After beginning the season with three lopsided victories, the Red faced its first real challenges over the weekend in games against Harvard (3-1-0, 3-1-0 ECAC Hockey) and Dartmouth (3-2-1, 3-0-1). Cornell (5-1-0, 4-1-0) fell to the Green, 5-4, in a back and forth contest Friday, but rebounded in an encouraging 5-3 victory over Harvard on Saturday.
In addition to the challenge of facing improved opponents, the Red had to deal with the absence of four of its top players and head coach Doug Derraugh ’91, who were away for the weekend with the Canadian national team. This forced the Red to play with only three natural defensemen, with some forwards helping out on the back line.
“Those four players play huge roles on our team so we knew we had to step up, give it our all and see what happens,” said freshman forward Jillian Saulnier.
The Red fell into an early hole, 2-0, against the Green, which it cut in half on a goal by sophomore forward Jessica Campbell. Cornell surrendered another goal before the end of the first period, heading to the locker room trailing Dartmouth, 3-1.
“We were a little bit back on our heels at the beginning of the game, and they came really hard at us and we couldn’t get back right away. They really brought it to us,” Saulnier said.
Still, the Red fought back on goals by senior forward and captain Chelsea Karpenko and sophomore defenseman Alyssa Gagliardi to tie the game, 3-3, at 2:50 in the second period.
Dartmouth regained the lead on a power-play goal, but the Red once again came back on a goal by Saulnier. The tie was short-lived, however, as the Red surrendered what proved to be the game-winner just over two minutes later.
“We took a lot of penalties, which doesn’t help when you have a short bench,” said senior forward and captain Catherine White.” “If we had done a better job on our penalty kill that would have helped us.”
“They have a really strong power play, but we did make mistakes that we need to learn from, so the next time we face them we’ll be ready,” Saulnier added.
The Red came out strong against Harvard, jumping out to a 2-0 lead on two power-play goals. Getting off to a good start was important for the Red, according to White, with the squad returning to the ice after its first loss of the season.
“It was a really good booster for our team to score a couple of quick goals,” she said.
Leading 3-1, the Red let the Crimson mount a comeback, as Harvard tied the game, 3-3, with under eight minutes left to play. Then the Red recaptured the lead for good, on a goal by Saulnier — her team-leading 12th of the season.
“We were a lot more aggressive against Harvard and played more of our game, fore-checking hard and forcing turnovers,” White said. “Our power play and penalty kill were also better against Harvard.”
One of the major factors in the defeat of the Crimson was Cornell’s two power-play goals. The Red scored three times with a man advantage on the weekend, moving the program to No. 2 in the country in success on the power play.
“Moving the puck around and getting it to open spots is key. We just keep talking and get the puck to the net,” Saulnier explained.
Another attribute evident this weekend, even in the loss to Dartmouth, was Cornell’s ability to respond when the opposition scored.
“Even in the loss to Dartmouth we responded really well, and that’s something our team is really good at,” White said. “We have really good energy and even when we get down a goal we’re not deterred from getting it right back.”
After the win against Harvard, the Red is confident about its coming games.
“Our confidence is good,” White added. “Even when we lost against Dartmouth, people were a little upset but we knew tomorrow was another day, the attitude was good, and it showed in the win over Harvard. This week we’re excited to have our players back and to playing Princeton and Quinnipiac this weekend.”
Original Author: Ben Horowitz