March 2, 2009

W. Hockey Swept Out of Playoffs

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The women’s hockey team pushed its season to the fullest after clinching a spot in the first round of the playoffs against No. 7 Harvard. In both weekend games, the Crimson continued to deliver and execute goals, however, leaving the Red with a 3-0 and 4-0 loss in its last games of the season.
[img_assist|nid=35669|title=Shove it out|desc=Freshman forward Catherine White (right) fights for the puck during the Red’s 3-3 tie on Feb. 14 against Dartmouth.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
“Coming into this weekend, we knew that Harvard was a top seed, and that we had to bring our best to compete with them. Both games we played well,” said freshman forward Catherine White.
Despite being on the road, the Red (12-14-5) arrived at Bright Hockey Center in hopes of shaking up the outcome. Harvard (19-9-3), however, had other plans for Cornell in its quest for an ECAC championship.
“We came out really strong and played really well, but we didn’t finish on key opportunities that we had. When you don’t score early on a team like Harvard, it is hard to come back because they don’t give you many chances,” said junior forward Melanie Jue.
In the first game, Cornell came out strong, outshooting Harvard, 13-11, but unfortunately wasn’t able to capitalize on any shots on goal. Starting the second period scoreless, the Red continued to hold off any Crimson attempts until Harvard junior defenseman Kathryn Farni went in for a slap shot and got the puck past the Red goalie, Jenny Niesluchowski.
With Harvard leading the game, 1-0, the Red continued its offensive lineups and plans, continuing to lead in shots against the Crimson, 25-22. The third period ultimately led to the Red’s downfall, when the Crimson netted two additional goals to win the game, 3-0.
Going into these weekend games, the Red knew that the Crimson’s penalty kill unit was ranked fifth in the nation in success rate, and that despite any power-play advantages, it would still be hard to set up opportunities. During both games, Harvard was able to battle against all its penalties and prevent the Red from scoring.
“Both games were quite similar. They are a very good passing team … they have a lot of depth and are overall a very good team,” said White. “They have one of the best players in the league.”
The top scorer in the Ivy League, Harvard senior forward Sarah Vaillancourt, posed Cornell’s biggest threat during the games, having accumulated 52 points this season. Thankfully for the Red, this was Vaillancourt’s final collegiate season.
“You ask any other team in our league who they don’t want to play, and most of them will say Harvard because they have exceptional power on all parts of the team, and they deserved to move on,” White said.
Saturday’s game, which was the second of the series, continued in similar fashion, with Harvard shutting out the Red, 4-0. Scoreless in the first, Harvard tallied its first point after the Red received a hooking penalty. Vaillancourt skated past defenders and passed a clean shot to junior Anna McDonald, who put it past freshman goalie Amanda Mazzotta.
With Harvard boasting such impressive offensive power, the Red knew it had to limit its number of penalties to prevent the Crimson from having the extra advantage of additional skaters. In general, throughout the season, penalties have proved problematic for the Red. The team has been working hard in practice and games to avoid frivolous calls. This weekend’s games, however, were filled with many Cornell penalties.
“Unfortunately, I thought the refs were a little biased, but there’s not much during the game the team can do,” White said.
At 17:01 into the third period, the referees quickly called the Red on two successive penalties, tripping and delay of game, thereby allowing the Crimson to go on a 5-on-3 advantage. This penalty came at the worst of timing for Cornell because the penalty kill unit had its work cut out –– defending for a full two minutes and down two skaters. Harvard took its offensive lineup and went straight to pounding the puck, eventually lighting the lamp and ending the game, 4-0.
The games were much closer than the final scores indicate. During most of the game, Cornell looked very solid defensively and offensively against Harvard. The Crimson was just able to capitalize on a few defensive Red breakdowns.
“Harvard definitely brought it to us, and we put forth a good effort, but it clearly wasn’t good enough. It’s quite unfortunate, but next year we’ll get them,” White said.
Although a tough loss, the squad is already looking to the future, and will begin training in a few weeks for next season, when they can intensify the rivalry with Harvard and hopefully win.
“I couldn’t ask for a better season. I learned a lot this season in becoming better, and as a team, coming from September until now, we’ve developed a lot more chemistry. Honestly, I think our future is bright because we will only get better from this point … train hard in the offseason and in the preseason, and hopefully we’ll make it further in the playoffs,” White said.