Cornell women’s hockey was frustrated — and downright puzzled. It knew just how tall a task Rensselaer goaltender Lovisa Selander — the all-time NCAA leader in saves — could be, but just a weekend removed from an 8-2 trouncing of Selander and the Engineers, the Red had just two goals to show for 117 shots throughout the first two games of the ECAC quarterfinals.
Sunday’s 6-1 win in do-or-die game three of the ECAC quarterfinals didn’t even feature much of a change in approach from the first two games: Cornell dominated each period, sent an exorbitant 61 shots on net — a 175-25 edge in the series — and got the answers from its own goaltending the few times it was called upon.
But unlike Friday’s overtime win and Saturday’s 2-0 loss, the seal was finally broken and the goals finally came — in a big way.
“RPI has an amazing goalie, give her complete credit for that. She’s incredible,” said Cornell junior defenseman Jaime Bourbonnais. “But building off of that we didn’t play poorly yesterday or anything, it wasn’t like we got badly outplayed. … Just taking that into this game and knowing that we have scored on her in the past and finding a way to push deep, and we managed to get it done.”.
“For our players recognizing you can’t get frustrated, you can’t get down, you can’t be thinking about the period before or the plays before and just looking to find ways to get it done,” added head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “You have to find a different way in the playoffs sometimes; it’s a different style of hockey.”
Now victorious in a hard-fought ECAC quarterfinal series — and able to avoid what could have been a brutal hit to the Red’s PairWise ranking — regular-season champions Cornell will have until Saturday before it plays with the luxury of hosting ECAC championships for the first time since 2013 season, when it downed St. Lawrence and Harvard to win the crown.
And a year removed from a heart-breaking, last-second loss in the ECAC semifinals to Colgate, the No. 1-seeded Red will take on No. 4 Princeton — the only ECAC team it failed to beat all season — in the early semifinal while No. 2 Colgate and No. 3 Clarkson will later battle it out for the other spot in the title game.
“Going off our last game against them, we kind of all were like, ‘I hope we see them again, we want to see them again,’” freshman forward Gillis Frechette, who had two goals Sunday, said of Princeton’s 5-0 January shellacking of the Red at Lynah. “Because we have that fire and we know we can beat them.”
The hockey next weekend at Lynah will be high-flying, as all final four teams inhabit the top-10 national rankings.
“It’ll be fast-paced, they’ve got a great young team and they have a lot of players that can skate really well,” Derraugh added of Princeton. “They’ve got really good goaltending, they’ve got D’s like us that are contributing on the offensive side but are also solid defensively, and that’s why they are one of the top teams in the country and one of the top teams in our league. It’ll certainly be a big test for us.”
Before the excitement of hosting ECAC championships once again could come, Cornell had to avoid a collapse and upset at the hands of RPI
Aftering being turned aside by Selander seemingly every second of Saturday’s game two loss, Cornell needed just 9:45 to break the ice on Sunday’s matinee. Driving into the RPI zone, junior defenseman Jamie Bourbonnais obliged to senior forward Lenkra Serdar, hollering in the slot, who wristed it past Selander’s to put the Red on the board.
“Lenka, I heard her screaming for it, so I didn’t really have to do much for that — just fed it right over to her and she took a beautiful shot blocker side,” Bourbonnais said. “Scoring on [Selander] early gave us a lot of confidence especially after not scoring on her yesterday.”
— Cornell Daily Sun Sports (@DailySunSports) March 3, 2019
Cornell would add another first-period goal, this time after a chaotic sequence in front of the net last found the stick of Frechette and got past Selander. For Frechette, who added a second goal in the third period to make it 5-1, Saturday continued her late-season breakout. After seeing 25 games pass her by without a goal, the freshman now has five in her last seven games.
“I was getting frustrated at the beginning of the season,” Frechette said. “Everyone kept saying it’s going to come and the floodgates are going to open. Felt that’s kind of happened and I’m starting to get more confident with the puck and feeling like I belong out there more.”
“Gillis is a real skilled player and certainly has a ton of potential,” Derraugh said. “She’s starting to come into her own, [and it] couldn’t be better timing.”
And like it did all weekend, the Red utterly dominated play and pinned RPI deep in its own zone. But with that commitment to offense came a few defensive lapses on fumbled pucks and blue-line interceptions.
But senior goalie Marlene Boissonnault came through on each of the few Engineer rushes and opportunities until the 12:46 point of the second period. With senior forward and captain Kristin O’Neill in the penalty box for a cross check, a stuff attempt by RPI forward Jaimie Grigsby deflected above Boissonnault’s shoulder and just trickled over the goal line.
O’Neill needed just 60 seconds to repent for her time in the sin bin and ensure no Engineer comeback bid would ruin her team’s chances at hosting the semifinals. Exactly one minute after the captain exited the box, a spin-o-rama effort in the slot blazed by Selander to re-establish Cornell’s two-goal lead.
— Cornell Daily Sun Sports (@DailySunSports) March 3, 2019
“That was such a straight fire in her heart after that [RPI] goal went in,” Bourbonnais said of O’Neill.
It was O’Neill’s first of two goals on the afternoon, and she was joined by Frechette in scoring once again in the third period to deepen RPI’s hole — a gap further extended by freshman forward Bella Kang’s first career goal with 3:34 left to play in the game.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been that excited to score a goal,” Bourbonnais said after Kang was swarmed on her way to the bench.
“In such a big game, too,” Derraugh added.