March 21, 2010

Women’s Hockey Falls to No. 2 University of Minnesota-Duluth in Final Minute of NCAA National Championship Triple Overtime

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After 119 minutes and 26 seconds of playing time, the record for the longest NCAA national championship women’s hockey game was set as the Red fell to the University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs, 3-2. Though a disappointing loss for the team, this signifies the longest run of any Cornell women’s team in history, as no other women’s team has ever advanced to the NCAA finals.

Coming at the conclusion of a historic weekend for Cornell athletics, the game started at 1 p.m. EST and was the first matchup between the two teams in history. With neither team having the experience of playing the other, it seemed as though the game between the Red, the team that upset No. 1 seed Mercyhurst for the first Cornell victory over Mercyhurst of all time, and the No. 2 Bulldogs could go in either direction. This possibility continued up until the very last minute of triple overtime.

The first period came and went with no change on the scoreboard. Both Cornell and UMD had one power play chance, but neither team’s penalty kill was going to go down without a fight. Shots (11-9) and face-offs won (6-4) were both in support of the Red but only marginally, and the period ended, 0-0.

The following 20 minutes of play witnessed a shift toward the Red’s advantage. Two of the three Cornell players who received All-American honors contributed to the first scoring point of the game, as All-American freshmen defenders Lauriane Rougeau and Laura Fortino assisted senior forward Melanie Jue to make the goal. The period concluded in the Red’s favor, 1-0. The tides had turned for the Red, and fans went crazy with the knowledge that prior to this game, Cornell had lost only two out of 25 games in which it had scored first.

Period three of the game saw UMD’s domination, as it was only 18 seconds into it as its own All-American, senior forward Emmanuelle Blais, made the first goal for the Bulldogs, tying the game 1-1. The point came on the power play for UMD, and was only the ninth goal all season that the Red let up during its penalty-kill. Cornell’s penalty-killing statistic worsened even more as another UMD power play goal was made at 14:42 into the third.

With only 5:18 to go, the Red knew it needed another miracle to extend the game in hopes for a win. This miracle came in the form of Jue, who leads the Red senior class in scoring and continued to do so in her second goal of the game. Jue had taken a pretty hard hit at the end of the second period, but was able to respond to UMD’s goal less than two minutes after it was made, and equalize the score with 3:30 remaining in regulation.

What followed her goal was completely unexpected. The aggressive plays by both teams continued not only for those last three and a half minutes, but they continued on for the length of another hockey game. Two overtimes occurred in which no changing on the scoreboard could be seen, and it was with 34 seconds left in the third overtime that UMD freshman forward Jessica Wong was finally able to follow through on one of her scoring opportunities that arose during the post-regulation playing time. The score was brought to 3-2 in UMD’s favor, and the NCAA trophy was immediately brought out onto the ice, much to the Red’s grief.

Despite the final score, however, the game still holds historic value for the Red. Cornell entered this season with an expected finish of seventh by rankers throughout the nation. Its leading scorer from the 2008-2009 season, then-sophomore forward Rebecca Johnston, would be absent from the team to play in the Olympics. The starting goaltender for the year would be a sophomore who was injured throughout her freshman year. Nothing in particular was standing out in favor of the Red, but the women on the team knew that they could go far. And they did.

For a team that was expected to finish seventh overall, advancing to not only the program’s first top-4 ECAC finish, but also a top-2 NCAA finish in the championship game was legendary. The Red was able to finish its season in front of a crowd of 1,473 in Minneapolis, Minn. in the longest championship game of college women’s hockey history with a record of 61 saves made by Red goaltender Amanda Mazzotta and three players on the roster named to the first two All-American teams. Even though the final score read 3-2, the Red still put up a good fight, with every member of the team earning some time on the ice and proving the dispersed talent of the Red as the women played a close game for a historic 119:26 minutes.

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Original Author: Reena Gilani