They recruit, offer scholarships and their team is deep with good, experienced hockey players. They are currently favored to win the ECAC East. This gives an idea of what MIT was up against when they played St. Anselm.

Looking at the game, the majority of St. Anselm’s goals came in bunches. MIT skated with St. Anselm for the first 14 plus minutes of the game, only allowing one goal when St. Anselm Freshman Kathleen Twomey took a clearing pass from teammate Emily Lapworth. Twomey took the puck in on a breakaway and beat MIT goalie Shauna J. Moran ’06 to the blocker-side. But MIT allowed 5 goals in the last 6 minutes of the first period and the first minute of the second period, bringing the score to 6-0.

After that scoring spree, the MIT defense then buckled down for the next 15 minutes, not allowing any goals. St. Anselm scored two goals in the closing 4 minutes of the period, including a power play goal. This brought the score to 8-0 going into the final period. Even in the final frame, when the fatigue set in, the Engineers had a 12 minute slot where they only allowed one goal.

MIT’s starting five consisted of freshmen Catherine G. Harding ’09 and Sara E. John ’09, sophomore Rachel A. Longley ’08, junior Barbara L. Peng ’07, and senior Captain Rebecca R. Romatoski ’06. Peng went down in the first period with a shoulder injury.

Peng’s injury joined her with fellow injured teammates Raffaela L. Wakeman ’08, Lauren M. Nowierski ’06, Mary P. Harding ’07, and Cristina F. Stefanescu ’08. The injuries were key, as these are some of the most experienced players on the team. The young players were required to step up, and they played a gritty two-way game. Despite the lopsided score, the Engineers have plenty of positives to look toward.

The Engineer defensemen, led by Romatoski, played a tough, physical game, especially in front of the net. They cleared out a lot of rebounds, and blocked or deflected 15 shots from going through to Moran. They didn’t allow those second and third shots, which often is important in other teams’ offensive strategy. This strong defensive skill will prove useful as the season wears on, especially in close games.

Moran, a senior in her first year of competitive hockey, turned back 45 shots in an inspiring performance. Many of these shots were close range shots or shots through traffic out front. Included was a great pad save on a breakaway by St. Anselm’s Cindy Lebel. Moran did everything in her power to stop pucks, and did a job unthinkable for someone of her limited experience.

MIT also created some offensive chances against a tough St. Anselm defense. The Engineer offense managed to put the puck deep in the St. Anselm zone throughout the game.

Freshman defenseman Stephanie Brenman showed a great ability to rush the puck coast to coast, as she moved the puck from deep in the MIT zone to deep in the St. Anselm’s zone. The entire team showed great discipline in dumping the puck when pressured in the neutral zone. Although MIT didn’t succeed in putting a lot of shots on net, they constantly brought the puck into the St. Anselm zone.

The Engineers’ power play also had a spark of excellence. During a third period power play Longley set up John streaking into the zone, and she came in to take a shot on net from the left circle. Unfortunately St. Anselm’s Mollie Welch caught up to her at the last second forcing her shot wide.

Longley followed up the play and dug the puck out of the corner, putting a strong backhand shot on net. These two, along with Harding, Brenman, and sophomore Christina Ottomeyer ran a strong power play. They did a great job controlling and moving the puck and setting each other up. They were unsuccessful in scoring, but the young power play line showed a ton of promise, and they have a few years to work on finishing.

The MIT Women’s Hockey team has a lot of talent and potential. It hurt to watch them play a team with the luxury of being able to recruit, however they put up a great fight. The Lady Engineers are facing off against Holy Cross next Saturday at 3 p.m. They should have some of their injured players returning, and it ought to prove to be a good match-up.