November 28, 2006

Freshmen Step Up for W. Hockey

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ESPN personality Dick Vitale likes to use the term “diaper dandies” to refer to quality freshmen. The women’s hockey team (1-10-1, 1-7-0 ECACHL) is full of such players, with eight freshmen this season. Even though the team’s season is less than half over, many of these new players have already made key contributions to the Red. With only four seniors on the team, the freshman class looks to be an important component in the team’s future plans.

“The freshman class is a third of our team,” said senior tri-captain Caroline Scott. “Their assignment is to step up right away and they have with goaltending, defensemen, and power forwards. They have stepped right up to the power play, theyhave a lot of foot speed and they bring freshness in this transition year for our program.”
[img_assist|nid=20268|title=Freshman rush|desc=With four seniors on the roster, the women’s hockey team has benefitted from the quick progress of its freshman class. (G. Scott Russ / Sun Staff)|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=60]
Perhaps the biggest freshman contributor so far has been in goal, where Jenny Niesluchowski has started six out of Cornell’s last seven games. She began the season as a backup, but was thrust into action when senior starter Beth Baronick went down with a head injury in early November against Wayne State. After starting the next six games, Baronick returned on Saturday against Clarkson, but re-injured herself, forcing Niesluchowski back into the net.

Even though Niesluchowski is winless in her six starts, she holds the distinction of being the only freshman goalie in the ECACHL who has played at least a third of her team’s minutes this season. Her 3.40 goals against average ranks 13th in the conference and her .894 save percentage ranks 11th.

“[Niesluchowski] has played really well,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “For a freshman she is showing a lot of poise, and she has played very well in the games that we have had her in, so I am very pleased with her.”

Niesluchowski is not the only freshman who has made an immediate impact this season. On offense, forward Rebecca Flewelling is tied for second on the team with six points, which also ranks her 16th in the ECACHL in scoring by freshmen. She has two goals so far this year; both came in a win against Brown on Oct. 27 — the team’s only victory of the season. Her four assists also tie her for most on the team. Flewelling has stayed busy this year as she also plays midfield and forward on the Cornell women’s soccer team.

Also on the offensive side of the ice, freshman Laura Danforth has been integral to Cornell’s attack. She has tallied four assists so far, which tie her with Flewelling for the team lead.

“Laura Danforth has a lot of speed [on offense],” Derraugh said. “She is really good at carrying the puck and she is really quick.”

Forward Liz Zorn has also logged significant minutes so far. Even though she has not recorded a point yet, she has played in 11 out of 12 games.

“[Zorn] is a power forward, really gritty and really strong in the corners,” Derraugh said. “She helps out on the penalty kill, can do a little bit of everything for us.”

On defense, Kelly McGinty has played in every contest so far. McGinty is a versatile addition to Cornell, able to play both defense and forward. In Saturday’s game against Clarkson, McGinty recorded her first career point when she assisted on a goal by sophomore forward Emma Chipman.

A few other freshmen have not played significant minutes so far, but give Cornell a good base for the future. Forward Megan Niesluchowski, who is the twin sister of Jenny Niesluchowski, and forward Gabby Mazade have played in two games apiece this season. Melanie Jue, who plays both forward and defense, has not played so far this season after suffering a torn ACL during the summer.