The resilient Red conquered an adversity-stamped weekend to secure a well-deserved spot in the ECAC tournament semifinal. For its troubles, the Red has been rewarded with a matchup with the only ECAC foe it hasn’t defeated this year.
Cornell (22-4-6, 17-3-2 ECAC) will hit the ice against Princeton (20-6-5, 15-4-3 ECAC) with a coveted spot in the ECAC championship game on the line.
Cornell, the regular-season ECAC champions, managed to triumph over RPI in last weekend’s ruthless three-game series — but not without difficulty. The Red clinched a 2-1 win in the first game, but its quest for the championship title was interrupted by a 2-0 loss the following day. The Red recovered, however, and guaranteed its position in the semifinal with a decisive 6-1 win in Sunday’s game three.
“It was a tough weekend. RPI really brought the energy and pushed hard,” junior defenseman Jaime Bourbonnais said. “We faced a lot of adversity in the second game, so it’s nice to go through that adversity early so we can build off of it next weekend.”
The weekend was a learning experience for the Red and a testament to the team’s toughness. Going into the game against Princeton, the Red will look to implement important lessons from its hard-fought series against RPI.
“Our players recognize that you can’t get down, you can’t be thinking about the period before the play before,” head coach Doug Derraugh ’91 said. “We need to finish on our chances … and work on a number of things scoring-wise for the rest of the playoffs.”
The Red’s results against Princeton during the 2018-19 regular season were unfavorable — Cornell has yet to seal a victory against the Tigers this season. The Red suffered a 5-0 loss at home in January and eked out a 2-2 overtime tie in November. With these games in mind, the Red is aware that the semifinal will be a fierce competition, requiring both focus and discipline.
“They have quite a few numbers that are dangerous scorers up front, so we will have to keep them in check,” Derraugh said. “Like all the teams at this point in the season, they have really good goaltending, they have defenses like us that are contributing on the offensive side that are also solid defensively.”
“Princeton is a great team,” said Bourbonnais. “We have definitely had some trouble with them this season. They have a lot of really good young players.”
Despite the Tiger’s offensive and defensive capabilities, both Derraugh and the players realize that the playoffs present a clean slate, and regular season results do not dictate playoff outcomes. Last year, Cornell defeated Princeton in the quarterfinals after splitting the regular-season series.
“Playoffs are a different season,” freshman forward Gillis Frechette said. “It is a different atmosphere and it is possible for anything to happen.”
More importantly, the Red is eager to set the record straight against the Tigers after Princeton thrashed the Red at Lynah in January. Princeton was one of the only teams that toppled Cornell at home, disrupting the Red’s almost flawless home-ice record (13-2-0).
“We have that fire and we know we can beat them,” Frechette said. “Our last game we played against them wasn’t our best showing — we feel like we didn’t play our best game — but we know that we can win if we play our team game.”
Treating the January loss as an anomaly, the Red is happy to enjoy the familiar and energizing environment of Lynah and avoid the exhaustion of travel.
“Being able to host is huge,” Bourbonnais said. “Sleeping in our own beds, having our own dressing room, and our own ice — it’s definitely nice to host and finish the year strong.”
“Playing on Lynah is special,” Frechette said. “We have a whole new fire in our bellies when we play here.”
The Red just marked the program’s 600th victory with its win against RPI, and the team is looking to make it to 601 victories with a big one this weekend.
The contest will be held on Lynah Rink on Saturday at 1 p.m., and Clarkson and Colgate will face off at 4 p.m. to fill the other championship spot. The winners will tangle for the ECAC championship Sunday at 2 p.m.