A deep lineup has Cornell women’s hockey just one win away from the Frozen Four. And while the team’s star power earned five players spots on the season’s Ivy League and ECAC honor rolls, the go-to skaters are quick to credit the entire team.
No. 6 Cornell heads into its NCAA quarterfinal matchup with Northeastern this weekend sporting a deep roster ready to battle against any opponent thrown its way. The ECAC regular season champion defeated every ECAC team at least once this season, and the Red’s .765 winning percentage is sixth-best in the country.
Both Northeastern and Cornell have each only dropped five contests this season.
“Northeastern’s obviously a very good team,” said junior defender Jaime Bourbonnais. “We’ve never played them, so we don’t really know what to expect other than what we’ve seen on video. But we’re so excited for the opportunity to be able to play in this tournament. We think that if we play our game, work hard, really buy in this weekend and want it more than Northeastern, then we have a good shot.”
The Red has the seventh-best scoring margin in the country, beating its opponents by an average of 1.59 goals. Defensively, Cornell is tied for fifth for shutouts with six, while offensively it ranks ninth in team points with 293.
The Red has its deep roster to credit for these impressive feats, as all but one of its skaters has tallied at least one point this season and all three senior skaters have taken the ice in more than 100 games over the course of their careers.
But it’s clear that Cornell’s stars played a huge role in bringing the Red to the NCAA Tournament after last season’s heartbreaking finish left the squad on the outside looking in. All five preach the importance of a whole-team effort.
Leading the way for the Red defensively are Bourbonnais — the winner of the ECAC’s best defensive defenseman award — and captain Micah Zandee-Hart.
Senior goaltender Marléne Boissonnault — who may suddenly be in a playoff position battle with sophomore Lindsay Browning — had the fourth-most shutouts in the nation this year. She ranks third all-time in program history with 15 career shutouts.
Sophomore forward Maddie Mills and junior forward and captain Kristin O’Neill have combined to lead one of college hockey’s most dangerous top lines. The two have combined for 40 goals this season.
Aided by these five players’ impressive individual feats, the Red will look to lean on its strong collective work ethic as it looks to skate into the Frozen Four for the first time since 2012.
“We do have a lot of strong players on our team, but I think what makes the dynamic of our team is the personalities and work ethic of the team,” O’Neill said. “We work very well together and everyone holds themselves accountable. Every time we are at the rink, the work ethic and effort is always there from every individual and I think that is what makes us stronger as a team.”
Here’s a look at how five of Cornell’s stars reached this point:
Jaime Bourbonnais (Junior) — 2019 ECAC Hockey Best Defenseman, 2019 First-Team All-ECAC Hockey, First-Team All-Ivy (2019)
For the Mississauga, Ontario native, hockey runs in her blood. Her grandfather, Roger Bourbonnais, was captain of the 1964 and 1968 Canadian Olympic team. Bourbonnais grew up watching her brother on the ice.
“My parents tried to put me into figure skating and I hated it,” Bourbonnais said. “I just wanted to be on hockey skates, so they switched me over [to hockey] and I’ve been playing ever since.”
After committing to Cornell at age 14, Bourbonnais’ impact on the team was immediately felt once she took the ice in 2016. As a freshman, she garnered ECAC Hockey All-Rookie and All-Ivy Honorable Mention awards.
An integral part of the Red’s defense, Bourbonnais continued to earn accolades her sophomore year, being named to the First-Team All-Ivy and Second-Team All-ECAC Hockey. She also finished the season with a +15 overall rating.
This season, in addition to registering an impressive 36 blocks, Bourbonnais has also proved herself an offensive threat — scoring nine goals and 20 assists to lead the way for the Red’s defensemen with 29 points.
Micah Zandee-Hart (Junior) — 2019 Third-Team All-ECAC Hockey, 2019 Second-Team All-Ivy
Junior co-captain Zandee-Hart returned to Cornell this season after being centralized as a prospect for the Canadian Olympic Team last year.
Like Bourbonnais, Zandee-Hart was outstanding as a freshman, earning ECAC Hockey All-Rookie and All-Ivy Honorable Mention awards.
As a sophomore, she was named a co-captain, the second sophomore in Cornell history to hold such a position of leadership, and racked up more awards including being named first team All-ECAC Hockey, first team All-Ivy and earning a spot on the ECAC All-Tournament Team.
The Saanichton, British Columbia, native picked up right where she left off, tallying a whopping 51 blocks to go along with her 21 points (four goals, 17 assists). One of her goals was the game winner against Princeton in double overtime that clinched a spot in the ECAC finals for the Red.
Earlier this season, Zandee-Hart, along with teammates Bourbonnais and O’Neill, helped lead Team Canada to a second place finish in the Four Nations Cup.
Marléne Boissonnault (Senior) — 2019 Second-Team All-Ivy
After watching her father play the daunting position of goaltender to help her brother, Boissonnault knew she was up for the challenge and followed in their footsteps.
“I just wanted to copy [my father] at that age,” Boissonnault said, “but then I fell in love [with being a goalie] and I stuck with it.”
With her .961 save percentage and 15 career shutouts (third in school history), the Dundee, New Brunswick native has been a valuable addition to the Red’s roster throughout her career.
Currently, Boissonnault sits atop the ECAC in her goals-against average (1.657) and is fourth in the nation in the category. She is also fourth in the nation for shutouts, as she blanked teams six times this season.
Despite her individual success, Boissonnault puts the team at the forefront of her play.
“Our team all around focuses on putting team first, looking at what we can each individually do to help our teammates achieve our team goals,” she said.
Maddie Mills (Sophomore) — 2019 Second-Team All-Ivy
Leading the way for the Red’s offense, Mills has racked up 39 points thus far this season with 18 goals and 21 assists.
The Sewickley, Pennsylvania, native credits her brothers for her start in hockey.
“I started skating when I was really young because my older brothers played,” Mills said. “As a kid my life goal was to be just like them — it still kind of is actually.”
After a stellar freshman campaign that saw her receiving Ivy League Rookie of the Year, First-Team All-Ivy (2018) and ECAC Hockey All-Rookie Team (2018) awards, Mills continued to be an all-around threat this year.
She is tied for second nationally with seven power-play goals, along with her linemate O’Neill. Mills also impresses offensively when her team is down a skater — she, along with Cornell senior Lenka Serdar, tied for ninth nationally in short-handed goals.
“We are a blessed team because we have so many talented and competitive players,” Mills said. “This really pushes each of us to improve because we are competing against each other in every practice. I also think this leads us to trusting each other on the ice. We all know the person next to us can and will do whatever it takes to get the job done.”
Kristin O’Neill (Junior) — 2019 Second-Team All-ECAC, 2019 First-Team All-Ivy
Like many of her teammates, junior co-captain O’Neill began playing hockey after watching her older siblings.
“I first started playing hockey because my three sisters all played,” she said. “I started playing with my older sister Bridget, and I played on her team my first year that I played.”
After committing to Cornell when in seventh grade, the Oakville, Ontario native has made waves throughout the ECAC since taking the ice at Cornell.
She has garnered numerous accolades including Ivy League Rookie of the year and ECAC all-rookie team in 2017, and Ivy League Player of the Year, first team All-Ivy and ECAC first team in 2018. Last year, she was also a nominee for the Patty Kazmaier Award, given annually to the top female college hockey player in the country. Following in Zandee-Hart’s footsteps, she became the third ever sophomore to be named a captain last year.
As a co-captain this season, O’Neill’s prolific scoring has proven problematic for opponents. Not only has she she lit the lamp 22 times thus far, but she has also repeatedly performed under pressure — her six game-winning goals are third-most in the country.