February 22, 2008

Red Needs .500 Weekend To Reach ECAC Playoffs

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It is now most certainly crunch time for the women’s hockey team. Sitting in seventh place in the ECAC, the Red haven’t yet secured a playoff spot heading into the final weekend of play. Tied for eighth in the ECAC and three points behind Cornell, are Yale and Rensselaer, both looking to earn a postseason berth this weekend. All three teams now have just two games left to play.
This weekend, Cornell goes up against two of the top teams in the country — Dartmouth and Harvard. No. 10 Dartmouth faces off against Cornell tonight. Earlier in the season, on Jan. 5th, the Green beat the Red by the lopsided score of 8-0. Dartmouth scored five of its goals in the first period.
Tomorrow, Harvard comes to town for an afternoon tilt with the Red. The Crimson is currently the No. 1 team in the conference and in the nation, both positions they’ve held for the majority of the year. Harvard is undefeated in ECAC play up until this point, with its only loss of the year coming in a non-conference match against New Hampshire.
This weekend is senior weekend for the Red, and it will be honoring its four seniors — Caeleigh Beerworth, Brittany Forgues, Brianne Schmidt and Sarah Johnston — at the game.
Senior co-captain Beerworth explains that the Red players are hoping to be able to secure their playoff position today versus Dartmouth in order to take a little of the pressure off the Harvard contest.
“We are focused more on the Dartmouth game than on the Harvard game,” Beerworth said. “Obviously, with Harvard being undefeated, they are going to be a tougher team than Dartmouth. Dartmouth has been losing or tying some games recently. If we play a strong defensive game against Dartmouth and we execute on the offensive end, I think we have a good chance. If we could pull an upset against Dartmouth, that would put us in a great spot and give us a lot of momentum going into the playoffs.”
Head coach Dough Derraugh ’91 explains that his team understands the importance of both of these games and is looking to seize the opportunity. He believes that his team’s defense will be the key if Cornell is to find some success this weekend.
“One of the things that we have talked about is that we are not guaranteed a playoff spot yet so we need to get points this weekend,” Derraugh said. “Starting on Friday night, we are looking to get two points. Both of these teams are very explosive offensively … we are going to have be really good defensively in our zone and all over the ice for that matter to be able to compete with them. So I think the emphasis is going to be on making sure that we are thinking defense first and taking care of our own end.”
However, although Cornell realizes that going up against the undefeated Harvard will certainly be a challenge, it is a challenge that players and coaches alike are looking forward to. Derraugh explains that he liked what he saw when his team faced off against Harvard earlier in the year, a game that Harvard won 4-1.
“I think we played them pretty well down there,” Derraugh said. “It was a relatively close game. We had some chances early on, but we just didn’t connect on them. I think the game might have been different if we had.”
Beerworth thinks that her team is peaking at just the right time.
“We have been scoring a lot more goals this year than we have in the past,” Beerworth said. “Our execution on the defensive end always needs improvement. For the most part, we are doing things better, the way we should have done before. Now we are actually following through on the things that we focused on at the beginning of the year.”
For this Saturday’s game, Derraugh thinks that his players will be able to focus on playing their own style of game and working to implement their game plan. If his players execute, Derraugh believes his team does have a chance to upset the Crimson.
“I think that we go in and we have nothing to lose. They have won every game this year in the ECAC, so we’re going into that and they have the pressure to win. We can go in and just play our game. At the same time, they are not an unbeatable team. They have had a lot of close games with teams that we have been competitive with all year. There is no reason why we can’t be competitive with [Harvard] as well.”