“We’re not that big, but we’ll play physical.”
That’s how junior Brooke Bestwick summed up the players in the women’s hockey team’s defensive corps.
Senior captain Erinn Perushek took it a step further.
“Some of us [on defense] are more brazen than the other players.”
The Red’s defense returns mostly in tact, graduating only one players from last year, one, Patricia Kemp ’01, to graduation and another, senior Diana Bell, to injury.
It lost a little bit of size, a lot of leadership, but the players return to the ice with much experience after last season and plenty of toughness. The team believes those two elements, especially the latter, should improve the unit and help to give them an edge over their opponents.
According to head coach Carol Mullins, the four upperclassmen on defense should help the Red with better puck handling and more patience.
“Defense is the most important part of the team as far as handling the puck,” said head coach Carol Mullins.
Perushek, who heads up the Red’s defensive unit, talked about the other improvements to the defense. She noted that the unit was in better shape, handling the puck more confidently, playing aggressively and doing a lot of work with the offense.
“We just have to step it up on the blue line and keep the puck in the [opponents’] zone,” she said.
Bestwick had the same attitude.
“We’ll be creating a lot of opportunities,” she noted, pointing the unit’s quickness and intelligence on the ice.
Perushek pointed to senior Eva Nahorniak, Bestwick, and herself as all getting plenty of scoring opportunities in the games Cornell has already play..
Nahorniak is, “as tough as they come,” according to Mullins.
However, she said Bestwick likes to “make the rush,” which shows in her statistics. Last year, she led the team in assists with 16 and was fourth on the team with 20 points.
Perushek looks to provide leadership and exemplify the toughness of the unit.
Both Bestwick and Perushek, along with senior forward co-captain Jenel Bode were rewarded for their high performance levels last year when they were nominated to the ECAC All-Star team. They played the U.S. National Team at Lynah Oct. 28. Although the ECAC lost 7-1, the honor of playing against the best women’s hockey players in the country is one that should not go unnoticed.
Despite the loss of Bell, the Red will still be able to look to her experience from her new position — on the bench. Bell has been named an assistant coach for the season and she will likely be working with the part of the team she knows best, defense.
Additionally, the Red looks to two freshmen for some major contributions on the defense. Lara Kelly should help the unit out by providing some much needed size, and Jamie Ramenofsky will add smart, consistent, stay-at-home defense.
Rounding out the unit is senior Lillian Shaller, a solid defender, whose time was limited last year, only playing in 10 games.
Sophomore Briana Jentner, who was fourth on the team last year with eight goals, adds another scoring threat.
Fresh-man Emilie Nicholas from Ottawa, Ontario is the final defenseman on the Cornell roster.
An adage says that the best defense doesn’t have to play defense at all. Mullins has taken this to heart and expects a significant defensive push from the offense to help keep the puck on the opponent’s ice, and out of its own zone. However, she looks for the defense, with its experience and toughness, to be a strength of the team.
The players on the Red’s defense aren’t backing down from those lofty expectations. Instead they are ready for the challenge.
“We’re a gritty, hard-nosed team,” Bestwick said without hesitation.
Already, the Red has shown the necessity for a strong force along the blueline, since the team has been unable to produce a strong offensive force.
Perushek came to a similar conclusion. She expressed the unit’s confidence, sticktoitiveness and attitude in one simple sentence:
“When we go into the corner, we’re the ones coming out with the puck.”
Archived article by Matt James