Micah Zandee-Hart's goal in double overtime gave Cornell a 3-2 win over Princeton in the ECAC semifinals.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Micah Zandee-Hart's goal in double overtime gave Cornell a 3-2 win over Princeton in the ECAC semifinals.

March 9, 2019

Double OT Thriller Sends Women’s Hockey to 1st ECAC Championship Game Since 2014

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Eighty-plus minutes into a playoff barn burner on its home ice, Cornell women’s hockey had swapped goaltenders, found a third-period equalizer and earned chance after chance to tally a go-ahead goal.

Finally, after a fast-paced, back-and-forth third period and scoreless first overtime, it only took 1:22 and the third shot of the second overtime for senior defenseman and captain Micah Zandee-Hart to net the game-winner.

The play, the goal and the frenzy that ensued were a blur to the co-captain, who was dogpiled to the ice and whose team beat Princeton, 3-2, to clinch a spot in Sunday’s ECAC championship game against Clarkson.

“I can’t tell you much,” Zandee-Hart said of the winning goal, which sent Cornell to its first league championship game since 2014. “We knew we had to get pucks on net, get them through. [Princeton’s] a really good team at clogging things up and blocking shots so we just had to get pucks through and when the puck bounced out that’s what I was thinking.”

Although Princeton was the only ECAC team that the Red failed to beat over the course of the season — and the only team to beat Cornell on its home ice in the regular season — a chance to advance to the league championship and likely clinch a spot in the NCAA Tournament was motivation enough.

“One thing our coach said is that we focused a little bit too much on a bit of animosity in our last game against them,” said sophomore goaltender Lindsay Browning, who made 34 saves in relief of senior Marléne Boissanault, stymying several Princeton chances in the third period and overtime. “Today we just wanted to focus on ourselves and playing our game.”

While Zandee-Hart’s goal was the most crucial of the afternoon, it wouldn’t have come to that if not for sophomore Maddie Mills’s third-period equalizer, which allowed a hard-fought Cornell comeback against the Tigers to reach overtime.

With her team trailing 2-1 in the third, Mills capped off an exciting start to the third period, entering the offensive zone, beating a defenseman, faking out Princeton goaltender Stephanie Neatly and stuffing the puck into a wide-open net on a wraparound.

“What a beautiful play by her, she’s such a skilled player,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “And to have the poise to do that — most players will come down after they make a nice move on the defenseman [and just] shoot that puck — but to have the poise to fake it, get the goaltender over and go all the way around and stuff it, that was a real skilled goal.”

Just two minutes following a futile Cornell power play opportunity, the Tigers converted on a 5-on-4 advantage of their own. Passing the puck around the Red’s defensive zone, Princeton’s Claire Thompson saw her opening, sending a shot from the point past Boissanault, handing the Red a 1-0 deficit.

Prospects looked brighter for the Red in the second half of the period with a second power play opportunity, but a quick penalty on the Red equalized the advantage. Cornell outshot Princeton, 11-4, in the first period.

4:53 into the second period, Princeton’s forward Carly Bullock widened the gap on a nifty give-and-go play with forward Annie MacDonald. The second Tiger goal marked the end of Boissanault’s afternoon, as Cornell called immediately timeout before inserting Browning between the pipes for her first appearance since Feb. 9.

“There’s always great friends amongst the goalies, and it’s tough having to take Marléne out,” Browning said. “We’re just always supportive of each other. It wasn’t her fault and she supported me all the way.”

Boissanault made six saves on eight shots. In relief, Browning made 34 total saves, including several big-time stops of Grade-A Princeton opportunities in the third period and first overtime.

“We felt all along that we were confident in both of our goaltenders, and … we thought maybe [if] we put in [Browning], maybe that changes our mindset, too,” Derraugh said.

Freshman forward Gillis Frechette cut Cornell’s 2-0 deficit in half with a deflection past Neatby with 6:35 left in the middle period. The tally marked Frechette’s sixth goal in the past eight games.

Sticking together as a team when trailing by two goals was key, according to Derraugh.

“I was really trying to reinforce with them to be patient,” said the bench boss, recently tabbed the ECAC’s coach of the year. “It was 2-0 early, we still had [time] left and so we just felt that stick with it, you’ll get your chances and we’ll chip away at it here. The big thing is we can’t make another defensive mistake and get down 3-0 or we’ll be in big trouble.”

After a second period controlled by Princeton — the Tigers won the shots on goal advantage, 13-4, in the middle frame — the Red hit the ice with a spurt of energy to start the third.

Following a successful penalty kill at the 7:51 mark of the third, Mills’s highlight-reel goal tied the game at two.

Two breakaway opportunities for the Tigers late in the period threatened the stalemate, but the puck failed to make it past Browning both times.

Overtime play opened with a multitude of shots from both the Tigers and the Red, but neither team could add another point to the scoreboard. Despite three shots on goal, Cornell’s power play couldn’t cash in on a Princeton slashing penalty during overtime. And later, matching Browning save-for-save, Neatly denied Frechette on a breakaway partway through the first overtime.

Finally, after over 80 minutes, it took Zandee-Hart just 1:22 into double overtime to give the Red a thrilling victory and a spot in Sunday’s championship game.

The Red will face Clarkson, the winner of the other semifinal game over Colgate, at 2 p.m. at Lynah.

“It feels pretty good, for sure,” Zandee-Hart said.

“We’re only halfway there, though.”