Though No. 7 Cornell women’s hockey remained competitive, Wisconsin proved why it was the nation’s No. 1 team this weekend at Lynah Rink, handing the Red two losses by margins of 3-1 and 2-1.
Heading into the series, the Red (3-3, 3-1 ECAC) knew the Badgers (16-0, 8-0 WCHA), in the midst of a 14-game win streak, would be formidable opponents. But Cornell remained confident in its ability to put up a fight.
“We knew that [playing Wisconsin] would take heart on the ice, but we most certainly did not change our approach to this weekend much more than we would for any other weekend,” added junior goalkeeper Marlène Boissonnault. “We went into the games expecting to give our 100 percent for the full 60 minutes of the game and come out knowing that we gave it our all — just like we expect to play all of our games this season.”
Cornell got off to a slow start on Friday, launching only four shots on goal in the first period but increased the intensity during the second and third periods to take 18 more shots. Ultimately, the Badgers outshot the Red, 34-22, and took the win, 3-1.
The Red’s lone goal of the match came from freshman forward Maddy Mills off an assist from sophomore forward Kristin O’Neill about 17 minutes into the second period, but it came with the team already trailing 3-0.
Boissonnault had an outstanding third period to keep the Badgers scoreless during the frame en route to recording a career-high 31 saves, but Cornell failed to light the lamp again in the contest, dropping a 3-1 game.
“[On Friday] in our D-zone we got running around a little bit and chasing pucks,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “So [Saturday] we tried to focus a little bit more on our defensive posture on our own end. We tried a couple of new things through the middle, offensively, as well.”
Hoping to salvage a win on the weekend, Cornell looked to regroup and regain its composure heading into game two.
“Between Friday and Saturday we tried to shift our mentality from playing not to lose to playing to win,” said junior forward Pippy Gerace. “Wisconsin is a very talented team and they work very hard, but we had to gain confidence in ourselves and recognize that we also have those qualities and are capable of beating any team.”
“Certainly playing the same team twice in a weekend, you see what works and what doesn’t work as well,” Boissonnault added. “In that case you emphasize on what works well and you keep playing your heart out.”
When the puck dropped on Saturday, both teams got out to a roaring start, playing an aggressive and fast-paced game that saw Wisconsin whistled for seven penalties and Cornell four in the game.
It was clear from the start that neither team was going down without a fight as both were unable to get on the scoreboard by the end of the first period.
Eventually facing a 2-0 hole late in the game, Cornell pulled Boissonnault for an extra attacker while on a 5-on-3 power play, forcing the Badgers into a rare 6-on-3 situation. The Red found its way onto the scoreboard in the final minutes of the game, when Mills scored her second goal of the weekend on assists from O’Neill and sophomore forward Jamie Bourbonnais.
Boissonnault came up huge for Cornell in the crease again, recording 26 saves.
“As a young team, we learned a lot from our mistakes this weekend because Wisconsin’s a team that will take advantage of those miscues,” Derraugh said. “But we also realized we can play with the top teams in the NCAA and compete with them. It’s important with our young group that they start believing that.”
Always striving to improve, the Red looks to fix its mistakes from this weekend and maximize its potential heading back into ECAC play against Brown and Yale.
“Having played two very fast-paced games, it will be very important for us to take that same intensity and grit into next weekend’s Ivy League games,” Gerace said. “Although we have a different opponent, we need to be playing the same way.”
The Red will be back in action this weekend as it hits the road to resume conference play and take on Ancient Eight rivals Brown and Yale. The puck drops at 6 p.m. on Friday against Brown in Providence and at 3 p.m. on Saturday against Yale in New Haven.