February 25, 2008

Despite Two Losses Over Weekend, W. Hockey Makes Playoffs

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For the first time in four seasons, women’s ice hockey will be playing in the ECAC playoffs. Despite a pair of losses at Lynah Rink this weekend, losing 5-1 to Dartmouth Friday night and 4-2 to Harvard Saturday afternoon, the Red will take the ice this postseason.
“We are all very excited to be playing in the playoffs,” said junior defenseman Steph Ulrich. “We’re looking forward to it a lot. We really feel like it’s an honor to be able to play in the playoffs. It’s been a long time since our team has been able to do that. We’re proud to represent Cornell women’s ice hockey.”
That’s the good news. The bad news is that the Red dropped one spot in the ECAC standings and is now slated to tangle with the No. 1 nationally-ranked Crimson at the Bright Hockey Center in the first round of a best-of-three quarterfinal playoff series.
The playoff picture was murky entering the final weekend of regular season action. Yale advanced past Cornell in the ECAC standings with two victories over the weekend to earn the No. 7 seed. However, Rensselaer’s two losses gave the Red (12-15-1, 9-12-1 ECAC Hockey) the No. 8 seed.
Registering goals from five different players, No. 10 Dartmouth (16-7-6, 13-5-4 ECAC Hockey) skated to a decisive 5-1 victory Friday night against the Red.
The Green, seeded third in the ECAC, dominated from the opening face-off. After outshooting Cornell, 5-1, in the first five minutes, Dartmouth took an early 1-0 lead on sophomore forward Sarah Parsons’ 11th goal of the season. The goal at 7:53 of the first period extended her point streak to seven games.
Dartmouth increased its lead in the 10th minute of the opening frame on the strength of back-to-back goals from junior defenseman Julia Bronson and freshman forward Larissa Roche. The offensive outburst staked the Green to an insurmountable 3-0 advantage.
“Something we always worked on this year is to always try to set the pace ourselves,” Ulrich said. “We try to have an even reaction whether we score or the other team scores. We try to never be too high or too low. I don’t think we let the goals get us too down.”[img_assist|nid=28165|title=Full speed ahead|desc=Senior co-captain Brittany Forgues (6) played her final game at Lynah Rink on Saturday night. Depite losing to No. 1 Harvard to end the regular season, the Red will play in the postseason.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
With 8:11 left in the second stanza, Dartmouth had a man advantage and senior forward Carrie Thompson netted her 11th goal of the season. The Green has benefited from an effective power-play all season, scoring in each of its last seven games with an extra skater on the ice.
Less than three minutes into the final period, junior forward Maggie Kennedy recorded the fifth and final goal for the Green.
Thanks to freshman forward Katie Bredice, Cornell spoiled Dartmouth’s shutout bid with 8:38 remaining in regulation. Bredice notched her second goal of the campaign off of a rebound shot from senior forward Brianne Schmidt.
“The puck was down in the corner for a while,” Bredice said. “Bri [Schmidt] passed it to [freshman forward] Hayley Hughes, who passed it back to Bri. Bri took a shot and [the rebound] spluttered across the goal crease. Then, I just buried it. To get goals from people who aren’t normally the goal scorers just proves that we are working well as a team. We need that if we are going to win games.”
The Green outshot the Red by a decided margin, 38-26. Cornell sophomore netminder Jenny Niesluchowski steered aside 32 shots while junior Carli Clemis denied 25 shots for Dartmouth.
On Saturday afternoon, Cornell fell behind Harvard (26-1-0, 22-0-0 ECAC Hockey) early when the No. 1 Crimson recorded the first goal of the game on a two-man advantage at 7:28 of the opening period. Junior defenseman Kati Vaughn launched a one-timer from the top right circle past Niesluchowski’s right shoulder to give the Crimson the 1-0 lead.
At 7:56 of the second period, Harvard doubled its lead as a loose puck deflected off a Cornell defender’s skate in the crease and into the net. The goal was credited to Sarah Valliancourt, the nearest Crimson player to the puck.
The “Killer V’s,” Vaughn and Valliancourt, each struck again in the same stanza during a five-minute power play. The five-minute infraction was assessed when Cornell received a major penalty for kicking at 12:36. The Crimson maintained a 4-0 advantage heading into the second intermission.
“Harvard has a real good team,” Ulrich said. “They have a pretty deep roster, but we did know that we would have to look out for a couple players in particular. We went into the game knowing that we would have to try to shutdown their better players. We did a good job for most of the game, but their power plays just killed us eventually.”
In the final period, the Red’s dormant offense finally awoke. Unfortunately for Cornell, it was not enough. After a minute and a half into the frame, freshman defenseman Amber Moore tallied a power-play goal from the left point. Schmidt provided the assist for Moore’s second goal of the season.
“I think [the goal] definitely upped our level of play overall,” Moore said. “We had some momentum as a result and we dominated Harvard in the third period. I think it definitely helped motivate the team. It was a good note to go in on for next weekend.”
The third period was the only period in which Cornell outshot Harvard as the Crimson went into a defensive shell. The Red launched 14 shots to the Crimson’s seven.
With seven minutes left in regulation, the Red sliced the Crimson’s lead in half as freshman forward Rebecca Johnston received a pass from Ulrich, circled around two Harvard defensemen and flipped the puck past goaltender Christina Kessler to bury her 16th goal of the season.
Harvard nearly doubled Cornell’s shots, 41-23. Niesluchowski blocked 37 shots, while Kessler deflected 21 shots for the Crimson.
After the contest, Cornell honored its senior players, including co-captains Caeleigh Beerworth and Brittany Forgues, as well as Brianne Schmidt and Sarah Johnston. Each player was introduced onto the ice, greeted with flowers, and then photographed with her family.