When Mark Bolding was hired to coach women’s hockey at Yale, he came with a pretty impressive resume.
Between his arrival at D-III Norwich University in the 2007-08 season and his departure eleven years later, Bolding was responsible for guiding the Cadets to nine NEHC conference titles, seven national semifinals, and two national titles. He finished his tenure with a record of 268 wins, 66 losses, and 22 draws, and was named the American Hockey Coaches’ Association’s National Coach of the Year three consecutive times between 2010 and 2012.
Though Toronto Six defender Saroya Tinker spent only one year under Bolding when he took over the reins at Yale, she knew from the start of the record-breaking 2019-20 season that things in the program would be different under him.
“He came in and right away, he held people accountable,” said Tinker. “I think that was the biggest thing our team was missing my first three years.”
Bolding’s first season — and the last of Tinker’s collegiate career — saw the Bulldogs set a program record with 17 wins, including six consecutive victories. The team would face Harvard in the first round of the ECAC, taking the series to three games before losing in overtime in the final match.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic struck the United States, and Yale, along with the rest of the programs in the Ivy League, sat out the 2020-21 season. Fast forward to the fall of 2021, and Bolding and his squad were raring to hit the ice again and show the ECAC and the rest of the NCAA what they were made of.
“It was really great to get back,” said Bolding. “The ice was in early, and the players [and] all the students were excited to be on campus.”
Yale got off to a hot start in the month of November, shutting out both Cornell and Colgate in New York and scoring a combined eleven goals across the two games. Two weeks later, they tied St. Lawrence and beat Clarkson — all wins against solid teams that Bolding said motivated the team for the first half.
“Everything just started to fall into place with more hard work and buy-in and it’s been an unbelievable year so far,” he said.
“We remember where we came from,” added Emma Seitz, a junior defender reminiscing on her own first season in the program. “That just makes all the wins now, this season, that much sweeter for us.”
The list of players that developed in the Yale women’s hockey program is extensive, and includes names like PHF players Emma Vlasic and Mallory Souliotis, former Connecticut Whale general manager Bray Ketchum Peel, and 2011 ECAC Goaltender of the Year and Sarah Devens Award recipient Jackee Snikeris.
In spite of all of that talent, though, no iteration of the Yale team has ever made it this far.
“Doing anything that a Yale [women’s hockey] team has never done before means a lot because that’s like, fifty years of history and those are all amazing women that put their blood and time and energy into this program,” Seitz said. “So anything we can do to honor that past and take the program to where it’s never been before is really meaningful.”
Bolding is confident this team can get it done and make their mark on the NCAA tournament, not just this weekend, but in the future, too.
“The pieces are there and now we just, it’s kinda on us as a program and every player that we have in it to do their part,” he said. “We want to make sure we’re not a team that’s only around for a short stamp in time; we want to be [here] for a while.”
“This has been an amazing season for us,” concluded Seitz. “[Having] the season that we have had this year is a testament to what we have done and all the work that our coach, Mark Bolding, and our assistants have done to ... build a cohesive group that has really just bought in on what we are trying to do.”
When they take the ice against Colgate on Saturday, all of America will be watching...and perhaps a few people outside of the country, too.
“I love watching the them play,” said Tinker. “I love seeing girls that I’ve played without their scoring goals. So I’m cheering for them.”