HAMILTON, N.Y. — They tried to forget, but No. 6 Cornell women’s hockey remembered the last time it faced Colgate last March, when their conference rival’s last-second goal ended the Red’s season in the ECAC semifinals.
On Friday afternoon, Cornell got vengeance against the No. 8 Raiders, 4-2, thanks to late third-period scoring and stellar goaltending from senior Marlène Boissannault.
“We weren’t happy with the way things went for us last year and it’s nice to come in here and get a win over another top-10 team — a team that’s at the top of the ECAC and one of the best in the NCAA,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91.
Junior forward Amy Curlew picked a perfect time for her first goal of the season, putting Cornell ahead for good, 3-2, with 8:13 to play after Boissannault’s play kept the Red in the game during the second period and the start of the third.
“I waited long enough,” Curlew said with a sigh of relief. “I felt it there coming on the end of a long shift, so it was worth it to stay on.”
Junior Kristin O’Neill opened the scoring on the power play 10:17 into the first period, taking her own rebound off the post and rifling a shot past Colgate netminder Julia Vandyk. The goal was the co-captain’s 12th of the season, putting her back into a tie with Maddie Mills for the team lead. The Red went 2-for-4 on the power play, getting each of its first two tallies up a skater.
“It was nice [to get] one from each of our power play units tonight, we’ve gotten a few goals from both units lately,” Derraugh said. “We can’t expect one power play to always be on top and sometimes you need that second unit to provide some scoring.”
As the opening 20 minutes — controlled mostly by the visitors — neared their expiration, Cornell faced a bit of déjà vu as Colgate’s Jessie Eldridge knotted the score at one apiece with 2.2 seconds left in the first period.
Did the goal bring Cornell an unpleasant flashback to last season’s heartbreaking finish?
“A little bit,” O’Neill said with a laugh. “Didn’t want to think too much about last year, but it was.”
Colgate tipped the ice in their favor in a back-and-forth second period that stayed scoreless until late thanks to a number of highlight-reel stops by Boissannault. With 2:11 to play in the period, senior forward Lenka Serdar potted her sixth goal of the season, a power play rebound she sent past Vandyk.
Perhaps Boissannault’s best of her 19 saves came less than five minute into the second period, a sprawling stop to stymie a Grade-A Raider 2-on-1 opportunity. The save came right after a big stop kept Colgate off the board on the hosts’ second power play of the contest. 11:24 into the middle period, Colgate had nine second-period shots to Cornell’s one.
“This time of year you have to have it,” Derraugh said of his hot goaltending. “If you don’t have the goaltending going down the stretch into the playoffs it’s going to be a shortened season for you. It’s key for any hockey team this time to have confidence in you goaltender not only making the big saves but it gives your whole team a lift and gives you time to rally and get late goals like we did today.”
The Red’s one-goal lead wouldn’t be enough — the Raiders knotted the game at 2-2 just 3:04 in the third.
And while the ECAC rivals yet again seemed headed to a game that wouldn’t be decided until the final moments, Curlew took a feed from her linemate Mills and buried the eventual game-winner.
“[Curlew’s] been knocking on the door, she had a tough start to the season this year with an injury and now she’s starting to find her groove,” Derraugh said. “She was really big for us in years past and we know what she can do for us when she’s healthy.”
The Curlew-O’Neill-Mills line now has a combined 25 goals on the season — by far the most of Cornell’s forward trios.
“I think our biggest focus tonight was just energy,” O’Neill said. “We tried to just bring energy every shift and whatever-it-takes mentality. We managed to show that energy for a full 60 minutes and that’s what paid off.”
Right as a penalty expired, junior forward Grace Graham got a breakaway chance and scored her fifth goal of the year to give the Red some breathing room with 4:14 left.
With a key ECAC road win in hand, Cornell returns home tomorrow afternoon to face the Raiders in the back end of the teams’ home-and-home. Puck drop is set for 3 p.m.
“We’re happy that we were able to come in here and get the victory but you come back to your home rink tomorrow and if you don’t then it’s all for not, so we just got to make sure we approach it [with] the same energy,” Derraugh said. “We relied on our goaltending a little too much in the middle of this game, and if we do that again tomorrow I think we’re going to be in trouble.”
“Obviously, winning here in their home rink, they’re going to take us back to Lynah and they’re going to give it everything they’ve got as well,” Curlew said.