The No. 4 ranked Cornell women’s hockey team gained an edge in the tight ECAC and Ivy League standings through its two road games this weekend.
The Red (16-4, 12-2 ECAC) shut out Yale (4-16-1, 3-10-1) by a score of 5-0 and defeated Brown (4-14-1, 3-11) the following night, 4-2.
The wins moved the Red into a tie with Harvard for first place in the Ivy League.
According to head coach Doug Derraugh, the weekend was important because teams’ standings are particularly tight at this point in the season.
“With the little room there is between the top three or four teams in the league this year, it may just be one win or one loss for any of those teams that will make the difference between getting home-ice advantage in the playoffs and ECAC tournament, and also for the NCAA tournament,” he said.
Cornell got off to a fast start against Yale, scoring three goals in the first period to take a commanding 3-0 lead early in the game. The Red then added two more in the second period.
According to sophomore forward Jillian Saulnier, a strong start makes a big difference for the Red.
“It was really important that we got that first goal and got the momentum going early on,” she said. “We can still be better at the beginning of games, but we’re getting better and getting the ball rolling a lot quicker. As the season moves on it won’t get any easier, so that’s really crucial. ”
The Red mounted an impressive offensive attack throughout the game, taking a total of 43 shots. According to Derraugh, applying constant pressure and moving the puck well were keys to the success.
“We protected the puck well in the offensive zone, and we attacked through the neutral zone with speed, causing them a lot of trouble in that regard,” he said. “We generated most of the chances by wearing them down in the offensive zone, possessing the puck, and getting shots on goal.”
The team was pleased with the way it took advantage of these opportunities.
“We knew that we needed to drive the net, get lots of shots, move the puck around, and we were able to capitalize on most of our chances,” Saulnier said.
On the following day against the Bears, the Red outshot Brown heavily in the first period, but was unable to score a goal. Brown ultimately got on the board first, at the beginning of the second period.
“In those kinds of games it’s really important to keep your composure, and I thought we did that really well,” Saulnier said. “When you can’t score for a little bit it gets frustrating and sometimes you grip your stick a little tighter than you should, but I think we did just the opposite. We kept our cool, and kept our eyes on the goal of the game, which was to put the puck in the back of the net and get good chances.”
After Brown scored, the Red notched three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead.
“Everyone knows that a two-goal lead in hockey is the most dangerous lead, momentum-wise,” she said. “So that goal was very important, but what was most important was continuing to pressure them after that goal and keep getting good chances. That was very beneficial to the win.”
Both Saulnier and junior forward Brianne Jenner had standout performances in the games, with Jenner recording three goals and three assists, and Saulnier adding a goal and six assists.
“Both of them are all-world players. [They] have been involved with team Canada at various levels, had really strong seasons last year, and are having great seasons for us again this year,” Derraugh said. “We count on them to provide not only offense, but strong play in all areas of the game, and they’ve made a commitment to getting better at both ends of the ice. In the last few games since we got back from break in particular, they’ve looked phenomenal.”
The victory against Brown also tied Derraugh for the most wins of any coach in the history of Cornell women’s hockey. He credits the hard work and dedication of his players and support of his staff for his success with the program.
“I think as a coach you do the best job that you can for your team and prepare them the best that you can, and from there you need to have individuals who go out and work for the team,” he said. “I’ve been very fortunate to have high quality, great-character players, and on the other side, I’ve had very strong staff around me. No coach will be successful unless he gets commitment from the university and everyone involved with the team, and I’ve been blessed to be working with women’s hockey at Cornell.”
According to Saulnier, the two wins have put the team in good position and energized it for the upcoming games.
“Those two wins were huge,” she said. “We knew coming in that we needed them. They were crucial. This is crunch time from here on out. They were really motivating for the next few games coming up, especially a big game against Mercyhurst on Tuesday that we’re already looking forward to. These wins definitely fueled the fire and we’re ready to go.”
Original Author: Ben Horowitz