Opening the season at Lynah this past weekend, the Cornell women’s hockey team started its season off strong with a series sweep against Mercyhurst — the Red’s first sweep of the Lakers in program history.
The Red won Friday’s season opener 3-1 — scoring all three goals after falling behind — in a game that demonstrated the strength of the team’s freshmen. The tying and winning goals came off the sticks of freshmen forward Valerie Audet and defenseman Jaime Bourbonnais, respectively.
Eight minutes in, Mercyhurst earned a power play and was able to score on the man-advantage, grabbing the early lead. Less than two minutes later, Audet was able to level the game.
“The play started by a great individual play by [sophomore forward] Lenka Serdar who blocked a shot from the point,” Audet said. “The puck ended up bouncing out into the neutral zone behind the two opposing team’s defensemen. I managed to be the first one on the puck, leading me to a breakaway [and] was able to score by dekeing the goalie.”
The game was tied 1-1 at the halfway point, until Audet’s classmate, Bourbonnais, put the Red ahead.
“[Sophomore forward] Pippy Gerace was carrying the puck through the slot so I decided to sneak in behind her and she gave me an awesome drop pass,” Bourbonnais said. “The goalie was kind of screened so I just shot it on net and luckily it found its way through.”
Bourbonnais said the best part of her first career goal was the energy that it brought to the team.
“To see everybody on the bench cheering and realizing how pumped up everyone was after we scored was such an indescribable feeling,” she said. “I love my team and love how much energy we bring to one another.”
While Bourbonnais’ goal ended up being the game-winner, junior Erin O’Connor added her own about halfway through the third period, sealing the game at 3-1.
Like Friday, Saturday’s game also came with a strong showing by freshmen. This time Kristin O’Neill notched her first and second career goals, to lead the Red to a 2-1 victory.
O’Neill’s first goal came after an assist by classmate Bourbonnais in the first period — the first assist of her career — and O’Neil’s scored a second goal in the third period, off an assist by senior Brianna Veerman.
Head Coach Doug Derraugh said he was impressed with the freshmen’s performances this weekend, saying he will grow more confident in them as the season continues.
“When [the freshmen] arrived, they came in very good shape and were ready to compete for positions right away, which carried over into the first two games,” Derraugh said. “They’ve done a great job for us in the first two games, and we’re going to need them tremendously as the season continues. We have seven freshmen, which is almost half of the team, so I’m very happy to see what they did.”
Despite the strong start, Derraugh pointed out that the team still has areas to work on as the season progresses. Most notably, discipline and persistent play stick out to the coach as elements to focus on.
“I liked the energy, the balance, and the strong play at all positions, but I didn’t like the discipline,” Derraugh said. “We were taking too many penalties, which is going to be troublesome if it continues. We need to work on consistency.”
Nevertheless, this weekend’s performance is a confidence booster for the team moving forward to ECAC play next weekend.
“It’s really important with a young team to get off to a strong start,” Derraugh said. “It’s not important to necessarily win both games, but rather to show that you’ve done a good job in your preparation, that you can compete at this level, and that we can rely on young players at this level. The team showed that this weekend, and it’s important for the rest of the year.”