February 18, 2008

W. Hockey Defeats In-State Rivals Union, RPI

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Cornell snapped a three-game losing streak and climbed the ECAC standings this weekend with a 3-2 win at Union Friday night, followed by a 4-1 victory at Rensselaer Saturday afternoon. The Red’s two conference victories, coupled with Yale’s winless 0-2 weekend, allowed Cornell to leapfrog the Bulldogs in the standings and secure the No. 7 spot in the ECAC heading into the last weekend of the regular season.
The Red (12-13-1, 9-10-1 ECAC Hockey) captured an early 1-0 advantage against last-place Union (3-25-2, 0-18-2) at 7:47 of the first period. Senior Brianne Schmidt netted the rebound after freshman defenseman Amber Moore’s shot from the blueline bounced off of Dutchwomen junior goaltender Lundy Day.
Cornell increased its lead to 2-0 at 2:43 in the second period when freshman forward Rebecca Johnston split two Union defenders and launched the unassisted goal past Day on her glove side.
“I just got the puck and I saw that I had open room in the neutral zone,” Johnston said. “There were two defenders back, but I just kind of cut in front of the net and put it in.”
Freshman forward Marissa Gentile brought the Dutchwomen back within one 15:10 into the second period, taking advantage of a five-on-three opportunity after multiple Cornell penalties.
Minutes before the second intermission, Johnston notched her team-leading 14th goal of the season for the Red, giving it a 3-1 advantage.
At 15:09 of the third period, Union cut the deficit to one again when sophomore forward Breanna Malnar scored an unassisted goal. Cornell sophomore netminder Jenny Niesluchowski made the initial save, but fell backwards into the net, making it a 3-2 contest.
“They were on a breakaway and one of our defenseman was chasing them down,” Niesluchowski said. “I think it had too much momentum going in. I tried to throw the puck out but I couldn’t do it. I guess the goal judge decided it was a goal.”
Despite the controversial final goal, Cornell came away with the 3-2 victory. The Red doubled the Dutchwomen’s shots, 42-17. Day defended 39 shots while Niesluchowski deflected 15.
“I would say it was as close as the score indicated,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “Union is a team that gives up a lot of shots against everybody, but they do a good job defensively of not giving up second shots. We got up on them early and they fought their way back. It was tight at the end. Union has played that way against a lot of teams this year. We knew it was going to be a tough game.”
[img_assist|nid=27896|title=Fast Frosh|desc=Freshman forward Rebecca Johnston (16) netted three goals this weekend for Cornell. She leads the Red with 15 goals during the regular season.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]After taking care of Union, Cornell traveled to Rensselaer the following day and jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on Engineer’s home ice. The score came when Johnston recorded her third tally of the weekend on a shorthanded goal at 13:41 of the opening stanza.
“She’s a premiere player in the world and in the NCAA,” Derraugh said. “She adds some elements of speed that very few players can. Your big players have to come through in big games for you, and she rose to that level this weekend. She’s a very valuable player to us.”
In the same period, Cornell made it a two-goal advantage when senior co-captain Caeleigh Beerworth scored a power play goal from the top of the far circle at 15:55.
Rensselaer junior forward Jamie-Lynn Stewart was unable to get the puck past Niesluchowski in net in a one-on-one situation, but her teammate, senior forward Julie Aho, netted the rebound at 3:33 of the second period to bring the score to 2-1 in favor of the Red.
Cornell regained its two-goal advantage midway through the second frame when Beerworth came down the far side with the puck and passed it ahead to fellow senior co-captain Brittany Forgues. Forgues then went top-shelf past junior goaltender Ashley Mayr.
Forgues also scored the only goal of the final stanza when she redirected a shot from freshman defenseman Melanie Jue at 15:55.
“It was one of the more complete games we played all season,” Derraugh said. “It was a game that was either going to put us into the playoffs or we were going to be out. It started with the goaltending. We got timely saves when we needed them. The defense contributed both offensively and played solid in the ‘D’ zone. And, we got a little bit of thumping from all of our big forwards. I thought it was a total team effort.”
Despite outnumbering the Red in shots, 30-28, the Engineer’s could only get one shot past Niesluchowski en route to a 4-1 loss. Niesluchowski recorded 29 saves in her 7th victory of the season while Mayr blocked 24 shots for RPI.
“Heading into this weekend, we knew we had to sweep both games,” Niesluchowski said. “The game against RPI was the biggest game of the weekend. Coach was telling us that all week. We had to win and luckily we did. As a result, we have a great chance at making the playoffs.”