After playing the last eight games on the road, women’s hockey will return home for the first time in over a month, hoping to maintain its so far flawless Lynah record as it takes on a pair of upstate New York rivals.
No. 7/7 Cornell (6-1-4, 4-1-1 ECAC) will face off against No. 8/9 St.Lawrence (9-6-1, 4-0-0 ECAC) on Friday and two-time defending national champion Clarkson (12-2-0, 3-1-0 ECAC) on Saturday.
Last year, the Red triumphed over St. Lawrence by comfortable margins, securing a 3-1 and 4-1 win. But despite last season’s convincing wins, St Lawrence — a team with a perfect conference record — is a fierce national competitor, and will demand nothing less than Cornell’s best.
“St. Lawrence tends to be a wide open game. They will take risks, they play with a lot of speed and they forecheck hard,” said head coach Doug Derraugh. “They have a good team from top to bottom with great goaltending, and that’s why they are one of the top teams in the ECAC and the country.”
Clarkson — which Cornell suffered a devastating 4-3 overtime loss to last year — also promises to put up a similarly tough challenge.
“Clarkson plays a real stingy defensive game. It’s very hard to get scoring opportunities,” Derraugh said. “They are well-coached, disciplined and have players who can score up front and are a dangerous threat every time they are on the ice.”
The outcomes of both games will be crucial in determining the eventual conference winner and host of the ECAC tournament in February.
“Both St. Lawrence and Clarkson are huge games in the NCAA standings, but more importantly in the ECAC standings,” said senior forward Diana Buckley. “These games will feature some of the best players in the NCAA, so I can guarantee it will be a pair of aggressive, fast and fun games.”
And while St. Lawrence might remain undefeated in conference play, the Red has an unblemished record at home that it won’t be willing to tarnish without a stiff fight.
“Playing in front of family, friends, the rowdy Lynah faithful and the band is something special to our team,” said senior forward Lenka Serdar. “The atmosphere at Lynah gives our team so much energy on the ice.”
In addition to channeling Lynah’s electric atmosphere, the Red will be focusing on its special teams — an aspect of the game that has proven especially troublesome for the team as it has given up goals in the past few games while playing man down.
“A focus of our team against St. Lawrence will be execution on our special teams,” Serdar said. “Both the power play and penalty kill can have a huge affect on the outcome of games. We must take fewer penalties against St. Lawrence if we want to be successful.”
When it comes to Clarkson, the Red will employ a similar approach — paying attention to details, while staying disciplined defensively.
“Our main focus moving into this weekend is playing the fast, aggressive style of defense that we are known for,” Buckley said. “Both teams have great offensive players so fueling our own offense through strong defensive plays will be key.”
Cornell has also recently struggled with running up losses early on in games. Against Robert Morris, its most recent competitor, the Red faced an early 2-0 deficit, and was only able to battle back to a draw.
But Derraugh expects that Cornell’s home ice advantage will spur the team to get off to stronger starts in the weekend’s upcoming games.
“Being on the road, you are in their building, so they are going to want to put pressure on you early on,” Derraugh said. “So for us coming into our house now, hopefully we will be the ones putting pressure on the opponents who are coming into our building.”
The Red has been on the road for the past several weeks — a challenging, though mostly successful, stretch that has tested the team’s resolve. But according to Derraugh, the time away from home has been a vital stress test, and the experience gained from eight consecutive games on the road will ultimately give Cornell the edge as it heads into some of its most difficult competition of the season.
“The only way you have a chance of winning in the playoffs or the NCAA tournament is if you’re able to win on the road, so hopefully that experience will bode well for us,” Derraugh said.
“Every single game will be a challenge, so we have to be prepared to play a full 60 minutes every single game — no matter who the opponent is,” added junior co-captain forward Kristin O’Neill. “We are definitely happy with the team so far, but not satisfied. We have a lot of potential, and I’m very excited to see what we can do with it.”
The Red squares off against St. Lawrence Friday at 6 p.m. and Clarkson on Saturday at 3 p.m.