Defensively, the Red will be guarding the blue line against some tough competition versus ECAC favorites, Dartmouth and Harvard later in the season. Unlike other sports with a starting lineup, the Red will be playing with a five-woman rotation. “I’m not really up on a starting ‘D,’ I don’t think that’s too important, I think they all contribute a different part of a good thing to the defensive core,” commented Mullins.
Having already shown themselves to be fighters, the defense played well against Niagara two weeks ago, earning Mullins’s praise. “Defensively, I’m pleased where they are right now with regard to how they are playing together.”
The defense has a simple strategy that Mullins explained. The blue liners must remember not to “leave their partner. Don’t leave your partner, you don’t desert her. When you are on the ice, whether you have the puck or not, you always play with your partner and you just never leave her. They are starting to get that.
“There are a lot of good things happening within those five ‘D.'”
With that in mind, the Red will be focusing on tough individual defense. Being aggressive will be a key factor in this system. “If there is any chance of us getting the puck or slowing them down, we’re on them. Individual defense is based on the premise that I have a role, I need to play my role and I don’t need to worry about what someone else is doing. As long as I concentrate on my role and my duty and what I’m supposed to do, who I’m supposed to cover and where I’m supposed to cover then [we are fine].”
The team has been stressing this type of play all throughout the preseason, and will continue to play by that strategy. In order to do so effectively, communication will prove to be the key factor.
Eliminating the time in the penalty box will also be another key aspect that the Cornell will be working on. Racking up 14 penalties in the first weekend of play, the Red was forced to play a man-down for a good portion of both games. During one of those penalties, Niagara University was able to score the game-deciding goal.
The Red is preparing for those instances when it find itself a man-down to eliminate the Niagara scenario.
“As far as penalty kill, that’s something we know we are going to have to work on because we are going to be in the box,” Mullins said. “But by no means do we want to go out there and have people perceive us as a tough and tumble team. A lot of these penalties, [against Niagara] were holding and tripping and interference, which means we weren’t skating. I mean, those aren’t mistake penalties, those were just [lazy] penalties and we have to eliminate those.”
When the Red gets a man down, it will work on protecting the middle, and trying to force the opposition into a perimeter passing game. Doing this will allow the goalie to see a shot coming off and will allow the team to better protect against offensive advances.
Leading the back against these offensive powerhouses will be senior standout, co-captain Patricia Kemp. Kemp, who is currently playing with the Under-22 Canadian National team in Switzerland, will be back sometime in the near future.
A strong player and leader, Kemp “has a great shot, [and] has a really good attitude on and off the ice” praised Mullins.
Joining Kemp in the back will be junior Dianna Bell. She is a consistent player who plays within her limits. “She doesn’t try to be too extravagant, she just keeps it simple,” Mullins stated.
The third member of this defensive unit is fellow junior Lillian Shaller. Also a consistent player, she “has come a long way since coming here a few years ago,” acknowledged Mullins.
Another junior is Eva Nahorniak, considered a crowd favorite. “She is a good thinker,” praised Mullins. “It’s good to have her, and you know she’s going to do what you ask her to do.”
Rounding out the defensive five is the youngest member of the group, sophomore Brooke Bestwick. Bestwick is a consistent player who “is pretty much a true defenseman.” However, look for Bestwick to produce offense at times. She has already recorded two assists in four games.
Archived article by Kristen Haunss