Cornell women’s hockey (5-2, 3-2 ECAC) will face a tough test this weekend when the team takes on No. 8 Quinnipiac (9-4-1, 4-2, ECAC) and Princeton (4-3-1, 2-3 ECAC) in what could be a defining series for the Red. Both games will be played on the road, with Cornell taking on Quinnipiac on Friday and Princeton on Saturday.
After back-to-back wins, the team is feeling upbeat and confident heading into the action.
“I think our team has a lot of confidence right now,” said freshman forward Kristin O’Neill.
Since Cornell is a young team, it took several games before the team started to click and develop a consistent approach on and off the ice. The Red put the pieces together in wins against Brown (3-6, 1-5 ECAC) and Yale (4-3-1, 2-3-1 ECAC) this past weekend, when the offense came alive for eight goals in two games.
“I think our energy, our focus and our communication has been better,” said head coach Doug Derraugh.
Defense is definitely the Red’s strong suit, as opponents are averaging just 1.1 goals per game against a committed back line. Nevertheless, as the offense is starting to find ways to put pucks in the net, Cornell is becoming a dangerous team.
The Red has outshot opponents by an average of 10 goals a game this season, but the team has not been able to convert on most of its scoring opportunities until recently.
Now, with the emergence of freshman forward Kristin O’Neill and the consistent play of senior forward Hanna Bunton, the Red look far more capable of generating goals.
“Any time a team can get going both ways, it’s dangerous,” Derraugh said. “It was good to see us put the puck in the net over the weekend after we had struggled there for a stretch.”
Last season, Cornell lost both matchups to Quinnipiac in what were competitive contests. This year, Quinnipiac will pose many of the same challenges.
Cornell will look to keep its penalty minutes down to limit scoring opportunities against a team that has scored 11 times so far on the power play.
“We still need to improve our discipline and that will be really important against Quinnipiac because they take advantage of mistakes,” Derraugh said.
Against Princeton, much of the formula for success will remain the same. Cornell will need to limit its penalty minutes and find ways to capitalize on scoring opportunities.
“Princeton has strong goaltending,” Derraugh said. “They can really move the puck well.”
The games against Quinnipiac and Princeton should be a good gauge of where Cornell stacks up against some of the better teams in the conference.
“Every game around this time of year is very important,” Derraugh said. “Because we don’t play a lot of games, each one is significant.”
Nonetheless, this weekend seems as though it could be a defining moment for the Red. Cornell will need to string together a long stretch of wins at some point this year to separate from other teams in the standings.
“Last year there were several teams that were separated in the standings by one or two games in the end,” Derraugh said.
If Cornell can build on its success in the past two games, then the team will gain ground against teams ahead in the standings, such as Quinnipiac.