Coming off a thrilling quarterfinal victory over Boston University, the Red hoped to produce another clutch victory in its Frozen Four semifinal matchup. However, the No. 2-ranked Minnesota Gophers, who later won the national championship, were too much for the Red to overcome. Cornell (30-5-0, 20-2-0 ECAC) lost 3-1, falling short of the championship game and thus ending its impressive 2011-2012 season.
The game did not start well for the Red, who was outshot by the Gophers, 21-5, in the first period. By the end of the frame, Cornell had fallen to a 2-0 deficit — with each goal coming on a Minnesota power play. According to head coach Doug Derraugh ’91, Minnesota’s strong attack to start the game led to the Red committing penalties and giving up goals.
“We started a bit on our heels, and give Minnesota credit — they came out and put us on our heals,” he said. “We had to move around in our own end, and that leads to penalties.”
The two goals were different. The first was off an impressive individual effort from a Minnesota forward around the net, while the second came off a shot from the blue line. According to Derraugh, each goal could have been defended better, possibly preventing those points.
“On the first one, it was a great individual play, but we had two players that left their feet,” he said. “One went down to block a shot and the other went down to block a shot. Once you leave your feet like that it’s hard to get back to make a play. On the second one, we were late getting in the shot lane up top, we didn’t get there in time, and it ended up as a shot through a screen which is difficult for goaltenders.”
According to Derraugh, the main problem with the team’s defense was a lack of aggression.
“I think we were too passive early on in the game,” he said. “We were positionally okay, but we just weren’t aggressive enough. We needed to be much more aggressive on loose pucks, much more aggressive on the body. We were just retreating rather than being the aggressor.”
Playing more aggressively led the Red to a more successful second period, in which it outshot the Gophers and cut the lead to 2-1. That goal was scored on the power play slapshot by sophomore defenseman Alyssa Gagliardi.
“We created a lot more turnovers,” Derraugh said. “We were much more aggressive — on the defensive zone and on the forecheck — and we created more turnovers. By doing so, we created a lot more scoring opportunities.”
However, Cornell was unable to keep up its strong play in the third period. The Red was only able to muster three shots, and two late penalties made the Red’s comeback mission all the more difficult. According to Derraugh, trying to be too perfect contributed to the third-period troubles.
“I thought we were trying to use too much finesse, trying to get the perfect shot, rather than just getting pucks to the net,” he said. “Then we took two penalties late in the game and that slowed our momentum aswell.”
The Gophers scored an empty-net goal to seal the win, leaving the Red with a feeling of disappointment over the loss. However, according to junior defenseman Laura Fortino, this season was still a successful one and the team is proud of what it accomplished this year.
“After the season you look back at all of the things that got us to the Frozen Four, and as a whole we’re very proud of our team and what we accomplished,” she said.
This was also the final game for the senior class — the senior class with the most wins in team history. According to Derraugh, this was a unique senior class, one that was instrumental in bringing the Cornell women’s hockey program to the elite level of performance where it is today.
“This senior class has completely changed the state of our program. If you look at the on-ice success of the program over the last three years, but also things you don’t see outwardly, [such as] the renewed commitment, renewed ethic, renewed new culture that we developed, they were the main reason we were able to do so. They changed Cornell women’s ice hockey from inside out,” he said.
According to Fortino, Cornell has a strong program that will hopefully continue to improve in striving to win a national championship.
“We set out goals that we want to accomplish as a team, and it is disappointing when you don’t fulfill them,” she said. “So we just have to reflect on that and keep building, and getting better — and hopefully next year we can achieve those goals.”