“Playoffs? You wanna talk about playoffs? You kiddin’ me? Playoffs? I just hope we can win a game.”
According to former Indianapolis Colts head coach Jim Mora, you can’t talk about the playoffs until you win a game. For women’s hockey head coach Doug Derraugh ’91, wins are not a problem for Cornell (10-13-1, 7-10-1 ECAC Hockey) as the team is enjoying its first double digit regular season win total since 2000-2001.
“One of the goals early on this season was to try to get to 10 wins,” Derraugh said. “This is something that hasn’t been done here at Cornell in the last seven years. That was a goal that we hoped to reach sometime throughout the season, and we have been able to do that.”
Unfortunately, the last Cornell team to attain double digit victories failed to advance to the ECAC playoffs. If the regular season were to end today, the Red would qualify for the playoffs as the eighth seed.[img_assist|nid=27776|title=Ahead of the competition|desc=Junior defenseman Steph Ulrich and the Red are currently in eighth place in the ECAC standings and looking to make the playoffs for the first time since ’03-’04.|link=node|align=left|width=420|height=283]
“You never want your season to just end abruptly when the regular season ends,” said senior co-captain Brittany Forgues. “Making the playoffs is a goal for us, but that’s not to say that we will regard that as the end all be all. However, right now considering that our season isn’t even over, it’s definitely our goal to make the playoffs. Then, we’ll re-evaluate when the season’s over how it turned out.”
Derraugh echoed his co-captain’s sentiments, reiterating that the team must constantly stay hungry.
“The other goal was to make the playoffs,” Derraugh said. “We continue to reset our goals and reset our focus. We wanted to get to 10 wins as quickly as possible. We were able to do that and now our goal is to make the playoffs, so we’re refocusing on that. When we’re able to do that, we want to make it far in the playoffs. So, we’re not just happy getting into the playoffs. We want to win the championship just like everyone else.”
There are four games remaining on the schedule as Cornell makes its drive for the postseason. Perhaps the stiffest challenge on the docket for the Red will be this weekend’s match-up against Rensselaer. The Engineers are only a point behind Cornell in the standings and will be buoyed by their 4-3 victory over the Red on Jan. 11.
“It’s always a cliché, but we have to take it one game at a time,” Derraugh said. “We have to take care of business this weekend and put ourselves in the best position we can in the playoffs. If we can take care of this game by game, we can put ourselves in a spot where we’ll move up the playoff ladder.”
Cornell will welcome Ivy League rivals Harvard and Dartmouth, in the Red’s final weekend of regular season action prior to the playoffs. The Crimson, the nations No. 1 team, has yet to lose an ECAC game this season. Vanquishing No. 10 Dartmouth will also be no easy task as the Green is tied for third place in the conference.
“Right now it is the playoffs for us,” Derraugh said. “It’s been the playoffs for the last two or three weeks here because we’re fighting for that last spot. Every game is so important that it feels like we’re already in the playoffs. I think the teams that are having to fight for it helps them going into the playoffs because they go into it having played under that kind of pressure.”
However, it still remains to be seen how a young Cornell team will respond to the mounting pressure.
“We’re a young team, so obviously we don’t have some of the experience that some of the other teams have heading into the playoffs,” Derraugh said. “But, theses players have also played junior hockey, where they’ve been fighting to get into the playoffs as well, so they’ve experienced that kind of pressure. I also think having a young team provides energy and spark for your team.”
This year’s senior class has already accomplished a persal goal, 10 games for the first time in their Cornell careers. Making it to the playoffs would be an even greater feat, Forgues said.
“That would be the ultimate accomplishment for us,” she said. “Since I’ve been here we haven’t made it. I don’t even remember being in a position where we could challenge for a spot. This year, as seniors, we’re already so proud of how far we’ve come and how our team is coming together. This is the first time in seven years that we’ve had double digit wins. Again, the playoffs are something that not just us, but the whole team is aspiring to achieve.”
Though securing a playoff position is a daunting task, recent history is clearly on the side of the Red. It was only last week that an underdog squad from the Empire State shocked the world by conquering a seemingly unbeatable foe from New England. It is now time for coach Derraugh and the team leaders on the Red to ask, “Who Wants it More?”