March 11, 2012

WOMEN’S HOCKEY | Red Wins in Triple Overtime Thriller

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The No. 3 Cornell women’s hockey team has had many statement victories this season, but none compare in excitement or importance to the Red’s thrilling victory over No. 5 Boston University (23-14-1, 14-7-0 Hockey East) on Saturday afternoon at Lynah Rink.  The game was a national quarterfinal, with each team’s season, and a chance to go to the Frozen Four, on the line. In a back-and-forth, neck-and-neck contest, the Red came out on top, 8-7, when junior defenseman Lauriane  Rougeau scored the winning goal with just ten seconds left in the third sudden death overtime. Cornell (30-4, 20-2 ECAC) will face the University of Minnesota in the Frozen Four’s first game  next weekend in Duluth.

“I was just so proud of our team,” said senior captain and forward Rebecca Johnston.  “We came back when we were down, and it was a back-and-forth game, but we just never gave up.  It was overall just an amazing game.”

The game was Johnston’s last at Lynah Rink, and she made it worth every minute with a terrific individual effort. She scored a a hat trick, which included two goals in a row to bring the Red from a 3-1 deficit to a 3-3 tie, and also tallied two assists. According to Johnston, having this thrilling victory in her last game was a truly special moment.

“I’m so happy that game could be my last one because it is one game that I will never forget,” she said.

The game did not start off well for Cornell, who fell to a 3-0 deficit in the first period. According to senior forward and captain Chelsea Karpenko, the early hole was partially a result of the Red letting the talented terriers have too many scoring chances.

“I think we just gave them too many quality opportunities, and a team that talented is going to make you pay,” she said.

However, the Red got on the board towards the end of the first period to go into the intermission with the game at 3-1, and on that very play earned a power-play on which it scored to start the second.  According to Johnston, getting that goal gave the Red an important boost of momentum going into the second period.

“That was one of the most important goals [of the game],” she said. “Its hard to come back from being down three goals, but getting that goal gave us confidence going into the second period.”

“Getting that goal was a huge momentum swing for us and it put us back in the game, right where we wanted to be,” Karpenko added.

The Red scored 3 straight goals in the second period to take a 4-3 lead. The Terriers came back to make it 4-4, before the Red again scored three straight goals, two off the stick of sophomore forward Brianne Jenner. This gave the Red a 7-4 lead with under 14 minutes to go.

However, the Red then received three penalties, and the terriers converted on each one, tying the game with under two minutes to go.  According to Johnston, the Red was not disciplined enough in it’s physical play, and failed to clear the puck when it was on the penalty kill.

“We have to play a little more disciplined and try not to get our sticks up,” she said. “Minimizing those penalties is really important. And, in terms of the penalty kill, they have a great power play and we were blocking shots, but sometimes we didn’t get it out when we had the opportunity to get it out. Getting it all the way down the ice is the most important thing.”

According to Karpenko, the Red knows that its defense was not good enough in yesterday’s game, and the team’s communication and back-checking need improvement.

“Most of their chances came on the rush, so its a matter of the forwards back-checking hard and the defense recognizing when they can step up and take somebody early in the play,” she said.  “Better communication between the defense and forwards will also help limit their chances.”

In the overtime periods, both teams came close on a number of occasions, before the Red finally won with just ten seconds left in the third overtime. According to Karpenko, as exhaustion kicks in, the game turns into a battle of wills.

“Everyone’s exhausted, and once you get into the second and third overtime, it is really a matter of who wants it more,” she said.  “A lot of systems and tactical things go out the window. Things aren’t pretty, and it is just a matter of trying to out-work the other team.”

“When you’re in the moment it is do or die, so you kind of almost forget about how tired you are,” Johnston added. “But fitness was important, and I think we’re a pretty fit team and that paid off for us in the end.”

The hero in the end was Lauriane Rougeau, a junior defenseman with only six goals on the season.  She skated past one defender, split two others, and backhanded the puck through the goalies legs, setting off the wild celebration. The play appeared on SportCenter’s top ten plays later that night.

“It was an unbelievable play,” Karpenko said. “I don’t think they expected her to try to take it to the net like that, but she did and she buried it.”

And with that goal the Red is still alive in the quest for a national championship.

Original Author: Ben Horowitz