December 2, 2008

Getting Back to the Playoffs

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After making it to the playoffs for first the first time in four years, the women’s hockey team feels it is destined to have a great season this year. Although the season is in its early stages, Cornell has proven that it is a contender after being picked to finish fifth in the league according to the preseason coaches’ poll.
With only four players graduating last year, the Red rounds out its roster with the ad­dition of eight freshmen and one junior transfer. Together, this new unit is comprised of all different components on the ice, including four defensemen, four forwards and a goalie.
“We brought in freshmen that are highly talented and so they will add a spark [to the team],” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “Right now, I think [the goal is] getting the team to gel, especially with a lot of young players to figure out what lines are going to work the best, which players work well together and getting that in place.”
More than half of the squad is made up of underclassmen, and with all this young talent, Cornell is looking to achieve numerous accomplishments as it continues to improve in each practice.
“I think our team has really come together well this year. All the girls get along really well, and we really are one unit,” said junior forward Melanie Jue. “I’m really enjoying it so far. I think we’re all on the same page, which helps because we’re all moving in the same direction.”
Offensively this year, the Red has been in good shape, especially after having such a strong finish last season. With the main ingredient to a victorious team being a solid offense, Cornell has been successful in working on variations in the lineup. In addition, the new forwards have stepped up their play and are finding their specific roles on the ice to help enhance the level of play for the Red.
“Our forwards have been doing a really good job, especially since we’ve changed systems,” Jue said. “We’ve done a really good job adapting and playing with each other. Almost everyone can play with each other … and be interchangeable. I think we’re doing a good job. We just need to keep putting the puck in the net and scoring goals and the rest will take care of itself.”
In addition to its solid offense, Cornell has a skilled unit in its back zone of the ice. The defense’s mindset is stopping the opponent’s attack to ensure that the Red doesn’t give away cheap goals.
Defense is one of the hardest positions for players to come into after competing in the junior leagues and having to quickly transform to the fast-pace play of Division I.
Aiding the Red is the skilled and talented goaltending squad, consisting of four players, including its returning two main starters, sophomore Kayla Strong and junior Jenny Niesluchowski. The team is coming into this season more confident after Niesluchowski’s outstanding performance in the second-half of last season and Strong’s recovery from her injury, which has given Cornell two solid options between the pipes.
After losing in the ECAC Hockey playoffs last year to undefeated Harvard — then ranked No. 1 in the nation — the Red is now pretty content that all the teams in the conference are on relatively even playing fields and the ECAC Hockey championship is within anyone’s reach.
“This year, I feel like there is so much more parity in the league, so it doesn’t matter whether it’s the last-place team or the first-place team,” Derraugh said. “I think we match up pretty well against all of them, so whatever team is able to bring it all together and bring it night after night.”
The team, aided by the newcomers, hopes to continue to improve and work towards a successful season in hopes of reaching the playoffs.
“I think we are a great team this year. We are a work in progress, but I think we are going to do great things,” said senior defensemen Stephanie Ulrich. “We al­ready received some [good] results [against] top-10 [teams]. We’ve got a lot of talent and a group that just likes each other a lot and meshes really well. We support each other and I think we’re going to go places for sure.”