It has been a pretty couple of successful season for the Cornell women’s ice hockey program. Since 2010, the Red has made four NCAA Tournament Appearances, won four Ivy League Championships and claimed three ECAC Hockey Tournament titles amongst various other honors. Cornell has, essentially, consolidated its position among the elite programs in the world of women’s ice hockey.
Cornell has been widely recognized, with USA Today recently naming the team sixth best in the nation, above the likes of Harvard and Northeastern, who place ninth and tenth, respectively.
Head coach Dough Derraugh ’91 was apprehensive about the rankings, saying that while he believes the results are correct, they would not necessarily dictate performances in the upcoming season.
“I think the rankings are accurate. Last year it was basically us, Clarkson and Harvard that were neck and neck ‘til the end and we won the ECAC by a single point. You could have ranked any of us at the top,” Derraugh said. “I think the pre-season ranking is based on what the team did the previous year but has no bearing on how the team will do next year. It’s nice to be ranked in the top 10 in the NCAA, but I don’t put a lot of stock in it.”
Over his eight seasons, Derraugh has accumulated a record of almost 150 wins. Cornell is arguably going through a ‘golden period’ in its hockey history, producing Olympic gold medalists such as Rebecca Johnston ’12 and other players who have gone on to represent their country in the likes of senior Brianne Jenner, Laura Fortino ‘12 and Lauriane Rougeau ’12.
Another player who is keeping up Cornell’s trend of producing top quality talent is junior forward Jillian Saulnier, who has also represented her country and was recently named to the preseason all-conference team.
Saulnier, who was crucial to Cornell’s success last year with 10 goals and a career high of 33 assists, was adamant that her personal achievements were secondary to the success of the team, which was the ultimate focus at the moment.
“It [being named in the preseason all-conference team] is flattering and I’m honored to be in the same category as the other players who were named. It’s exciting and flattering but it’s definitely not my focus right now,” Saulnier said.
With many of Cornell’s top talents having graduated in the last few years, some may view Saulnier as the cornerstone of the team.
“The history of the team is representative of the history of the program. The girls who have graduated are always going to be a huge part of the team,” Saulnier said. “The new girls who have come in will have huge shoes to fill but it just means that that we’re going to have to get together and work even harder. But I’m confident in the dynamic of the team.”
Derraugh was in agreement regarding Saulnier’s value to the team and reiterated his confidence in her abilities.
“Jill has been one of the top players in the ECAC in the last two years so I think it’s fitting that she’s ranked amongst the best forwards in the league. She was one of the top players her freshman and sophomore year, and I don’t see why things should change this year,” he said.
As a junior this year, Saulnier already has one eye on the future and it is no surprise that professional teams are keen to snap up one of top young talents in women’s hockey. Saulnier however, is firmly rooted in the present and her remaining time here on the Hill.
“I’m not thinking too much about the future. I spent the summer in L.A., working with the Kings and the summer before with the Pittsburgh Penguins, so we’ll see,” she said.