For the four seniors on the women’s hockey team, the last two home games of their collegiate careers will give them the opportunity to play spoiler to the top-2 teams in the ECACHL. Tonight, Cornell will take on Harvard, and tomorrow it will skate with Dartmouth, both of whom are ranked in the top-10 in the nation.
“Playing Harvard and Dartmouth is always a challenge,” said junior forward Brianne Schmidt. “It is an Ivy rivalry … and it is good to be playing against top-caliber players, and to be able to push yourself.”
[img_assist|nid=21264|title=On the move.|desc=Junior Brittany Forgues cruises across the ice in the team’s 4-3 loss against Quinnipiac on Nov. 18.|link=none|align=left|width=65|height=100]
Tonight, Cornell (3-20-2, 3-14-1 ECACHL) will face Harvard, who is coming off of a 4-3, triple-overtime loss to Boston College in the semifinals of the annual Beanpot tournament. It was the first time that the Crimson (17-5-2, 14-3-1) did not make the Beanpot final since 1996. Despite losing, Harvard still has the second-most points in the ECACHL and is ranked sixth in the nation.
“We feel that we have matched up well with [Harvard] in the past,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “They have some really good Olympic players that have come back and have made a difference for them.”
Harvard is led by senior forward Julie Chu, who is first in the league and second in the nation with 31 assists. She also has 13 goals and a total of 44 points, the latter of which is good for second in the ECACHL. Chu is a member of the United States national team that won a silver medal at the 2002 Olympics and a bronze at the 2006 Olympics.
Cornell will also have to contend with sophomore forward Sarah Vaillancourt. Vaillancourt has netted 20 goals and recorded 16 assists on the year. She also won a gold medal with team Canada at the 2006 Olympics. Classmate Jenny Brine leads the Crimson with 22 goals, the second-leading total in the conference.
“If you can keep [Harvard’s] skill players in check, you can compete with them,” Derraugh said.
In goal, Harvard has had two goalies play significant minutes. Sophomore Brittany Martin has started 15 games, recording a 1.48 goals against average and a .939 save percentage, both second-best in the ECACHL. The only goaltender in the league with better statistics than Martin is her teammate, freshman Christina Kessler. Kessler has started eight games, and boasts a 1.32 goals against average and a .946 save percentage.
Friday’s game will also be a family affair for the Red. Harvard senior forward Katie Johnston is the older sister of Cornell junior Sarah Johnston.
Earlier in the season, Harvard beat Cornell, 5-2, with sophomores Emma Chipman and Steph Ulrich scoring for the Red in the losing effort.
Cornell’s four seniors will play their final home game tomorrow night when they face off against Dartmouth (19-4-2, 16-1-1), who is first in the league and ranked third in the nation. The Green is unbeaten in its last 12 league games and has won five straight overall. The team is lead by senior forward Gillian Apps, who paces the team and the league with 25 goals. At the 2006 Olympics, Apps played with Harvard’s Vaillancourt on Team Canada. She is also the granddaughter of Syl Apps, who played for the Toronto Maple Leafs during the 1940s and is a member of the NHL Hall of Fame.
Dartmouth also boasts freshman Sarah Parsons, the reigning ECACHL Rookie of the Week. Parsons has recorded a team-high 28 assists and 39 points, both of which lead all ECACHL rookies. She played alongside the Crimson’s Chu for the United States at the 2006 Olympics.“Darmouth has a lot of Olympic players on their team back,” Derraugh said. “They are a skilled team, and you have to take care of your own end. You must take advantage of the chances that you get when they come your way.”
Between the pipes, Dartmouth relies on sophomore Carli Clemis. Clemis has a 1.52 goals against average and a .927 save percentage on the year, both marks good for fourth in the league.
This weekend, Cornell will try to avenge Dartmouth’s 7-1 victory over the Red earlier in the season.