November 28, 2007

Johnston Excels in International and NCAA W. Hockey

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Imagine having a gold medal in international competition around your neck as you sat down to complete your college applications. Most Cornellians suffered through their senior year in high school attempting to twist their class presidency, editorship of the yearbook or starring role on the soccer team into a memorable and riveting 500 word composition that would catch the jaded eye of admission officers across the Ancient Eight.
As most Cornell students spent the early weeks of November making travel plans to return home for a relaxing Thanksgiving break after cramming for the second round of fall semester prelims, Cornell freshman forward Rebecca Johnston was busy capturing her second consecutive gold medal for Team Canada in the annual 4 Nations Cup held November 7-11 in Leksand, Sweden.
“It went pretty well. I thought I played pretty well. I played on one of the top lines. I got a couple points. It was a really, really great experience playing with such high level athletes. It was just a lot of fun, especially winning the gold medal. It was really great competition. [As an alternate the previous year,] I never really felt or did anything like that before. I was just really happy.”
Johnston’s team was a flawless 3-0 in the four team playoff system, which included the United States, Finland, and Sweden. Canada surged past the United States, 2-0, on Sunday Nov. 11th to capture its fifth championship in six years.
Placing first is becoming a common practice for Johnston as she currently leads all first-year NCAA Division I skaters in the nation by averaging 1.75 points per game. Johnston also paces the Red in scoring with seven goals and seven assists after 10 regular season games in which Cornell is 5-4-1 overall and 2-1-1 against ECAC Hockey opponents. Clearly, Johnston’s superb performances on the ice have not been restricted to international play as she has also garnered ECAC Rookie of the Week honors for the second time this season in the week preceding Thanksgiving.
“I think I have been playing pretty well,” Johnston said. “It took a while to adapt to the NCAA, but I feel like I have adapted well.”
Cornell assistant coach Kim Insalaco offers that the combination of Johnston’s unique abilities coupled with her humility on the ice have contributed to her earning a leadership position as a freshman on the squad this season.
“She’s a very skilled player for us,” Insalaco said. “She produces a lot of offense. And she’s an all around good player for us. She’s very humble. It’s almost like she doesn’t realize how good she is. I think that’s a good thing because it makes her a really good teammate. Even though she’s a freshman, I think girls look up to her for her abilities.”
Johnston comes from superb hockey bloodlines as her elder sister Sarah Johnston laced up her skates three seasons for the Red. Unfortunately, the sisters were unable to unite on the ice together as Sarah choose to forgo her senior season with the Red in favor of a study abroad program in Denmark. In addition, Johnston’s freshman brother, Jacob, is also a member of the men’s ice hockey squad.
“I think it’s really important in my family,” said Johnston. “My dad played it and my whole family plays it. We’re just born into playing it. I started playing when I was four. I have been playing pretty much my entire life.”
With the encouragement of a family committed to a life on the frozen pond and the continued support of her teammates, it is not out of the question to anticipate seeing Johnston on the gold medal platform with Team Canada in the 2010 winter Olympics at Vancouver. Will Johnston follow in the footsteps of former Cornell hockey legends Joe Nieuwendyk and Dana Andall, who captured gold for Canada in 2002? Perhaps it is more than an omen, but the head coach of the 2006 winter Olympics women’s ice hockey team was none other than Melody Davidson, former Cornell head coach 2002-2005. Davidson’s influence surely will be felt.