A strong performance over the weekend in the ECAC playoffs from Cornell women’s hockey granted the team a spot in the NCAA tournament starting this coming weekend. After a 3-1 thrashing over St. Lawrence, the Red squared off against Clarkson in the ECAC championship — a 1-0 game that could have gone either way.
“In the first game I thought we had a good jump,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “It was big for us to get the first goal against St. Lawrence.”
On Sunday, Clarkson edged Cornell with a first period power play goal to beat the Red in a one-goal affair. Cornell had a few chances to tie the game, but ultimately Clarkson shut the door with strong defense and goaltending.
“They did a really nice job defensively of shutting us down,” Derraugh said.
Cornell’s offense went quiet on Sunday just one day after the team outpaced St. Lawrence. In that game, goals from freshmen forwards Kristin O’Neill, Amy Curlew and Paige Lewis opened up the game for the Red and allowed the team to play to its strengths — defense and goaltending — for the entire third period.
But on Sunday, after Clarkson got out to an early lead, the game evolved into a defensive battle. Yet both teams generated scoring chances off of power play opportunities, but to no avail.
“We had our opportunities on the power play and it became more of a special teams game,” Derraugh said.
While the Red ultimately came up short at winning the ECAC title, Cornell’s strong showing in the conference tournament — coupled with a very successful regular season — led the selection committee to grant Cornell an at-large bid for the NCAA tournament. Just eight teams in the country are selected each year to play for the title.
“I am extremely proud of this team,” Derraugh added. “This is a team that really bought into what we were teaching them and wanted to get better every day.”
Derraugh credited multiple reasons for his team’s successful run this season. Cornell began its season with a significant deal of uncertainty, as the team welcomed in a large freshman class with gaps to fill on the roster. Commitment to the game and leadership were instrumental in Cornell’s success, Derraugh stressed.
“This team plays hard and cares for one another,” he said. “The leadership in the locker room has been tremendous and that has been a key for us.”
The tight-knit group will get yet another shot at familiar foe Clarkson on Saturday in the first round of the NCAA tournament. It will be the third time in less than a month that the two will meet.
“We played each other during the last weekend of the regular season as well,” Derraugh said. “I don’t think there is going to be many surprises as far as either teams go.”
A close game is expected, as neither team has been able to win by more than one goal in three contests so far this season. Clarkson leads the series with two wins, including the two most recent games. Cornell beat Clarkson earlier in the season on the road in what was a vital win for the women.
Both teams have found plenty of success this season, so there is little reason to suspect either team will try to mix things up this weekend.
“You can tinker with a few things here and there but you’re going to go with what has made you successful all year long,” Derraugh said. “It will come down to which team executes better.”