Following last week’s games against No. 3 Boston University (5-1) and St. Lawrence University (0-5), the Cornell women’s ice hockey team is set to face Brown and Yale in back-to-back Ivy League openers at Lynah Rink at 3p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
Although the Red (2-1), ranked No. 2 in the country, is a heavy favorite against the yet-untested Brown (0-0) and Yale (0-2), which holds a five-game losing streak against Cornell, senior defenseman Laura Fortino is taking her final season one game at a time.
“We kind of don’t worry about what happened in the past,” Fortino said. “I think if you reflect on that and harp on that, bad things happen … It’s a new game, it’s a new year … We’re expecting a good game and that’s how we’re going into it. We know that we’ve got to play our best every night. We’ve got to be consistent — whomever we’re playing. So yeah, maybe we’ve been successful in the past, but it’s a new year, a new team, so we’re just hoping to stick to our gameplan and go from there.”
“There’s only ten games in Ivy League so we can’t afford to look past any opponent,” agreed junior forward Brianne Jenner. “[I]f we get complacent and have a loss to our name it could mean the Ivy League championship so I think we definitely take these games extremely seriously. We’ve been in close games with some of the teams that have been near the bottom just because it’s such a close league. You can never take a night off or you’ll pay for it.”
A focused, young and feisty Red team, which features eight incoming freshmen, is also looking to play physical this season.
“As a team we harp on being physical and giving the other team no space — especially in our D team we are body-on-body and stick-on-stick,” Fortino, a stalwart on the defense, commented. “Coach [Doug Derraugh] has emphasized being physical but being smart about it. So taking the body but using it as a way to separate [opponents] from the puck but not going overboard [by] smashing them through the boards. We play physical. We want to be a strong, tough, physical team this year — that’s our motto: toughness. We want to show that and display that on the ice, but in a smart way.”
Playing into Cornell’s advantage against Brown, which has yet to play a game this season, is the fact that the Red has been able to get off to quick starts, outscoring their opponents by a cumulative 3-0 advantage in the first period. “[O]ne key thing we’re looking at as a team this year is [to] set the tempo of the game and tilt the ice to the way we want to play and take it to the other teams,” Fortino said. “[T]hat’s the main key to success for us this year.”
Jenner agreed with the focus on starting fast, but still feels the Red can do an even better job executing early.
“I think we’ve had some success in the first period but as a team we’re actually not too happy with our starts, just with our energy and our consistency,” she said. “We’re trying to focus on that. We’ve been able to pull ahead and get some leads in the first period but we have pretty high standards for ourselves and we want to come out even stronger and play a full sixty-minute game, so we’ll look to do that this weekend.”
Both teammates agree that the Red will look to play its own game this weekend and not worry too much about the playing styles of its Ivy League rivals. Despite a sense of confidence, however, the Red has been working on a few new in-game adjustments.
“We’ve created some new offensive and defensive zone faceoffs,[that can be used] throughout the game to throw off the other team,” she said. “We usually stick to our regular system but depending on the game we might have to change it around.”
Undoubtedly, the Red is excited for Ivy League competition and continuing play at Lynah.
“We’re coming off a strong weekend against BU — I think that prepped us pretty well,” Fontino said. “I think going into it we know there’s very few games and every game counts if you want to finish number one in the Ivy League so going into it we know that’s on the line . . . As a team we’re growing every day and learning from our teammates and our system . . . we’re getting better every day and going into these games we’re going to take it one game at a time, one period at a time, and progress from there. But I think we’ve been prepared pretty well all week so we’re pretty confident going into the weekend.”