January 29, 2012

W. HOCKEY | Cornell Sits at No. 2 With Weekend Split at Clarkson, SLU

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After starting its ECAC road trip with impressive victories over ranked opponents, the No. 2 Red (19-3, 14-2 ECAC Hockey) looked to continue its success against Upstate  rivals St. Lawrence (15-8-4, 9-5-4) and Clarkson (16-7-5, 10-4-2).  Cornell’s season has included long winning streaks interrupted by rare defeats, and that pattern continued this weekend with the Red winning its ninth straight game by defeating St. Lawrence, 6-4, but losing to Clarkson the following night, 5-3.

A major factor in the Red’s victory over the Saints was Cornell jumping out to a 4-0 advantage in the first 24 minutes of play.  The Saints showed life in scoring two consecutive goals to make it 4-2 and later coming back from a 5-2 deficit to make the score 5-4, but it ultimately could not overcome the early hole.

“It was about finishing out chances,” said senior forward and captain Chelsea Karpenko. “We got some pretty quality chances early on and we buried them.  It really makes a difference when you’re finishing versus not finishing because it allowed us to jump out to the four goal lead which proved to be important down the stretch.”

One of the goals in the 4-0 start was a short-handed goal, an infrequent and difficult feat in hockey.  According to Karpenko, this achievement not only pumped up the Red but also sunk the opposition.

“It’s really motivating for our team but it also deflates any momentum they have from their power play,” Karpenko said.  “It doesn’t happen that often, but getting a short-handed goal is huge on several levels.”

According to senior forward and captain Rebecca Johnston, the Red had a letdown of energy, and in doing so, allowed the Saints to cut down game 5-4.

“We kind lost track of where we were going in the game,”Johnston said. “Those couple of minutes of losing track cost us.”

Nonetheless, the Red played tough at the end of the game to hold on for the victory.  According to Johnston, the key to hanging on in the final minutes was playing good, fundamental defense.

“We did a great job of just staying calm and getting in those lanes, blocking shots, and playing really good defensive play, because we couldn’t afford to give them good offensive opportunities,” Johnston said.

“At that point they have the momentum so we just had to play our system and try to cut off any chances they might have,” Karpenko added.

What had been a key to victory against the Saints burned the Red against the Knights. In that game, Clarkson jumped out to 3-0 advantage, and though Cornell made the game close, the Red could not overcome the early deficit. According to Karpenko, getting into penalty trouble led to the early deficit.

“We got into penalty trouble and that gave them momentum and they buried their chances,” she said. “We were forced to play catch up and climb out of the hole that we dug ourselves so we made the game more difficult than it needed to be.”

According to Johnston, the referees calling a tight game and the Red not being disciplined enough led to the penalty trouble.

“The refs were calling a lot more than we normally see but we were also taking penalties that we shouldn’t have, so in the future we have to do a better job moving our feet and keeping our sticks down to try to stay out of the box,” Johnston said.

According to Karpenko, the loss to Clarkson does not hurt the team’s confidence, but served as a reminder of what needs to be done every time the players step onto the ice.

“It’s definitely a wake-up call,” she siad.  “We can’t go into games just expecting to show up and win. It was a good wake-up call, maybe we got a bit too complacent. Having a game like this at this time of year is important because we did lose but it’s not the end of the world and we have more games left to come out stronger.”

“Every game is going be tough and we have to come out strong in the beginning. We learned that we have to be ready every minute of every game,” Johnston added.

Original Author: Ben Horowitz