Taking a page from the NHL’s San Jose Sharks, the Cornell women’s ice hockey team has instituted a platoon at the goalie position. While the Sharks alternate the tandem of Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, the Red (2-18-1, 2-12-0 ECACHL) rotate senior co-captain Beth Baronick and freshman Jenny Niesluchowski.
“I think they both have been playing fairly well,” said Head Coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “I feel comfortable with either one of them in the net, which is why they have been splitting time.”
Baronick has been solid between the pipes for her entire Cornell career. As a freshman, she saw significant minutes, playing in 11 games while recording a 3.59 goals against average, a .893 save percentage and a shutout. As a sophomore, Baronick logged a .890 save percentage and a 4.18 goals against average, including a 48 save performance against Bemidji State. In her junior year, she recorded her best season, accumulating five wins to go along with a 3.13 goals against average and a .907 save percentage.
This season, Baronick started as the clear number-one starter. During the team’s fifth game of the year against Wayne State, however, Baronick suffered a head injury, forcing Niesluchowski into action.
Niesluchowski, a freshman from California whose twin sister Megan also plays for the Red, started her first game on November 4. In that game, she made 36 saves in a 3-2 loss. The Camarillo, Calif. native started the next eight games for Cornell while Baronick recovered from her injury. Niesluchowski’s highlight came in a 4-0 road win at Union College where she stopped 21 shots to earn her first career shutout win.
This is all the more impressive considering Union had 10 power plays during the contest.
“[Niesluchowski] is a young goalie … she is very tall and mobile and has quick reactions,” Derraugh said. “I would like for her to work more on challenging shooters and not get down as much as she does. She is very talented and has a lot of potential.”
Baronick came back from her head injury in early January against Providence. Even though Cornell lost by a score of 3-1, Baronick made 25 saves. She then started the next three games, including an impressive performance against Mercyhurst, the top team in the nation. Even though the Lakers won that game 2-1, Baronick stopped 40 shots to keep the contest tight.
“[Baronick] is a senior and a captain and she played very well for us,” Derraugh said. “She had some concussion problems this year and missed a lot of time. It is always tough to come back but she has done really well and has gotten back into form lately.”
Niesluchowski was back in goal on Jan. 13 against Colgate, saving 40 shots in a 2-1 loss. Baronick and Niesluchowski have alternated starts since that game.
Over the course of this season, the two goalies have nearly identical statistics. Baronick has gone 1-9-1, with a 3.56 goals against average and a .890 save percentage while Niesluchowski has a 1-9-0 record, a 3.48 goals against average and a .892 save percentage.
The goalie rotation is part of an attempt to snap Cornell’s seven-game losing streak. Fortunately for the Red, the team does not feel alternating goalies is a distraction.
“I don’t know how much [the goalie platoon] affects the team, just like coach may change the lines,” said senior captain Caroline Scott. “He is doing anything he can to give us a start, so we trust our coach’s decision.”