February 8, 2006

W. Hockey Fights For Playoff Spot

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In sports, it sometimes happens that one team just has another team’s number. The Red Sox experienced 86 years of futility against the Yankees; the Knicks never did beat Michael Jordan’s Bulls; and the Mets have thus far been unsuccessful in their attempt to knock the Braves from their 14-year perch atop the NL East. That list seems to have expanded, at least in the collegiate ranks.

Last weekend, for the second year in a row the Red women’s hockey team swept two games in a row from Union, this time on the Dutchwomen’s home ice.

The back-to-back wins, which came by a combined score of 10-3, served not only as a confidence booster for an up-and-coming squad, but also put the 10 other ECACHL teams on notice that they shouldn’t count out the Red just yet.

With just four games remaining on its ECACHL schedule, the Red needs to catch fire immediately. Cornell has eight points on the year, with a record of 8-14-0, 4-12-0 ECACHL. That puts the team near the bottom of the league, but only six points behind fifth-place Harvard and in position to make a playoff run if it finishes the season strong. However, that will be a difficult task. Of the Red’s four remaining league contests, one is against first-place St. Lawrence and another is against third-place Clarkson, whom Red head coach Dough Derraugh compared to the 1995 New Jersey Devils because of their ability to “control the pace of the game.”

St. Lawrence is lead by star sophomore Sabrina Harbec. Harbec – who was recently earned ECACHL Player of the Week honors – had one goal and five assists last weekend in efforts against Princeton and Quinnipiac. She assisted on the first two Saints goals versus Princeton, including Marianna Locke’s game-winner. Then, against the Bobcats, she had a four-point night with one goal and three assists, including another assist on a game-winner.

“Any line that goes out against her needs to be aware of where she is at all times,” Derraugh said. “She’s very difficult to handle in the neutral zone because she’s so fast. To have a chance at stopping her, the forwards have to slow her down so she doesn’t beat defensemen with her speed.”

After the weekend series, Harbec now leads the nation in both points and assists, with 48 points on 18 goals and 30 assists.

Thanks in part to her offensive eruptions last weekend, Harbec and the Saints broke a three-way tie for first place with Brown and Clarkson to claim first place in the conference with 22 points.

Clarkson’s team is spearheaded by junior Ashley Shaidle, who leads her squad with 25 points on 16 goals and nine assists. Shaidle scored twice in the Golden Knights’ 3-0 blanking of Quinnipiac, a victory that would become a bookend of the squad’s five-game winning streak.

“Clarkson is a very disciplined team, that doesn’t give up very many chances or very many goals,” Derraugh said. “It’s difficult to come back if you get behind, so you have to play disciplined yourself and take advantage of the opportunities that you do get.”

Part of the reason that it is so difficult to come from behind against the Golden Knights is thier superb goaltending.

Junior goalie Kira Hurley is third in the nation with a 1.11 goals-against average and has a save percentage of .939 to go along with her 18 wins. Hurley has also accumulated the most shutouts of any goalie in the country with nine.

As the Red approaches the homestretch of the season, Derraugh remains mindful of the giant step forward that was the 2005-2006 season, but still has the drive to keep the winning going.

“I think its been a step forward, but looking back on the season there’s a lot of games that maybe we had an opportunity to win and didn’t,” he said. “And now we are obviously paying the price because it’s gonna be a tough battle to make it to the playoffs.”

Archived article by Jacob Lieberman
Sun Staff Writer