The No. 3 Cornell women’s hockey team (21-3-0, 16-2-0 ECAC), which recently clinched its third consecutive Ivy League title, will face a tough test when it hosts No. 5 Mercyhurst. This will be the third contest between the Red and the Lakers (19-5-2, 5-1-2 College Hockey America) this season. The teams split their previous meetings, so this game will determine the winner of the season series. More importantly for the Red, this contest could have ramifications for its seeding if the squad reaches the national playoff tournament.
Head coach Doug Derraugh said he recognizes that Mercyhurst is a tough opponent, noting that the Red will have to play its best to earn a victory.
“Mercyhurst is a dangerous team, from their goaltenders down to their forwards, so making sure that we’re focused and ready to play from the start will be important,” he said. “Which team is ready to win the one-on-one battles will determine who comes out on top.”
In both of the matchups between the two squads this season, the team that scored first ultimately lost. On Dec. 2, the Red came back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the Lakers, 5-4. The following night, the Lakers recovered to beat the Red, 5-2. Cornell hopes to do a better job of protecting its leads this time around, according to Derraugh.
“When you get the lead you want to make sure that you keep it and that you play the same way,” he said. “That’s the important part of it. Remembering how you got the lead and continuing to be aggressive and not take a step backward.”
In its two victories this past weekend, Cornell controlled the puck without playing much defense on its own end of the ice. According to Derraugh, that will not be the case against Mercyhurst, as the Red will likely be forced to play defense in its own zone. He stressed it will be crucial for the women to play well in those situations.
“The team that plays the strongest defensively will probably win, so being alert and aware defensively will be key,” he said.
Senior goaltender Amanda Mazzotta emphasized a win is crucial to keep the team’s momentum going into the playoffs.
“The series is split, so this one is for all the marbles,” she said. “Things are getting down to the wire, so wanting to play well [going into the playoffs] is a huge factor.”
Another point of focus for the Red will be staying out of the penalty box, as Mercyhurst has the No. 1 power play in the country. The Red will need to be disciplined, while still playing a physical game, in order to be successful.
“We need to stay out of the penalty box because it’s dangerous when they get the man advantage,” Derraugh said. “It’s important to play disciplined, not get lazy, keep moving your feet and stay out of the penalty box. You want to play physical but not go over the line.”
Original Author: Ben Horowitz