If two consecutive contests against No. 5 Boston University was the toughest challenge for the No. 3 Red this season, then Cornell certainly showed it was up to the task. The Red (9-1-0, 6-1-0 ECAC Hockey) proved superior in two encouraging victories, prevailing on Friday, 3-1, and routing the Terriers (9-6-1, 5-4-1 Hockey East) the next night 7-1.
The first half of the weekend series at Lynah Rink centered around special teams play, with the teams committing 16 penalties combined. Cornell outperformed the visiting Terriers in these situations, scoring three power-play goals and killing off all seven penalties it was assessed. Freshman Emily Fulton vaulted the Red to the early first period lead, 1-0, with a power-play tally, and senior forward and captain Rebecca Johnston notched the other two scores with the man advantage. Johnston’s first goal handed the Red a 2-0 advantage early in the second, while the senior captain’s second score provided insurance for Cornell after B.U. limited its deficit to one.
According to Johnston, good execution was key to the Red’s power-play success.
“We had a plan of what we were going to do and we executed well,” she said. “They really pressured the top so we wanted to get it down low and move the puck quickly to get them moving and get the seams to open up for us. We had to move it quickly and get shots on net.”
Like any hockey team, Cornell hopes to avoid taking penalties and was somewhat disappointed with the seven minors it committed; however, according to freshman forward Jillian Saulnier, the penalties were more a result of the referees calling a strict game than any mental mistakes by the Red.
“It certainly wasn’t a lack of discipline,” she said. “When a game gets rough like that, everyone gets into it. They were just calls on aggressive battles in the corner. Sometimes you get refs that call that and sometimes you get refs that don’t.”
More important than the penalties themselves was how Cornell responded, Johnston said.
“We were frustrated with the amount of penalties they were calling, but we knew we had to take a step back and not let it get to us,” she explained. “We had to adapt to that and to focus on what we could control and not what the ref was doing.”
“It’s about how you deal with the penalties. In the end of the day what’s on the scoreboard matters more than who’s in the box,” Saulnier added.
The Red thwarted the Terriers’ power-play opportunities by placing an emphasis on blocking shots on the penalty kill, according to Johnston.
“We made sure to block a lot of shots and that helped us perform well on the penalty kill,” she explained.
Sticking to the team’s defensive system was also important, Saulnier added.
“It was crucial for us to really buy into our defensive zone [system] and stick with their players, and it really paid off,” she said.
Returning to action was senior goaltender Amanda Mazzotta, who was previously sidelined with a concussion. Mazzotta limited the Terriers to one goal and 21 shots on target in each of the weekend contests. The team was very happy to see its top net minder back in net and playing well, Johnston said.
“We were all really excited to have [Mazzotta] back, and she played really well in both games. She made a lot of key saves on the penalty kill, especially in the second game,” she explained.
In the Saturday contest, the Red gained the early lead, 1-0, after the first period, but blew the game wide open with three goals in each of the second and third periods. Saulnier led the way for Cornell, scoring two goals and registering three assists.
Beating the team that knocked the Red out of the Frozen Four last year made these two victories even sweeter for Johnston and the rest of the squad.
“A lot of the girls that were there last year weren’t happy with that loss so it was definitely nice to be able to beat them and get a little revenge,” she said.
The two victories also provide the team with confidence heading into a two-game road trip at No. 6 Mercyhurst.
“It’s good to get that experience of playing a good team like B.U. It gives us confidence that we can play at that level, and if we make it further and play more top teams we’ll be ready,” Johnston said.
Original Author: Ben Horowitz