It’s deja vu for the Cornell women’s hockey team. After coming up short in the ECAC Championship game, the Red will travel back to Potsdam on Saturday to take on ECAC champions Clarkson in the first round of the 2017 NCAA Women’s Ice Hockey Championship.
The Golden Knights’ (29-4-5, 19-1-2 ECAC) victory not only secured the program’s first conference championship, but also granted the team one of four automatic bids to the tournament as the No. 2 seed.
At the same time, the Red (20-8-5, 13-4-5 ECAC) was left uncertain about whether or not its season has come to a dramatic end.
After the game, the team went back to Lynah and stayed to watch the 9 p.m. selection show together, anxiously waiting to see if the team received one of the four remaining at-large bids. Disappointment and anxiousness would be short-lived that night, as Cornell found out that it has been selected to play in the ECAC championship rematch.
“Once we found out that we made the tournament, we were all instantly just hugging each other and [were] just purely excited about being given this incredible opportunity,” said sophomore forward Pippy Gerace.
However, the emotional roller coaster is not over for Cornell. This time around, Cornell will be without the team’s leading scorer, freshman Kristin O’Neill. The ECAC issued the suspension Tuesday night.
“The League action was taken after review of an incident that occurred at the 18:40 mark of the third period in the Big Red-Golden Knight contest where Ms. O’Neill was assessed a penalty for cross checking,” the league said in a statement.
The team did not offer comments about O’Neill’s suspension.
O’Neill has scored 14 goals this season and tacked on 12 assists. She has the second-highest point total on the team, following only senior forward Hanna Bunton.
The upcoming game will be the fourth time that Cornell and Clarkson will face off this season.
Despite being an offensive leader for the team, O’Neill has not scored a goal against the Golden Knights in any of the previous matches and has only accounted for one assist, which came during a 5-4 losing effort at Lynah last month.
The teams split their regular season games, with each team winning on its opponent’s ice. All games have been decided by one goal. Cornell expects this weekend to be no different.
“It is a quick turnaround — obviously both teams know each other very well so there will not be too many surprises,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ‘91. “We need to find ways to score against a very stingy, tough Clarkson defense.”
This year’s tournament will be Cornell’s sixth all-time appearance. The Red played in five straight tournaments from 2010-14, but has never come away with a championship. The closest the Red has come to winning is when the team lost in triple overtime to Minnesota-Duluth in the 2010 championship game. Nevertheless, the team understands that it has to take this tournament one game at a time.
“Both [Cornell and Clarkson] play a strong defensive game and I think that plays a role in the close games,” Bunton said. “We know it’s going to be a close game but we knew all games in the playoffs would be close so we just need to stick to our game in order to have success.”
Puck drop will be at 3 p.m. in Potsdam. Tickets for the game can be purchased by calling the Clarkson box office.