March 1, 2012

W. HOCKEY | Cornell Hosts ECAC Semifinals

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With last weekend’s pair of convincing victories over Brown in the first round of the ECAC tournament, the Cornell women’s hockey team moves on to the ECAC semifinal this weekend, facing the Quinnipiac Bobcats at Lynah Rink. However, this will not be the only hockey game on the Hill this weekend. Both ECAC semifinals, as well as the ECAC championship, will be hosted at Lynah. The weekend begins at 3:30 p.m. on Friday, with the Red taking on the Bobcats. Following the Cornell-Quinnipiac contest, Harvard and St. Lawrence will square off at 7 p.m. to decide the other half of Saturday’s championship game. The winners of Friday’s contests will meet on Saturday at 4 p.m. to decide the ECAC champion, as well as an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

The No. 3 Red (28-3-0, 20-2-0 ECAC Hockey) has been unstoppable recently and is currently in the midst of a nine-game winning streak, the longest in the nation. While Quinnipiac (19-15-2, 12-8-2) finished its season on a rough note, losing five of its last seven games, the Bobcats were able to bounce back in the first round of the playoffs last weekend, defeating powerful Clarkson in three games. No. 8 Harvard (22-8-1, 17-4-1) and No. 10 St. Lawrence (22-9-4, 14-6-2) also enter the weekend on strong notes, with Harvard on a six-game winning streak and St. Lawrence winning eight of its last nine — its only loss coming in the form of a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Red two weekends ago.

“Quinnipiac is a great team and they obviously just came off a big weekend,” said senior forward Chelsea Karpenko. “They’re definitely on a roll and they’re going to bring their ‘A’ game. Earlier in the season we beat them pretty handily — they’re not going to forget that. They’re going to be looking for revenge. I think we’re going to see a whole new team.”

The Red did indeed make the Bobcats easy prey earlier in the year, offering up a 7-1 drubbing of the team in Hamden, Conn., before skating to a definitive 4-1 victory at Lynah. However, that does not mean the Red is writing off the Quinnipiac game and looking ahead to either Harvard or St. Lawrence.

“[We’re] totally focused on Quinnipiac,” said junior defender Lauriane Rougeau. “You can’t look past them.”

The Bobcats are led by sophomore forward Kelly Babstock, who has already tallied 39 points on the season and is currently Quinnipiac’s all-time leading scorer, claiming the title after less than two seasons with the Bobcats.

“We expect them to come hard at us,” Rougeau said. “They’re a good team. They’re fast, they’re hard-working, they’re very disciplined.”

That being said, the Red maintains that it has found its groove and there is nothing that it will change in preparing for this semifinal.

“[We need] to focus on what we do and do it to the best of our abilities,” Karpenko said. “It’s no different going into this weekend.”

While the Red insists that it is not thinking about Harvard or St. Lawrence, the fact remains that, if Cornell is able to advance past Quinnipiac on Friday, the team will indeed square off against a Top-10 opponent on Saturday. Harvard is one of the most talked about teams in the country right now, most recently knocking off Princeton in two games, and the Saints made quick work of Dartmouth, also winning their first-round series in a sweep.

With the whole team contributing right now, look for the contest against Quinnipiac to be a heated rematch, pitting the strongest team in Division I women’s hockey against a bitter foe that has found its stride and will be looking to avenge a pair of rough losses it suffered earlier in the season.

Original Author: Zach Waller