February 17, 2011

Women’s Hockey Hits the Road for a ‘Color War’ This Weekend

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The women’s hockey team will play its last regular season games this weekend as the Red travels to play ECAC and Ivy League rivals Dartmouth and Harvard. Cornell (25-1-1, 19-0-1 ECAC Hockey) — currently ranked No. 2 in the nation — will look to repeat its dominating early season performances in which the Red beat both the Green (17-9, 13-7) and the Crimson (14-9-4, 13-4-3) at home in Lynah Rink. Cornell takes on Dartmouth tonight at 7 p.m. in Hanover, N.H. at Thompson Arena, while Harvard will host the Red tomorrow afternoon at 4 p.m. in Boston, Mass. at the Bright Hockey Center.

Cornell defeated Dartmouth — currently ranked third in the ECAC and No. 10 in the nation — when the two teams met last year on Nov. 6, besting the Big Green, 6-1. In that matchup, both junior forward Catherine White and senior forward Karlee Overguard skated away with a pair of goals, with sophomore defenseman Laura Fortino and junior forward Chelsea Karpenko scoring as well.

“Back then [when we played against Dartmouth and Harvard], they were both really hard games,” Fortino said. “They were tough teams to play against.”

Karpenko also commented on the earlier season play.

“We knew we were going to get a good game against them,” Karpenko added.

The Red went into the contest suiting only 14 players. Missing from the lineup were freshman forward Brianne Jenner and junior forward Rebecca Johnston.

“When we played [Dartmouth and Harvard] the first time, we were missing two of our really good players — Jenner and Johnston — but we have them back now,” Fortino said. “So we can play even stronger and harder than we did back in November.”

Sophomore forward Camille Dumais, who currently leads Dartmouth with 27 points, was the only player from the Big Green to score against Cornell in the previous contest. Other players to watch this weekend besides Dumais include senior forward Amanda Trunzo and junior forward Kelly Foley, who led the team with 14 goals each, with Foley falling one point behind Dumais on the team leaderboard with 26 total points. On the other end of the ice, freshman netminder Lindsay Holdcroft — the ECAC’s current MLX Skates Goaltender of the Week — looks to improve her 0.905 save percentage after two weekend wins tonight against the Red.

Cornell met Harvard — currently ranked second in the ECAC — last year on Nov. 5 and shut out the Crimson, 3-0. Senior forwards Hayley Hughes and Amber Overguard and sophomore defenseman Lauriane Rougeau put points on the scoreboard in the last contest between the Red and the Crimson. This game marked Cornell’s first in a series of many shutouts on the season.

“[Playing against Dartmouth and Harvard] would be great games for us going into playoffs,” Johnston said. “We’ve really improved a lot.”

“We beat them by a lot last time we played them and these games will be a great test for us coming into the playoffs,” Karpenko added.

Harvard’s senior forward Liza Ryabkina — who leads the team with 11 goals and 22 total points — figures to play a prominent role in the Cimson’s offense. Sophomore forward Jillian Dempsey follows closely behind with nine goals and 19 total points. Protecting the net, sophomore goaltender Laura Bellamy will be trying to defend Harvard like she did last fall, when she stopped 26 shots on goal; she has a 0.893 save percentage at this point in the season.

Playing for the Red, freshman forward Brianne Jenner and junior forward Rebecca Johnston lead the team with 41 total points — 21 goals and 20 assists each — with Karpenko falling right behind them with 37 points total. Kapenko, Fortino and Rougeau are strong players for Cornell as well, with over 21 assists each. Alternating in the net for the past few weeks, freshman Lauren Slebodnick and senior Katie Wilson have proven to be strong goalies, boasting .963 and .935 save percentages, respectively.

After last week’s outcomes, the Red — which had already clinched the ECAC Hockey regular season championship title two weeks prior — earned the title of Ivy League Champions. This weekend’s matchups mark the end of the regular season for the women, with playoff season beginning in the next few weeks. Last year Cornell advanced to the Frozen Four — ultimately falling just short of a national championship after the game was pushed into triple overtime against Mercyhurst College.

“I think that for us, we aren’t focusing on the future. We are focusing on what we have to do for each and every game,” Johnston said. “We just have to play our best each and every day to move on and go to the national tournament. It isn’t more or less pressure now that we’ve won the ECAC and Ivy League Championships.”

The pressure is always there for Cornell; the desire to perform at the peak of its game is always motivating the Red to train harder and play better.

“At the start of the season we set team goals — ECAC and Ivy League [Championships] — we’re proud of the team and we’ve accomplished that,” Fortino said. “We need to be at the top of our game. We can’t take a night off because we need to bring our best every night, especially right before the playoffs.”

Tonight before taking to the rink and playing against the Big Green, Cornell will come together and focus on the task at hand: winning.

“Before a game we do the usual stretching as a team or play a small game like tag to get everyone moving,” Karpenko said. “Then we break off and everyone does something to get focused. So have a dance party [or] listen to music on their iPod. Everyone does their own little thing to get ready to do their thing: play.”

Original Author: Lauren Ritter