At this time last year, the women’s hockey team was finishing up the season, and with a 4-23-2 record, thoughts of reaching the playoffs were non-existent.
Fast forward to this year, and it’s a completely different story. The Red, (12-13-1, 9-10-1) led by third-year coach Doug Derraugh ’91, is currently sitting in 7th place in the ECAC, three points ahead of the 8th-place Rennselaer, with just two games remaining in the season.
“We wanted to get to 10 wins, which no Cornell women’s hockey team has been able to do since 2000,” Derraugh said. “That was the original goal. After that, we wanted to try and secure a playoff spot. We got 10 wins a couple of weeks back, and after that we started working to make sure that we got into the playoffs. This past weekend was definitely a big step in that regard, and hopefully we can pick up a point or two, or maybe four this weekend and secure that spot.”[img_assist|nid=28032|title=Derraugh directing|desc=Third-year head coach Doug Derraugh ’91 has led the Red to its first double-digit win season since 2000, putting Cornell in position to make a late-season run for an ECAC playoff birth.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
Last weekend’s road trip saw the Red dismantle Union and Rensselaer by scores of 3-2 and 4-1, respectively. Derraugh credits his growth and development in the team’s defensive game as a key to its success this season.
“Our team defense has gotten better,” Derraugh said. “We are a lot more aware in the defensive zone than at the start of the season. I would say that is the biggest thing that has changed over the course of the season. I think our team’s speed has gotten better as well and that we move the puck a lot better than we used to.”
Derraugh has instituted many changes in the women’s hockey program since he arrived at Cornell. Defense and speed are two areas in which Derraugh has worked with his team over the three years he has been here. He believes that several other significant changes in the women’s hockey program have greatly impacted his team’s improvement, starting with the university itself.
“On the whole, I think we have seen a real commitment from the university with the new renovations and I think that has certainly helped our recruiting process,” Derraugh said. “It has helped us bring in bigger players, and I think that, in general, has been a real commitment from the players that are here, too.”
Derraugh stated that an overall change in the attitude of the program has revealed itself in improved results on the ice.
“I have seen a real change in the work ethic of the players. It seems like they are more committed to the program than they were when I first got here,” Derraugh said.
In his years as a coach at Cornell, Derraugh has tried to instill this type of attitude and commitment in his players. He talks to his players about being completely devoted to developing as individuals and as a team and wo”king hard every day to pursue their goals.
“In general, the biggest thing that we have tried to get through to our players is that the team comes first and that in everything that you do, you have to be thinking about how you are helping your team,” Derraugh explained. “On a daily basis, everyday that you come to the rink, you have to be working for the team, learning to accept the role that you are given, and helping your team get better each and every day. I think that something that we have talked about is not only working hard in games, but working hard off the ice and getting yourself physically ready to be able to play this sport.”
Senior co-captain Caeleigh Beerworth explained that Derraugh’s focus on developing a new attitude for the team and the program as a whole has paid off this year.
“We have definitely focused on changing the culture of the program in general,” Beerworth said. “The desire to win is heavily emphasized. The expectation to win has been there this year, whereas in the past years that expectation to win really wasn’t there. [Derraugh] has really demanded more from us as players and forced us to come together as a team.”
Derraugh noted that this year’s team has bonded in an exceptional way and has created an environment that enables the players to learn, develop and improve. In his three years at Cornell, Derraugh has worked hard to implement his coaching program, and hopes that it will pay off this weekend, when the Red faces off against Dartmouth and Harvard.
“This is a team that really challenges each other to get better,” Derraugh said. “But at the same time, they are very close,” said Derraugh. “It is a close-knit group of players, and I think that has been a big reason why we have had success. They are a team that cares about each other, but at the same time, they are a team that can challenge each other to get better each and every day.”