For Cornell women’s hockey, the 2017-2018 season was one that saw the team consistently ranked in the top 10 nationally — rounding out the season at No. 6.
Though the end to the season was not what was wanted, head coach Doug Derraugh’s ’91 squad demonstrated resiliency and determination to finish with a 21-9-3 overall record and a 15-5-2 conference record.
“Although it was a heartbreaker, our last game against Colgate [in the ECAC semifinals] was a very memorable game,” said sophomore captain Kristin O’Neill. “Coming back from a three-goal deficit was something I will always remember.”
Aside from its impressive record, the Red also earned five top-10 wins over the course of the season, beating St. Lawrence twice and earning victories over Providence and Colgate.
Heading into the postseason, Cornell also held the nation’s longest unbeaten streak at eight games.
Although Princeton forced a third game in the ECAC quarterfinals, the Red showcased its poise and perseverance to handily defeat the Tigers to advance to the semifinals for the second year in a row.
“My favorite performance of the season was probably the series against Princeton,” O’Neill said. “[Game three] showed our character — the determination and confidence that we showed in this game really represents us as a team.”
O’Neill said she credits much of the success of the team to the complementary nature of the players.
“We have a lot of different strengths that go well together and each individual brings something different to our team,” O’Neill said. “The freshmen fit in to our team as soon as they got to campus at the beginning of the year and our coaching staff consistently showed confidence in us as a group, which made it even more fun to come to the rink.”
Though the Red has consistently proven itself a force to be reckoned with over the years, each year’s team is unique in its own way — and this year’s group is no different.
“The group of girls that we had this year was unlike any other teams that I had,” said junior goaltender Marlene Boissonnault. “Going to the rink every day was by far the highlight of my day. The group that we had was so genuine, appreciative, open-minded, happy, and on and on with the qualities. The team quickly became family.”
“This was a very special season and the team chemistry and dynamic was very rare,” said junior forward Pippy Gerace. “Every year the team is always a little different, but I think I will always remember this group of girls as ‘my team’.”
One of the deepest teams in the nation, the Red had each of its skaters tally at least one point over the course of the season.
Cornell was also the top team in the nation on the penalty kill, with a 92.9% kill rate.
Individually, Cornell placed four athletes on ECAC All-League teams — O’Neill was named to the first team, sophomore defender Jamie Bourbonnais earned second-team honors, senior captain defender Sarah Knee was placed on the third-team and freshman forward Maddie Mills earned all-rookie accolades.
The young squad looks poised to replicate its national prowess again next season as it graduates just three seniors — Knee, defender and captain Erin O’Connor and forward Brianna Veerman.
“Our senior class made a huge impact on the ice and were phenomenal leaders off of the ice,” Gerace said. “We were lucky to have three seniors to look up to that carry themselves with such grace on and off of the ice.”
Despite coming up just short of an NCAA tournament bid, the Red continued to cement its legacy as one of the top programs in the country and is hungry for its next opportunity to prove itself.
“This season was definitely one to remember,” O’Neill said. “Our team’s performance got consistently better as the season went on thanks to the commitment, grit and character of each and every individual. As sad as were when the season came to an end, we are looking forward for next season.”