Under pressure in a win-or-go-home matchup, the Cornell women’s hockey team kept its composure Sunday and defeated Princeton 4-0 to win the ECAC quarterfinal series, two games to one, advancing to the conference championship weekend in Potsdam.
Cornell (21-8-3, 15-5-2 ECAC) bested Princeton (14-14-4, 11-10-1) by a score of 2-1 in Game 1 on Friday as goals from freshman forward Maddie Mills and senior forward Brianna Veerman propelled the Red past the Tigers.
The Red looked in position to secure a clean sweep of their Ivy League foes, taking an early 2-0 lead in the second game of the series on Saturday. But the Tigers had other ideas, using success on the power play to come from behind and defeat Cornell 5-4 in overtime to force game three on Sunday.
“We were very disappointed about our performance in game two,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “So we wanted to make sure we played our best game of the series in game three.”
With its back against the wall, Cornell demonstrated incredible resiliency and poise on Sunday as it trounced the Tigers, 4-0, behind goals from Mills, Veerman, junior forward Diana Buckley and senior captain Sarah Knee.
The game also marked junior goalkeeper Marlene Boissonnault’s seventh shutout of the year — tied for fourth-best in the nation.
“We knew that our season was on the line [Sunday],” said junior forward Pippy Gerace. “Coming into a game that’s a must-win is nerve racking, but that is how it is going to be for the rest of the year. We definitely came out with a spark which ignited throughout the whole game.”
Despite the pressure, players felt they would get the job done.
“I don’t think I’ve seen the team as determined as we were going into Sunday,” Knee said. “After those kinds of losses [like Saturday], it’s easy to doubt your team’s strength or place blame, but none of that happened. Everyone was very eager to prove what we’re capable of.”
With so much at stake, the series was extremely physical, with Cornell receiving 22 penalties to Princeton’s 19 on the weekend.
The large amount of penalty minutes accrued put a lot of stress on the special teams units, particularly the penalty kill.
“This weekend we saw that special teams can make or break a game,” Buckley said. “That was the difference between game two and game three. To continue playing through the ECAC tournament, we need to stay out of the box to limit the offensive chances for the opponent.”
In addition to limiting penalty minutes, Cornell will be focusing on taking care of other controllable variables as it takes on No. 4 Colgate (31-4-1, 19-3-0 ECAC) in the ECAC semifinals.
“For next weekend, we will be focusing on our side of the game,” Boissonnault said. “Our power play and penalty kill have been getting better and better lately — that’s one place where we’ll be focusing to keep our good results.”
Puck drops against the second-seeded Raiders at 4 p.m. Saturday at Clarkson University’s Cheel Arena in Potsdam. Last year, in the same building, Cornell defeated St. Lawrence in the conference semifinal before falling to top-seeded Clarkson in the final game.
Should the team defeat Colgate, it would face either the Golden Knights or St. Lawrence on Sunday at 2 p.m. The winner of the tournament will automatically secure a spot in the NCAA tournament.