Coming into the ECAC playoff tournament on home ice in Lynah Rink, the No. 3 Cornell women’s hockey team hoped to add an ECAC playoff championship to its impressive regular season accomplishments. However, instead, the Red fell short and suffered its biggest disappointment this season so far. Cornell started the tournament well with a convincing victory over Quinnipiac (19-16-2, 12-8-2 ECAC Hockey), 5-1, on Friday afternoon, but fell short to No. 10 St. Lawrence (24-9-4, 14-6-2 ECAC), 3-1, in a hard-fought contest on Saturday night. Despite falling short of the ECAC championship, the Red’s formidable overall record earned it a No. 3 seed in the national NCAA tournament. It will host Boston University in the national quarterfinals.
Cornell came out strong on Friday against the Bobcats, out-shooting Quinnipiac in the first period and ultimately taking a one goal lead. That goal came on a power play, when senior forward and captain Rebecca Johnston deflected a shot from the point by sophomore defenseman Allyssa Gagliardi past the Bobcats’ goaltender and into the net.
The Bobcats came back to tie the game late in the second period, but the Red responded with two goals just 63 seconds apart to end the period with a 3-1 lead. According to head coach Doug Derraugh, the two quick goals shifted the momentum to the Red and were a turning point in the game.
“It was a huge momentum swing for us,” he said. “The first goal was big but the next one, to go up 3-1, put the momentum in our favor.”
The Red did not sit back in the third period, instead scoring two more goals, according to Derraugh.
“You can’t sit back in the playoffs,” he said. “You’ve got to continue to be aggressive, and the tendency to sit back and protect the lead can really get you into trouble, and I thought we did a good job of continuing to play our style of game and being aggressive.”
One group of players who stood out was the top offensive line of Johnston, sophomore Brianne Jenner and freshman Jillian Saulnier. That line combined for four goals, two by Johnston and 11 points overall in the game.
“I think recently we have been able to play together a lot and that has helped us develop some chemistry,” Jenner said. “The other two lines were contributing too, but it just so happens that our plays were going in. Sometimes you have those nights when you just know where your linemates are before they even get there.”
The Red also came out energized against St. Lawrence, out-shooting the Saints, 17-5, in the first period. However, this time the Red was unable to take the early lead and the Saints scored to grab the the 1-0 advantage. According to Derraugh, there were no particular problems with Cornell’s play that caused scoring trouble.
“I thought we did a good job of getting people around the net and putting lots of pucks on net, we just couldn’t find the back of the net.” he said. “You have to give St. Lawrence credit too. They did a good job around the net and their goaltender did a good job.”
“Sometimes it’s just not you’re night, and we just couldn’t score,” Jenner said.
Cornell finally gained ground midway through the third period, tying the game on a goal by senior forward and captain Chelsea Karpenko; however, St. Lawrence scored the winning goal with under two minutes left in play. According to Derraugh, the game winning goal and the first goal both resulted from the Red turning the puck over near its own blue line and failing to get the puck out of its own zone.
“Both goals were turnovers at our blue line,” he said. “We’ve been talking about the importance of getting pucks in at their blue line and getting pucks out of ours, but we failed to do it and it cost us.”
According to Jenner, despite failing to win and reach a goal that the Red had in sight throughout the season, the team knows that it tried its best and will not hang its head over the loss.
“It was a really tough loss,” Jenner said. “But I can say for all of my teammates that we put in a really strong effort and did what we needed to do to give ourselves a chance to win, the puck just wasn’t going in. It’s nothing to hang our heads about.”
According to Jenner, the Red remains confident and excited going into the upcoming NCAA tournament.
“We’re just excited that we’ll get another chance to show what kind of team that we can be,” she said. “We have a chance to vie for the national championship, and that’s what we’re most excited about.”