November 4, 2010

Women’s Hockey Aims to Bounce Back vs. Ivy Foes

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Cornell will clash with two of the nation’s top programs this weekend at Lynah Rink, as the No. 2 Red (4-1-0, 2-0-0 ECAC) will host No. 10 Harvard (1-0-1, 1-0-1 ECAC) tonight and an undefeated Dartmouth (2-0-0, 2-0-0) tomorrow.  Going into last season, Harvard had defeated the women’s hockey team 10 straight times, compiling a 50-19-3 record against Cornell in the process. However, the Red turned the tide against the Crimson in its 2009-10 campaign, downing Harvard twice –– once in the NCAA quarterfinals –– en route to a NCAA Championship berth. Cornell beat Dartmouth in both meetings last season, and will try to continue that trend this weekend.

Cornell is coming off its first loss of the season on Tuesday when it fell to No. 4 Mercyhurst, 4-3, in overtime. The game was a rematch of last year’s Frozen Four semifinal in Minnesota. In a season of high expectations, bouncing back tonight against the Crimson will be doubly important. Like Mercyhurst, Harvard will undoubtedly be looking for payback after falling to Cornell in the NCAAs last season.

“I’m sure they’re still feeling from some of those games,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “It’s always competitive games when Harvard and Cornell come together and I expect this match to be no different.  They’re coming in here trying to knock us off and we’re looking to continue the trend [of beating Harvard] that began at the NCAAs last season.”

Dropping an early game against Mercyhurst might be a benefit in disguise for the squad, as it looks to continue to build on last year’s success and fix any weaknesses.

“We have to take lessons from the last game,” said junior forward and co-assistant captain Rebecca Johnston. “We have to use the loss as motivation. It’ll benefit us just knowing that yes, we need to work on some things and we know what we have to work on and we’ll have to get that much better. We just want to focus on our weaknesses and improve so that we can keep on improving every game.”

Cornell hopes Johnston and freshman forward Brianne Jenner –– its talented duo of Canadian Olympic team players –– can continue their fast start. Jenner, the reigning ECAC Rookie of the Week, leads the Red with 11 points, while Johnston is tied for second on the team with freshman forward Jessica Campbell with eight apiece.

“We’re a very fast team, so we just have to use our speed and keep driving the net,” Johnston said. “We should just be putting pucks on the net and driving the net as much as we can; I think that’s what we do best.”

The match against Harvard could depend on the power play. Harvard leads the nation in power-play percentage, converting about 33 percent of its opportunities.  However, the Red’s own third-ranked power-play offense will look to capitalize on the Crimson’s poor penalty kill, which has killed only five of eight opportunities to rank dead last.

“Harvard’s a team that always comes to play,” Derraugh said. “They battle hard and skate very well, move the puck very well. They got some forwards that can fly and have smart defenders. They just are a really strong team from top to bottom, like they have been for I don’t know how many years.”

Despite beating Dartmouth in both games last year, Cornell does not expect tomorrow’s tilt to be an easy contest. The Red will try not to get caught up in last season’s success as it focuses on its performance this season.

“This year is a new year, last year is last year,” Johnston said. “We did a lot of great things last year but I think as a team we have to focus on what we have to do this year. Really, the rankings are looking at what we did last year. But all the teams are different this year; we’re different this year. We have to think of this as a new year and a new stepping stone.”

Original Author: Jimmy Xi