The No. 3 Cornell women’s hockey team has won all but two of its games this season, and it has not let a rare defeat deter its winning ways. After losing to Dartmouth in early November, the Red (16-2-0, 11-2-0 ECAC Hockey) went on to win six straight, including the first contest in a two-game set against No. 6 Mercyhurst. After finishing the first half with a disappointing 5-2 loss on the back end of its trip to Mercyhurst, the Red started the second half with another six-game winning streak, defeating Union, Rensselaer, Colgate, Quinnipiac, Princeton and Syracuse over Winter Break. Ending a near-perfect first half with a tough loss was not exactly what the Red had hoped for going into the two weekend contests with Mercyhurst, according to senior forward Rebecca Johnston; however, the captain believes the month-long layoff gave the Red an opportunity to reflect on the defeat and learn from it. “I think it was a good test for us,” she said. “We definitely took it to heart and over break we thought about what went wrong in that last game. It made us step back and think about the little things we need to do to win those games, and we came out stronger in the second half.”In the opening contests against Union and Rensselaer, the Red was forced to deal with the absence of six players who were playing for the Canadian Under-22 team at the Meco Cup in Germany. The squad overcame that challenge convincingly, trouncing Union, 9-1 and shutting out Rensselaer, 3-0. Players who provided limited offense early in the season stepped up to the top lines to lead a successful offensive attack. “It was awesome and it proves we have so much depth to our team, and when someone is asked to stepped up she will,” said senior defenseman and captain Amanda Young. “It’s really encouraging to see that when those who aren’t usually on the first or second lines are suddenly put in that position they can step up and give it everything they’ve got and perform well.”“Every girl on our team has the potential to score like that and I see it in practice, but it’s nice to see them be able to finish in games,” Johnston added. One major factor in the Red’s recent streak has been a much-improved defense. After surrendering five goals and many high-quality scoring chances in the loss to Mercyhurst, the Red did not allow more than one goal in any of its next five games, which included shutouts of Rensselaer and Colgate. According to Young, the key to the defensive turnaround has been improving the fundamentals of defensive play. “We had to get back to making it easier on ourselves, making simple plays instead of trying to be too fancy. We had to get back to the basics,” she said. Limiting the opposition’s scoring chances was one area in which the Red’s defense excelled, according to Young. “It’s a big part of our game,” she added. “We put a lot of emphasis on blocking shots, keeping the opponent to the outside, not letting them get towards the net, being physical along the boards. That automatically limits a lot of their shots.”Another key factor in the defensive shutdown was quality goaltending. Sophomore net minder Lauren Slebodnick excelled in notching the two consecutive shutouts of the Engineers and Raiders. “She’s so calm and it really makes everyone playing in front of her calm and confident. She did really well,” Young said of Slebodnick. The win against Quinnipiac vaulted the Red into a tie with the Bobcats for first place in the ECAC.The Red has also shown impressive resilience over the course of this streak, most notably, in Tuesday’s game at Syracuse when the Red twice tied the game after the Orange took the lead. This ability to respond was a crucial aspect of the 6-3 victory. “Resiliency is a great asset that we have because a lot of teams may just get down after being scored on, but our team is unique because it motivates us to be better and play even harder,” Young said.
Original Author: Ben Horowitz