An opponent that has not lost a game since October is pretty intimidating. So is a mascot with sharp teeth and claws.
With three weekends left in the regular season and the ECAC playoff picture very much up in the air, Cornell women’s hockey plays host to the Bobcats and the Tigers. The Red (9-10-4, 5-7-4 ECAC) takes on No. 4 Quinnipiac (22-1-4, 12-1-3) Friday at 7 p.m. and No. 9 Princeton (17-5-1, 10-5-1) Saturday afternoon at 4 p.m.
Friday’s game against Quinnipiac is Cornell women’s hockey team’s annual Do It For Daron Game to raise awareness for youth mental health. Fans are encouraged to “purple the rink” on Friday night to show their support.
Quinnipiac has lost only once all year, on Oct. 31 at Yale. The Bobcats are in first place in the ECAC, two and a half games ahead of second place Clarkson. Quinnipiac’s starting goalie, junior Sydney Rossman, is third in the country with a .949 save percentage.
The Bobcats rank second in defense in terms of goals allowed and eighth in offense in terms of goals scored. Cornell head coach Doug Derraugh ’91 said the Red’s opponent is good “from top to bottom.”
“[To be that good] you’ve got to have good goaltending, experienced defensemen [and] good forwards,” Derraugh said.
“When we’ve played them in the past … they’re strong defensively, they play a very aggressive forecheck,” Woods said.
The last time the Red played Quinnipiac in November, the women fell to the Bobcats, 3-1. In preparing for a rematch, Poudrier said the Red is concentrating on its own performance.
“[We’re] focusing on our own personal game,” she said. “We’ll just be focusing on our system.”
Derraugh is well aware that there is very little margin for error against a team like Quinnipiac.
“You have to play a very smart hockey game to give yourself a chance,” Derraugh said.
After facing the Bobcats, the Red welcomes Ivy League rival Princeton on Saturday. The Tigers recently had a 12-game streak, broken up last weekend by Harvard and are a greatly improved team from a year ago. The Red has a 3-1-1 record halfway through their Ivy League schedule, while the Tigers are 7-2-0 and in first place. While Ivy League position has no playoff implications, placing strongly among the six Ancient Eight affiliates with Division 1 hockey programs is a matter of pride.
“The Ivy League title is on the line,” Poudrier said.
From facing Princeton earlier this season, Woods said she has some idea of the team Cornell will be up against.
“Their goaltending is very strong,” Woods said. “We need to get in their face right away. They’re smaller than other teams.”
Princeton, like Quinnipiac, is among the league leaders in goalie save percentage and goals scored and goals allowed per game.
“You’ve got to find ways to beat their defense and goaltender,” Derraugh said. “You’re not going to get easy goals.”
Ninth in the ECAC standings, Cornell is tasked with two very tough opponents this weekend. Facing teams like Quinnipiac and Princeton is a good litmus test for the quality of opponent the Red will potentially face in the postseason.
“We’re fighting for a spot in the postseason,” Poudrier said. “All we can do is battle, battle, battle, battle.”