by Chelsea Janes '12
Originally appeared in the Yale women's ice hockey game program for Feb. 10-11, 2012
The best word to describe the Yale women's hockey class of 2012 is "persevering". While that implies that the four Bulldog seniors have faced challenges in their career, it also expresses the relentless optimism and determination with which Lauren Davis, Heather Grant, Aleca Hughes and Genny Ladiges have faced and overcome them.
Their earliest challenge was the step up to college hockey. The freshmen were called on to contribute immediately to a Bulldog squad coming off an ECAC Hockey playoff appearance in 2008, and they did so in a variety of ways.
When Jackee Snikeris '11 was out due to illness and injury, for example, Ladiges was called upon to hold down the crease -- including a stretch of eight games in the heart of conference play. She finished the season with four wins and a .906 save percentage. Davis and Grant also made impacts, as Davis played in 28 of 29 games and Grant 26. Grant's five points (three goals, two assists) were third amongst Yale blueliners, and four of the five came in Bulldog victories. Davis was named the winner of Yale's Bulldog Award for team spirit after the season.
Hughes didn't take long to adjust to the college game, either. She established herself as major cog in the Yale offense in her debut campaign, tying for the second-highest goal total on the team with seven while registering nine assists to finish fourth on the team in overall scoring.
Hughes finished second on the team again as a sophomore with nine goals and earned the Bulldog Award. Davis and Grant, appearing in every game, continued to be mainstays. Ladiges was in net for a crucial ECAC Hockey win over Union, a game in which she made 16 saves en route to a 2-1 Bulldog win. She went on to make 20 more in a 3-1 win over Vermont later that season.
In the midst of their first two seasons at Ingalls, the members of the class of 2012 also made their mark off the ice. As teammate Mandi Schwartz '10 battled cancer, they helped their team organize fundraising initiatives and a successful marrow donor registration drive in Mandi's name.
The last class to have played with Mandi prior to her passing away in April of 2011, the quartet's off-ice impact would only grow as they transitioned to upperclassmen. That transition was made all-the-more crucial by the arrival of a new coach, Joakim Flygh, who took the reins after the 2009-10 season when Hilary Witt left to coach at her alma mater, Northeastern. With new faces, a new approach, and a young team, Davis, Grant, Hughes and Ladiges saw their importance as off-ice leaders and contributors to team chemistry grow exponentially.
Growing with that impact off the ice was the role of the class of 2012 on it. Ladiges, for one, played to a .917 save percentage in eight games, posting 30 or more saves five times, including a 45-stop performance against Cornell.
Grant solidified her spot as major defensive presence while also providing offense from the blue line. She was far and away Yale's highest-scoring defenseman with three goals and seven assists, and came through in the clutch as part of one of the biggest wins of the season: a comeback, overtime victory over Clarkson. Grant assisted on Bray Ketchum '11's game-tying goal in the closing minutes to send the game to overtime, where Hughes finished it off with an unassisted game-winner for the upset win.
Davis and Hughes both made their mark on Yale's forward line as juniors. Davis played in 27 games, tallying a goal and two assists, including her first career goal in a win at Union. Hughes led the team in goals with 10, and finished fourth in points with 13. They both would go on to earn postseason awards from the team -- Davis the Blanning Award for most improved and Hughes the Mandi Schwartz Award for team spirit, as the Bulldog Award had been renamed.
Their efforts pushed the Bulldogs to the last weekend of the season needing two tough wins against formidable Quinnipiac and Princeton to head to their first postseason appearance. Hughes gutted out a shoulder injury as she and her classmates helped Yale hang with the Bobcats long enough for Ashley Dunbar to find the net. With results in the other ECAC Hockey games falling the way they needed, the Bulldogs withstood a flurry of late Quinnipiac chances to hang on and head to Senior Day just needing a win to make the postseason.
While their efforts against the Tigers in the season finale came up short, the story of the Bulldogs' 2010-11 season again extended beyond the ice, again thanks in large part to the class of 2012. The four were key parts of several successful initiatives to support Schwartz, including the first-annual "White Out For Mandi", an event attended by more than 1,000 supporters that raised roughly $15,000 dollars. Bulldog-organized marrow donor registration drives continued as well, raising the total number of people added to the "Be The Match" registry to 2,500.
Hughes was named a finalist for the 2011 Hockey Humanitarian Award, which seeks to recognize male or female college hockey players at the Division I or Division III levels who give back to their communities in the true humanitarian spirit. The Westwood, Mass., native was also elected captain by her teammates heading into this season. All four rising seniors made ECAC Hockey's All-Academic team, giving the group a total of 11 selections in three years.
Hughes was certainly not the only member of the class of 2012 to assume a role as leader of this year's Bulldog squad: in fact, Davis, Grant, Hughes and Ladiges have all been enthusiastic examples for their teammates throughout this season. They have also continued to make an impact off the ice, including the time they spend with Giana -- a 10-year-old brain tumor survivor whom Yale "adopted" in 2010. As a team, the Bulldogs earned the New Haven Register's "Dave Solomon Memorial Sports Persons of the Year Award" for their community service efforts.
Grant has again proven Yale's best backline offensive weapon, leading the team's defensemen with six points coming into this weekend's games. Davis has centered one of the Bulldogs' top three lines all season.
After playing with the same line for much of the past two seasons, Hughes has been unfazed by the new-look Bulldog top line. The captain leads the team in points and assists and is tied for second in goals.
Ladiges' role has expanded considerably during her senior season, and she has emerged as a stabilizing presence between the pipes. She has played in all but four games for the Bulldogs and tallied an astounding seven 40-plus save performances and three outings with 45 stops or more.
The quartet has been a part of 30 wins in their four years, and has done so with an energy and passion that is now a staple of the building Yale program. Their efforts on the ice have helped solidify a standard of hard work that will undoubtedly help the Bulldogs even as this class moves on, but their efforts off it have raised more than $40,000 dollars for Mandi Schwartz and patients like her while adding 2,500 potential donors to the national marrow donor registry. Hughes is once again a finalist for the Hockey Humanitarian Award, making her the first two-time finalist in school history.
The entire senior class, however, deserves recognition for the way they have attacked opponents and off-ice obstacles: with enthusiasm and determination. In large part due to the daily drive of Davis, Grant, Hughes and Ladiges, those two things have become the standard in Yale women's hockey, and will serve the program well as it builds for the future.
Chelsea Janes '12 is the voice of Yale women's ice hockey on Yale All-Access