This post has been updated.
Give Clarkson forwards Loren Gabel and Elizabeth Giguere some room once, and they’ll make you pay. Do so twice in a span of 26 seconds — well, that can’t happen when an ECAC championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament are on the line, said Cornell head coach Doug Derraugh ’91.
The pair of Clarkson forwards, both candidates for the Patty Kazmaier Award as the top female college hockey player in the country, connected in a span of under 30 seconds at Lynah Rink Sunday to sink Cornell women’s hockey’s hopes of its first ECAC tournament title since 2014, downing the Red, 4-1.
“You can’t give [Gabel] the opportunities that we did,” Derraugh said. “We gave a 2-on-1 to Giguere and Gabel, and there’s maybe your two best forwards in the entire country. That’s a mistake that just can’t happen in a championship game.”
The loss, which came a day after a thrilling double-overtime win over Princeton sent the Red to the championship game, left Cornell to await its NCAA fate. But the Red earned an at-large bid and will face No. 3 seed Hockey East champion Northeastern in Boston in next weekend’s NCAA quarterfinals.
After a scoreless first period, Cornell found itself in a similar situation to the one it faced in Saturday’s semifinal win: a two-goal deficit.
But this time, despite later pulling within one goal, Cornell couldn’t overcome two quick Clarkson tallies. After allowing a third tally after a blueline turnover, Cornell had to watch the Golden Knights leave Ithaca with their third consecutive league title.
“We always want to beat them just as much as we did last year,” said Cornell goalie Lindsay Browning, who earned the start after making 34 saves in relief of senior Marlène Boissannault on Saturday. “It brings a new vigor and energy to our team each time we get to face off against them.”
“The message [during the timeout when down 2-0] was there’s lots of time left in this game, stay patient, stay within the framework and play as a team and we’ll battle to get one and work our way back. We got the one and then made a big error and it’s in the back of our net,” Derraugh said. “That’s hockey.”
Gabel was the culprit for both second-period Golden Knight goals, finding the back of the net on a pair of 2-on-1 rushes just 26 seconds apart to give Clarkson all the breathing room it needed. Giguere was awarded an assist on each of the tallies, putting Clarkson’s top two scorers on the scoresheet early.
Gabel was tabbed the most outstanding player in the ECAC tournament, and she joined Giguere, goalie Kassidy Saure and defenseman Ella Shelton and Cornell’s senior Micah Zandee-Hart on the all-tournament team.
Also named to the all-tournament team, sophomore forward Maddie Mills, who scored a highlight-reel goal in her team’s win over Princeton on Saturday, scored on a rebound early in the third period that looked like it could turn the tide for the Red, which controlled play late in the second period and early in the final frame.
“We were playing so well as a team, I think it was exciting to finally capitalize on something that we’ve been waiting for,” Mills said. “In both games, we were really on top of both teams and we were just waiting for that opportunity, so it was really exciting to get that chance to boost the enthusiasm on the team, and I think we all knew that we could do it.”
But a third Clarkson goal — again on a breakaway, this time scored by Shelton an easy 2-on-0 conversion after a fumbled puck at the blue line — reestablished Clarkson’s two-goal lead.
Cornell would keep its foot on the pedal en route to outshooting Clarkson 15-9 in the final period and 36-25 in the game. But Sauve made all the stops after the Mills tally, including many Grade-A chances amid falling bodies and scrums in front of her crease.
Joined by both Clarkson and Princeton as ECAC squads in the eight-team NCAA Tournament field, Cornell faces Northeastern in Boston next weekend with a trip to the Frozen Four on the line.