February 29, 2008

Women’s Hockey Takes on Unbeaten Harvard in Playoffs

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The women’s hockey team is happy to be in the playoffs, but the players are definitely not satisfied with merely qualifying for the postseason. The Red feels like it has a chance to make some noise this weekend in Boston in their quarterfinal series against Harvard — it feels it can win.
“I think that we still have a lot to prove. I think that if come out hard we can go out and beat the first place team. I think if we come to play then we have a good chance of moving on,” said freshman forward Rebecca Johnston, the recently-announced Ivy League Rookie of the Year.
Cornell will face off against Harvard in a best-of-three series this weekend. Games are slated for Friday night and Saturday afternoon, with the third game to be played Sunday if necessary. The players know that it will be tough, going up against a Crimson team that is ranked No.1 nationally and went undefeated in ECAC play all year. Senior co-captain Brittany Forgues explained that the players feel that no one is really giving them a chance to beat Harvard.
“The way the rankings stand up, we are seeded eighth so nobody expects much of us,” Forgues said. “But we are a good team when we play together. We can definitely put a strong couple of games together going forward. There is no reason why we should be thinking that we can’t take these games this weekend.”
The two teams met recently in their last regular season game on Saturday at Lynah, a game Harvard won, 4-2. The Red was able to learn a lot from Saturday’s game which it thinks will be helpful this weekend. Harvard scored three of its four goals with a man advantage, notching a 50 percent power-play percentage. Johnston noted that the ability to stay out of the penalty box will be key to Cornell’s success in this weekend’s series.
“We know now that getting penalties probably isn’t the best thing because they have a really good power-play so we are going to try and minimize that. We are also working on our penalty-kill so that we can minimize the goals that they score on the power-play.”
Forgues echoed some similarly thoughts, explaining that in the third period on Saturday, the Red was able to score two goals while holding the Crimson scoreless.
“We learned in the third period that when we play with them five-on-five that we are just as good a team,” Forgues said. “Going into the third we were down 4-0. But we came out strong, we could have easily given up but the girls rallied. We gave them a good run for the money at the end there too. We outshot and outscored them too in the third period. I definitely think those are huge positives.”
The Red players know that their defensive execution throughout the game will also be very important in the series, as Harvard has a renowned high-power offense that put 41 shots on net against the Red on Saturday. Because of the Crimson’s potent offense, the Cornell players know that they must make the most of any opportunities they are given.
“You expect it from a team like Harvard,” Forgues said. “A lot of their stars are players that play up front, so I don’t think it came as a surprise to us. It puts it into perspective that when we get our chances we have to capitalize. We took advantage of that when we could. It’s going to be really important this weekend to do the same and take everything we can get. Although they are solid up front, every team makes mistakes and every team has miscommunications so we are going to get our chances.”
This weekend’s series marks the Red’s first playoffs appearance since the 2003-04 season. Forgues notes that the importance of this opportunity has not been lost on the players.
“We are definitely excited about it. Now that we are in the playoffs, it’s a brand new season. There are four matchups across the board. There are no more rankings or anything, it is just heads-up whoever wins moves on,” said Forgues.
So while the Red knows that it will be a challenge to find success against Harvard, it is a challenge the team is looking forward to.
“This is a really great opportunity for us,” Johnston said. “We should get our minds set to go out and play our best because if we play our game then we can make it really far in the playoffs. So we should just play our game and give it everything we’ve got.”