February 26, 2009

W. Icers at Harvard for Playoff Opener

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Hoping to utilize its momentum and energy gained from its 8-0 victory over Union last weekend, the women’s hockey team (12-12-5, 8-9-5 ECAC) begins its postseason on the road, facing off against Harvard tomorrow afternoon.
“Our team is actually very excited to play Harvard this weekend. It is going to be a very exciting and close game. We have no fears playing Harvard,” said sophomore forward Rebecca Johnston. “They are a very good team, but we can definitely matchup to their play, and I think if we play our best, then we can definitely come out on top.”
In the first round of the playoffs, the Red finds itself in a repeat situation, having faced the Crimson in the first round of last season’s playoffs. Although Harvard was able to defeat Cornell in the best-of-three quarterfinal round, Cornell is well-prepared and has been eagerly awaiting this rematch.
“We are a different team from last year, and they are a different team from last year. Last year was the first time in the playoffs for all of our players. This year we know what to expect,” said head coach Dough Derraugh ’91.
Harvard (17-9-3, 16-4-2 ECAC) is ranked No. 9 nationally for its strong offensive talent that won the team its second-straight ECAC Hockey regular-season title. In addition, the squad boasts an impressive ten-game winning streak that the Red hopes to squander.
“We are excited about the playoffs. Harvard is definitely a team we respect. They are strong from top to bottom, but so are we,” Derraugh said.
Harvard is known for its strong offensive lineup, with senior captain Sarah Vaillancourt leading the team with 47 points this season. The Red has its own secret weapons, including freshman Catherine White, who just nabbed her fourth ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week Honor for notching 44 points this season. In addition, the team plans on avoiding frivolous penalties in hopes of not giving its foe an extra-skater advantage.
“Harvard is an overall well-rounded team. They have top players at every position, are fairly fast and work well as a team,” said Johnston. “I believe we just have to focus on using our speed to fore-check the puck at all times, so they have to make quick decisions. We just have to take away their time and space.”
Although Harvard beat Cornell in both regular season games, wining 5-1 and 5-2, respectively, the Red will not go down without fighting and forcing the Crimson to play its best. During the last matchup, the Red remained a stiff competitor until the third period, when the Crimson pulled away to win. Cornell outshot its opponent and kept the puck in its offensive zone for a good duration of the game –– tactics that it hopes to utilize again in this weekend’s games.
“We are just trying to focus on playing our game. If we stick to what we do best, which is using our speed and being aggressive all over the ice, then we have nothing to worry about,” Johnston said.
Knowing that defense is going to play a crucial role in the game, Derraugh has called for various defensive drills in practice this week so that Harvard has little chance of getting close to the goal. In addition, the squad has been going over videos of previous contentions to learn from past mistakes and increase offensive opportunities.
“We are going over their systems and tendencies and practicing our strategies to counter. We plan to play our game through and get them worrying about us,” Derraugh said.
Learning from its matchup experiences throughout the season, the Red anticipate being well-prepared to take on Harvard this weekend.
“I think we have developed and competed much better this year. Most of us on the team now know what to expect in the playoffs, and know what we have to do to win both of our games this weekend,” said Johnston. “We are very excited to get another chance to play Harvard in the playoffs, so that this time we can show them what we really can do.”