The Mohawk flows into the Hudson, January marches into February and Cornell women’s hockey heads on the road this weekend. With eight games left in the regular season to make a move in the ECAC standings, the Red (8-9-4, 4-6-4 ECAC) takes on Union (0-20-6, 0-11-3) 7 p.m. Friday night in Schenectady and Rensselaer (8-12-4, 6-6-2 ECAC) 4 p.m. Saturday in Troy.
“Every single game matters,” said senior assistant captain Taylor Woods.
Aside from their aforementioned positions at the confluence of two major New York rivers, head coach Doug Derraugh ’91 believes there are a lot of similarities between the Red’s weekend opponents.
“Those are similar games,” Derraugh said. “I suspect both games will be close. [Rensselaer’s] got good goaltending. … [Union] play[s] everyone close. They have a very good defensive scheme.”
Coming off a loss that saw five goals from St. Lawrence and likely facing two goalies in Union’s Melissa Black and RPI’s Lovisa Selander who boast save percentages of .935 or better, Cornell is keying in on keeping its opponents off the board and grinding out goals of its own.
“[We’re] focusing on our defense,” said junior Hanna Bunton. “We’ve got to get pucks and bodies [in the crease] … shots in front of the net.”
Junior goaltender Paula Voorheis said she agrees, describing past RPI matchups as “close and gritty” contests with “gritty goals.”
“They use their bodies well,” Woods said of the Engineers in particular.
Woods also mentioned the importance of not over-adjusting to an opponent to the point of compromising Cornell’s own strengths.
“Stick to our game plan and make them play our game,” Woods said. “As a team, [we are] an interdependent team. … We’re being aggressive when we need to be aggressive.”
The Red — now sitting in ninth in the conference after Yale leapfrogged the squad with a blizzard makeup-game victory over Rensselaer — faces two teams with lower overall winning percentages than its own .476. With teams so tightly packed in the standings, it is not out of the question for the Red to jump a couple of spots in the standings this weekend. That said, when Cornell faced these two teams on home ice earlier this season, Union skated to a 2-2 draw and RPI won, 2-1, in overtime. Statistically, teams perform better at home than on the road. Cornell is not underestimating its upcoming opponents, according to Vorhees.
“The game plan doesn’t change,” Voorheis said. “You come in with the exact same attitude.”
Bunton said she agreed, saying that while uncertainty in every single ECAC game is “good for women’s hockey,” it means there are no easy victories.
“I think anything can happen in this league,” Bunton said.
Woods said the team is disappointed in the end to last weekend and admitted on Sunday that “energy is down.”
Yet Bunton pointed out that everyone on the team has had to come back from losses before.
Derraugh said he is confident his team can ride out the fluctuations of the figurative in-season roller coaster.
“I think our team is fairly good at ‘not too high after a win, not too low after a loss,’” he said.
When asked if the Red will be able to move on from last weekend and be ready when the puck drops, Bunton’s response was quick and to the point.
“Yeah, for sure,” she said.