Almost one week ago Lynah Rink saw a record-breaking 2,700 fans file into their seats to watch one of the most anticipated hockey games of the season. Contrary to what one might assume, the crowd was not gathering to watch the men’s team play — instead they were there to support on the women’s team as it went head-to-head against Dartmouth in the ECAC Hockey championship game. The Red proved to the fans in attendance as well as everyone watching on NHL Network that once again Cornell hockey is synonymous with excellence — walking away from the day as back-to-back ECAC champions. Tomorrow afternoon, No. 2 Cornell will enter the NCAA tournament quarterfinals, taking on Dartmouth (22-11-0, 15-7-0 ECAC Hockey) for a second week in a row. Cornell (30-2-1, 20-1-1) shut out the Green, 3-0, last weekend, making the rematch with Dartmouth an unlikely occurrence. “I saw it coming down to three teams that we would probably match up against,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “I thought it was either going to be Minnesota-Duluth, North Dakota or Dartmouth. I saw those three as probably the three we might face.” For Cornell, Saturday represents the first of three games standing between the team and a national championship. The Red has won 30 of its 33 regular season games; however, one of the few teams that was able to wrestle a win away from Cornell was Dartmouth, beating the Red, 4-2, on Feb. 18. “We’ve seen each other three times now, so I think we have a pretty good feel for what each team does,” Derraugh said. “My guess is that probably both teams will try to do what they do and make sure to do it well.” Despite losing last weekend, Dartmouth has had a strong season — sophomore forward Camille Dumais leads the team with 37 points and freshman goaltender Lindsay Holdcroft, a former ECAC MLX Skates Goaltender of the Week, boasts a 90.9-percent save average. The team has improved greatly since meeting the Red in the fall and given last weekend’s game has become tough competition for the Red, according to Derraugh. “I thought we played [the ECAC final] the way we had to, and [Dartmouth is] a team that for the most part traps and they look for you to make mistakes,” Derraugh said. “They have very good offensive players. They have a lot of dangerous weapons — they have great goaltending, so if you make a few mistakes in your breakout [or] you make a few mistakes in your D-zone, they make you pay.” While Dartmouth has been shaping up to be a fierce competitor, Cornell has been a force to be reckoned with come tournament time over the past few seasons — sporting strong defensemen like sophomores Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau. This dynamic duo has maintained success by playing to each other’s strengths. Rougeau is a strong defender with a stay-at-home style, while Fortino is a more offensive defenseman with a quick, explosive style. As junior forward and assistant captain Rebecca Johnston explains, the two defenders complement each other very well and have provided Cornell with the strong defensive line that is necessary for keeping the competition out of the net. Johnston, who has recorded 25 goals and 22 assists, sits just behind team point-leader freshman forward Brianne Jenner (48 points). “[Fortino and Rougeau] are two great defensemen and they complement each other a lot with [Rougeau] … very good offensively, but she’s a really good defensive defenseman and Fortino obviously is very good defensively, but she’s more of an offensive defenseman,” Johnston explained. “I think that those two different styles really complement each other — they’re a great pair … I’m not scared when I’m on with them.” According to senior forward Karlee Overguard, the Red knows that coming out onto the ice and playing a tough game from beginning to end is the key to success in the world of college hockey where every game counts and any game could be the last.
“Every game, you’ve just got to play like it’s your last game — it doesn’t matter who’s rated first or second. Ratings basically don’t mean anything in the playoffs, especially when you’re this far,” Overguard said. “You’ve got to play every game like it’s your last — like you’re an underdog basically.” Cornell is hardly the underdog after clinching the Ivy League and ECAC titles, but the team has a very strong grasp of reality. Even after winning the regular season conference championships, the Red continued to practice hard so that it could come out strong and dominate the next opponent. Derraugh has emphasized to his players that they must appreciate every game that they win and focus only on the task at hand — winning the next game on the schedule. In preparation for tomorrow’s quarterfinal matchup with the Green, the team is practicing like it has every week through the regular season, specifically working on power plays and penalty kills. “We’re just going to go with the same mentality we’ve gone through all year – pressure the puck everywhere and just win those one-on-one battles,” Johnston said. “We have no changes. We’re just doing the same things in practice that we’ve been doing in the previous weeks.” “We’re looking to improve on small things,” added senior forward and captain Amber Overguard. “There’s a few things we could have done on the power play and [penalty kill], but just basically [we want to improve on] staying to our system. We’re looking to play a full 60-minute hockey game.” Cornell takes on Dartmouth and 2 p.m. on Saturday at Lynah Rink. The game will be streaming live, free of charge, via the Cornell Redcast system.
Original Author: Lauren Ritter