Cornell women’s hockey will look to continue its hot start to the 2016 season when the team takes on RPI and Union this weekend in what will be the first taste of ECAC play for the Red.
Cornell (2-0-0, 0-0 ECAC) saw solid production from its freshman class in its first two games against Mercyhurst (1-4-1, 0-0 CHA). Freshman forward Kristin O’Neill notched two goals for the Red and freshman defender Jaime Bourbonnais scored a goal and added an assist.
“Our young players stepped up for us,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ‘91. “Overall, the team played with good energy, and we got contributions from a lot of different players.”
As Cornell heads into ECAC play, the team will continue to rely on its young players to step up in big moments.
“We are going to rely on a total team effort and we need everybody to contribute,” Derraugh said. “But when you have a large freshman class of seven players they are going to play big roles.”
As the team moves forward, an encouraging sign for the Red is the balanced approach the team has taken so far to scoring goals.
“We got offense from both our forwards and our defense,” Derraugh said, in reference to the two games with Mercyhurst. “We also had strong goalkeeping.”
Winning the first two games of the season will provide confidence for the team as it heads into a slate of conference games, according to Derraugh.
“To get four points right off the bat against a tough opponent was big for us,” Derraugh said. “Certainly those were big wins for us.”
Nonetheless, the Red still has much to improve on, especially considering how young the team is.
“We need consistency,” Derraugh said. “I thought we had a couple lulls in our game and areas where we didn’t execute and play with the same commitment that we need.”
Cornell will look to bring its penalty minutes down in its games against RPI and Union.
“We can’t expect to give up as many penalties as we did and continue to have success,” Derraugh said.
Discipline will play a large factor in determining whether or not Cornell will be successful. The Red will need to keep penalty numbers down without losing the toughness and defensive tenacity that Cornell is known for.
Derraugh is expecting RPI (2-5-1, 0-0 ECAC) and Union (2-6-0, 0-0 ECAC) to be two tough match ups for Cornell.
“Both teams played us very hard last year and took points off of us,” Derraugh said.
Likewise, both RPI and Union play similar styles of hockey and are defense and goaltending-oriented teams.
“[RPI and Union] both have very strong goaltenders and play a system that makes it difficult for opponents to score in big numbers,” Derraugh said. “They protect the front of their nets very well.”
Cornell will need to stay committed to its offensive game plan to put pucks in the net against these stalwart defenses.
“You have to be willing to throw pucks in there and get into the tough areas if you want to have a chance of scoring,” Derraugh said.
Traveling on the road to begin ECAC play will also be a tough test for Cornell.
“[On the road] you don’t have your home crowd and home band — both of which are great for energy,” Derraugh said. “You have to be able to create your own energy and make sure that you are keeping your team going,”
Derraugh said he does not expect his team to change anything in terms of preparation between home and road matchups.
“You can’t change the way you get yourself focused before the game,” Derraugh said.
The ECAC will have many strong teams this year, so Cornell does not expect to have any games handed to them.
“It looks like we are going to have a strong conference this year,” Derraugh said. “I’ve seen this for the past couple seasons, where the conference continues to get stronger.”
With that said, there are no teams that jump out on paper as being clear cut favorites to win the league.
“The level from top to bottom is very equitable,” Derraugh said.
Cornell expects to have a chance at winning every game it plays this year in the ECAC, but will not take any game for granted.
“If you take a night off you are going to pay the price because teams are just too good nowadays,” Derraugh said.