Freshman forward Kristin O’Neill has been a breakout star for Cornell women’s hockey so far this season, providing a much-needed offensive spark for the Red.
“Kristin O’Neill is a very dynamic player,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “She will be an impact player for us in the years to come.”
O’Neill currently leads Cornell (3-2, 1-2 ECAC) in scoring and points, with four goals and an assist on the year. O’Neill credited the upperclassmen for welcoming her to the team and the added practice time in college hockey as some of the reasons for her success.
“The upperclassmen have really made the freshman feel welcome,” O’Neill said. “I think our freshman class has a lot of confidence.”
Likewise, the transition to the college game has allowed O’Neill more ice time at practice and a chance to work closely with the coaching staff.
“I’ve been getting a lot more practice, much more than I did in high school,” O’Neill said.
Even though O’Neill has already found tremendous success on ice, the transition to the college game has not been easy.
“I think the jump has been pretty difficult and the pace of play is a lot faster,” she said. “I’m starting to get used the speed of the game now, but it wasn’t easy.”
Cornell has a young team this year, with a large freshmen class of seven players. All of the freshmen are expected to contribute, so getting up to speed on the ice, as well as to the demands Cornell hockey, is crucial to the team’s success. Thus far, O’Neill is please with the way her team has progressed.
“I think our team is really working well together and we seem to have a lot of chemistry,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill’s decision to play at Cornell has been a benefit for the entire hockey program, as she has fit right in and found success. Nonetheless, there were numerous factors that led Kristin to Ithaca, with education being the most important.
“First off, I chose to play at Cornell for academics,” O’Neill said. “I thought to myself if I couldn’t play hockey at Cornell, would I still want to be here? And that answer was yes.”
Outside of the classroom, O’Neill was drawn to the coaching staff and said she saw
an opportunity to advance her game under the leadership of Derraugh.
“The coach also played a big role in my decision,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill began getting recruited by Cornell during her sophomore year of high school — she was thrilled to hear that Cornell was interested in pursuing her.
“The thought of going to Cornell was just so amazing to me,” O’Neill said.
O’Neill visited Cornell’s campus in middle school and imagined one day going to attending the University. When O’Neill committed to Cornell during the fall of her junior year of high school, she said it was a surreal moment.
“I decided that I wanted to come here and be a part of something special,” O’Neill said.
For the O’Neill family, the trip to Cornell is a four hour drive, but seeing Kristin play is worth it.
“I’m used to having my parents at my games,” O’Neill said. “My mom and dad have come to three games already this year and they’re really impressed with our team.”
With players like O’Neill coming through the system, Cornell women’s hockey has a bright future. O’Neill and her freshman classmates will look to add to the history of Cornell hockey and hopefully contend for a title.