In a repeat matchup of the 2009-10 NCAA semifinals, the women’s hockey team will face the strong program of Mercyhurst. The Lakers, expected to finish fourth by national polls, will undoubtedly be looking for payback, having fallen to the Red, 3-2, during overtime of the Frozen Four last season. Cornell, ranked second in the same polls, will host the team at Lynah Rink tonight at 7 p.m.
The Red currently boasts an undefeated record on the season, 4-0 (2-0 ECAC Hockey League), and a shutout in its sole exhibition game of the year. Though not undefeated, Mercyhurst enters tonight’s contest with more games under its belt, sitting 6-1 (1-0 CHA) at the top of its conference.
Cornell has participated in four matchups over the last two weeks compared to Mercyhurst’s sole win in Erie, Pa., on Friday night. Mercyhurst is coming off a 7-3 win over Robert Morris, who the Red defeated earlier this season, 9-1. Cornell, on the other hand, finished last weekend with on-the-road conference wins over Quinnipiac and Princeton, dominating 5-1 in both.
“I feel that coming off this weekend we had two big games and we worked hard, and I think we need to build off of that and keep pushing harder because you know that Mercyhurst has been a great team and you know that they’re going to have a vendetta underlying,” said sophomore defender Lauriane Rougeau. “They want to beat us really hard so we need to get in our mindset that you know what, we can do it: we can work hard at it and we can play hard and hopefully succeed.”
The Red has reflected a lot upon last year’s NCAA contest in preparation for tonight. While both teams have added new, skilled freshmen to their respective decorated rosters, both squads will also remain with about the same core group of players that were on the ice in March.
“I think [the NCAA semifinal] was obviously a huge win for us and a big boost for us going into this year after getting beat 4-1 both games early on in the year,” said head coach Doug Derraugh. “Now I think our team realizes that we are a team that can compete with all the teams in the NCAA. But like every other team that we play, we’ve got to be ready for them –– for this team in particular –– where they don’t need too many opportunities to make you pay and you really need to be at your best.”
Playing such a skilled team so early on in the season, the Red will be able to take away a lot from the game by seeing what it needs to improve upon.
“I always think it’s good to play these top teams early on in the season to see where you do stand. You always learn a lot from both winning a game like this, but you also learn a lot from the mistakes that you make in games like this, too,” Derraugh said.
Sophomore defender Laura Fortino agreed.
“It’s great for our team. It will be a true test of the type of character we have this year and what our team’s made of and what we can do when under pressure and in big games,” she said. “I think we’ve had more strengths than weaknesses so far; I know we haven’t played the greatest competition yet. We’ve seen a few weaknesses, and we’ll see [today] what our biggest weaknesses are.”
Both of the top-five national teams have outstanding players that will definitely be well-suited to play the opposition tonight at Lynah. The Lakers’ roster includes five players who have been scoring in the double digits on the season, and eight players who have been averaging at least one goal per game. Additionally, their penalty kill is the sixth-best in the country at 91.3 percent.
The Red combats this with the top powerplay unit in the country, having successfully converted 35.3 percent of extra-player chances into goals. In goal will be Amanda Mazzotta, who holds the highest save percentage in Cornell history at .924. Additionally, it adds experienced players from the Canadian Olympic team, including returning junior forward and assistant captain Rebecca Johnston, and freshman forward Brianne Jenner. Johnston has notched seven points so far on the season, while Jenner currently leads the Red squad with eight points (three goals, five assists).
“She’s not your typical freshman coming in here, she was centralized by the Canadian Olympic team and spent a whole year surrounded by the likes of Hayley Wickenheiser,” Derraugh said of Jenner.
He also mentioning the experience she received through guidance from Canadian Olympic coaches.
“She’s been exposed to a lot more than your typical freshman would be, and so she comes right in here right away and that’s helped,” Derraugh said. “She’s got a lot to learn but she’s also helped teach some of the younger players and some of our veterans, too. So she comes right in here with that kind of knowledge.”
The Red hopes that Jenner’s experience, combined with all the other talent exhibited by the other members of the team, will be enough to take down the Lakers tonight in the anticipated high-intensity game.
Original Author: Reena Gilani