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At the outset a season in which any game can be the difference between making the NCAA Tournament and staying home, Cornell’s weekend series against Robert Morris was more than a warm-up for ECAC play.
And the Red wasn’t messing around — No. 5 Cornell women’s hockey got off to a hot start to the 2019-20 season, dominating No. 8/9 Robert Morris and earning a two-game home sweep with a 3-0 win on Saturday afternoon, earning two resume-boosting wins and upping its record to 2-0 heading into league games.
After cruising to a 6-0 victory in Friday’s season-opener, goals were a bit harder to come by in Saturday’s clash. But junior goaltender Lindsay Browning made 16 saves to earn her second consecutive shutout after a 19-save outing on Friday.
“A lot of people give credit to the goalie but it was definitely a team effort all the way,” Browning said. “We only had 16 shots against today and 19 yesterday, so it definitely made my life easy.”
After a sluggish start to the season on the power play on Friday, it was the Red’s special teams that powered an otherwise quiet Cornell offense and kept a potent Colonial attack at bay on Saturday. Senior defenseman and captain Micah Zandee-Hart’s power-play wrister got the scoring started just past the halfway point in the second period, and sophomore forward Gillis Frechette’s power-play shot took a fortuitous bounce into the net 13:31 into the third.
Cornell’s two power-play goals, paired with a penalty kill that held the Colonials to 0-for-5 with a skater advantage after limiting Robert Morris to 0-for-7 on Friday, was the difference in a game that didn’t see many even-strength scoring chances.
“[Friday] we weren’t real pleased with both power play groups so we put a little bit of emphasis on that going into [Saturday’s] game,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “And we were having trouble scoring 5-on-5 so those two goals were massive.”
Cornell stymied Robert Morris’ offense for most of the game and controlled play in the offensive zone. The Colonials threatened on a number of rushes — but Browning was there to close the door. Derraugh said the “unflappable” junior goaltender gives confidence to the team in front of her.
“They know that she’s going to make the saves that she’s expected to make and then sometimes she comes up with the saves that are incredible as well,” Derraugh said.
With ECAC play looming — the Red hosts Princeton and Quinnipiac next weekend — Cornell is undefeated and has proven it can dominate ranked opponents defensively and fill the net offensively.
“We’ve been itching to get on the ice for quite some time,” said Frechette, who added an empty-net goal late in the third to increase her team’s lead to three. “This was a great start for us.”
Like in game one between the Red and Colonials, Cornell didn’t take a commanding lead early on Saturday. After four third-period goals in a span of 10 minutes broke Friday’s game open, Cornell played a scoreless back-and-forth period and a half before clinging to a one-goal lead until Frechette’s first goal provided some breathing room.
Browning came up big in the first period, making seven saves to keep the game scoreless. She made seven more in a second period in which the Colonials tipped the ice slightly in their favor.
Early on in a power play chance in the second, junior forward Maddie Mills fed senior defenseman Jaime Bourbonnais, who sent a pass to an open Zandee-Hart. The senior blueliner rifled a shot past Robert Morris goaltender Arielle DeSmet.
Mills and Bourbonnais both continued their hot statistical starts to the season — Mills scored two goals in Friday’s game and Bourbonnais had a four-point night. The Red’s leading and third-leading scorers last season, respectively, Mills and Bourbonnais are off to strong starts for a team that has put up a lopsided 9-0 cumulative scoring advantage.
Armed with a one-goal lead — and later a two-goal cushion — Cornell dominated the final frame, outshooting Robert Morris, 14-2. After committing three first-period penalties, including one that negated a power play chance, the Red committed just two total infractions in the second and third.
The Red begins ECAC play next weekend, hosting Quinnipiac at 6 p.m. Friday and No. 6 Princeton at 3 p.m. Saturday.