March 3, 2013

W. HOCKEY | Come From Behind Wins Send C.U. to Semis

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The No. 2 ranked Cornell Women’s hockey team (25-5-1, 18-3-1 ECAC) won the ECAC regular season title and began playoff competition with a best-of-three series against Colgate (11-21-3, 6-13-3) this weekend at Lynah Rink. With two thrilling comeback wins, the Red swept the Raiders in consecutive games and now moves on to the semifinals, which will be held at Lynah Rink next weekend.

Cornell scored in overtime to win Friday’s game, 5-4, and won Saturday’s contest on a last- second regulation goal, 3-2. According to sophomore forward Jillian Saulnier, the wins were exciting for everyone involved and were products of the team’s persistent attitude.

“Whoever said miracles can’t happen is wrong after what we did the past two days,” she said. “That was amazing. My adrenaline was through the roof because that was an amazing thing to watch. It shows the character of the players on our team, and our never-give-up attitude.”

The passionate support of the Lynah faithful also helped lead the Red to victory, according to Saulnier.

“The fans were unbelievable and never let us down. It’s incredible to play in your own rink, and the atmosphere that they continue to bring for us is a huge part of our success and hopefully will continue to do so as long as we’re at home,” she said.

The Red overcame deficits to win both games. On Friday, Colgate held a 3-1 lead in the third period after producing two power play goals early in the game. Head coach Doug Derraugh said this was because the Red wasn’t careful in avoiding penalties, and the Raiders were able to capitalize on those mistakes.

“I watched some of it on tape and I didn’t like how many penalties we took,” he said. “We did a decent job on the penalty kill, but Colgate got us out of position and running around a little bit and converted on it. So we’re going to have to work on that this week.”

Saulnier added that avoiding penalties and executing in all special-teams play is essential for winning in the playoffs.

“Our discipline is something that we’ll need to work on this week and be spot-on with next week,” she said. “We need to make sure not to make stupid penalties because that can make or break a game. Making sure that we’re successful on special teams, both the power play and the penalty kill, is crucial for our success.”

The Red came back to tie the game at three midway through the third, but Colgate retook the lead on another power play goal.  With under a minute left to play, sophomore forward Monica Leck banged home a rebound to tie the game again. Just 39 seconds into sudden-death overtime, junior forward Brianne Jenner’s rebound through traffic found the back of the net — it was her third goal of the game as well as the game-winner.

In Saturday’s contest, the Red was stuck in a 2-0 deficit heading into the third period.

“From the day before when we fell behind and came back, we knew that we’re a team that can score goals, and we were creating opportunities, so we thought that if we just kept putting pucks on net they would start to go in,” Derraugh said. “We got a big goal in the first minute of the third which was huge for us from a confidence and energy standpoint, and that helped us gain momentum throughout the period.”

In a Deja-vu of Friday’s game, senior defenseman Lauriane Rougeau tied the game on a slapshot from the point with just under a minute to go. This time, however, the game never reached overtime. With time ticking down, Jenner chased down a puck behind the net and quickly took a shot. The puck found the back of the net with just one second left on the clock.

“Emily Fulton was backchecking hard through the middle of the ice and she threw towards their net,” Derraugh said. “Brianne got in on the forecheck, picked the pocket of the defenseman and made a quick move, and I think she realized there wasn’t much time left and threw it to the net. The goaltender wasn’t quite expecting it, and Brianne put it right between her legs and won the game for us.”

With this buzzer beater, Jenner completed a remarkable weekend, with 4 goals and at least an assist on every Cornell goal in both games.

“It was an incredible weekend for her,” Derraugh said. “She can do it in so many ways, she has great hands, great shot. What more is there to say about her? She’s one of the best players in the NCAA.”

Saulnier added that her teammate’s performance this weekend is indicative of what she can do for the rest of the season.

“Her actions say it all,” Saulnier said. “She’s just phenomenal and is doing wonders for this team. Her skill is just a step above, and I’m sure she’ll continue to bring it for the rest of the season. She always challenges herself to get better which makes the rest of us better, and she’s just a pure talent.”

According to Saulnier, these wins proved that the Red is never truly out of contention and can be successful if it doesn’t give up.

“It’s pretty crazy that in both of those games, we only led for one second, and it proves that it’s really important that if you do get down, you keep your head up,” she said. “We were very motivated and just continued to play our game, tried to keep our composure, and continued to bring it to them, and fortunately we came out with the wins.”

Original Author: Ben Horowitz