A winding season’s journey is in the books for Cornell women’s hockey. The Red (13-14-4, 9-9-4 ECAC) lost the first two games of the best-of-three ECAC quarterfinals to Clarkson (28-3-5, 14-3-5 ECAC). On Friday, the Knights won, 2-0, and on Saturday, 5-2. This year is the first since the 2008-09 season that Cornell is not represented in the ECAC Championship game.
Facing a formidable foe on Friday, Cornell got off to a strong start, outshooting Clarkson in the first period.
“I thought we did start strong, actually,” said Cornell head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “I thought we came ready to play.”
According to senior assistant captain and forward Taylor Woods, the low-scoring game that evolved over the course of play meant scoring the first goal was going to be important.
“Who’s going to get that first goal? And the momentum goes that way,” she said.
Unfortunately for Cornell, it was Clarkson that struck first. The Red kept it a one-goal game until allowing an empty net tally with 24 seconds left in regulation.
“Our goalie [junior Paula Voorheis] played phenomenal in both games,” Woods said. “She made some critical saves … when we had lapses in our defense.”
“Paula played outstanding,” concurred senior captain and defender Cassandra Poudrier.
According to Derraugh, the 2-0 final score meant the Red did a good job keeping Clarkson off the board on Friday while failing to generate offense themselves.
“Clarkson’s a real strong team, solid defensively,” Derraugh said. “We struggled to get some great opportunities. Overall, we were pretty solid defensively. We just couldn’t [score].”
Down 1-0 in the series, Saturday was a must-win game for the Red. Cornell understood the imperative of getting off to a good start.
“Our goal for the second game was to get the first goal,” Poudrier said.
Senior forward Jess Brown capitalized on an extra attacker opportunity midway through the first to give the Red the game’s first lead, and freshman forward Christian Higham made it 2-0 only three minutes later.
“It’s better to protect the lead than come back from one,” Woods said. “We had a lot of power play time.”
Derraugh said had the Red been able to go into the first intermission up by two; it would have accented their first period statement. However, the Knights trimmed Cornell’s lead to a single goal in the closing minutes of the first. Five minutes into the second, a second Clarkson goal had the game all tied up. With most of the game still to play, Woods and Poudrier still believed in Cornell’s chances.
“You could feel … it could go either way,” Woods said, emphasizing the importance of momentum. “A person or even a play creates that for a team.”
“It was playoff hockey; it could go either way,” Poudrier echoed.
Woods said the Red did not block as many shots as the team usually does. Indeed, Clarkson fired in puck after puck on net, getting 52 total shots on goal to Cornell’s 15. With six minutes left in regulation and the game still tied at 2-2, the Knights finally found the back of the net. A second goal a few minutes later made it 4-2, and an empty net formality closed the books on Cornell’s season.
“We’re disappointed,” Derraugh said. “At the start of the year, our goal was to get to the ECAC Championship.”
As seniors, Saturday was Woods and Poudrier’s last game in Carnelian and White. Poudrier pointed to the strength of team chemistry and character of her fourth and final Cornell team.
“We never backed down,” said Poudrier. “We had a lot of ups. We kept moving forward.”
Woods reflected on the season and her career, saying that while this Cornell team did not go as far into the playoffs as it would have liked, over the course of the season, they achieved positive influence on others, raised money for charity and achieved personal growth.
“We’ve accomplished so much,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed my time at Cornell and I know I’m going to miss it.”