Back-to-back shutouts and a hat trick from senior forward Kristin O’Neill on Saturday brought women’s hockey to an 11-game unbeaten streak over the weekend.
After overwhelming two of its biggest Ivy rivals, Harvard and Dartmouth, last week by a combined score of 12-1, No. 4 Cornell women’s hockey downed Colgate (13-11-4, 7-6-1 ECAC), which came into the weekend with a four-game winning streak of its own. The Red’s (18-1-2, 12-0-2 ECAC) unbeaten streak dates back to November.
Shutting out its competitors in four of its last five matchups, Cornell’s Saturday win marks a continuation of the team’s dominant defense.
“Focusing on team defense is a crucial part of our success this year,” O’Neill said. “Everyone takes pride in the details of our defensive game, which is a big reason why we have been so successful.”
The first game of the weekend series took place on home ice for Cornell, and the team did not disappoint. After jumping on the Raiders early in the first period, the Red never looked back, going on to score another goal in the second period to cruise to a 2-0 victory.
Just six minutes into the first period, senior Paige Lewis was called for a hooking penalty. As the final seconds ticked down on the powerplay, Cornell threw the puck at Colgate goaltender Liz Auby. She tried finding a teammate, but senior forward Grace Graham stole her pass.
Auby was able to save Graham’s quick shot, but the rebound went right to Lewis as she came flying out of the penalty box. The experienced senior made no mistake and found the back of the net for the game’s first goal immediately after her penalty expired.
Coming out of the locker room after the first intermission, the Red was eager to extend its lead. About halfway through the second frame, junior defenseman Devon Facchinato shot the puck towards the net, where her teammates senior defenseman Jaime Bourbonnais, Lewis and Graham surrounded the Raider goaltender. After much scrambling, the puck found its way to Graham, who rifled it in. Bourbonnais took credit for the assist in the final goal of the evening for Cornell.
Junior goaltender Lindsay Browning once again had a sensational game in net, recording 16 saves in the shutout win. However, it would not be the junior’s only shutout of the weekend, as she recorded another one the following day with Cornell’s 5-0 win over Colgate. Browning combined for 30 saves over the two games, earning her seventh and eighth shutouts for the season.
Three minutes into the first period of Saturday night’s game, senior defenseman Micah Zandee-Hart was called for an interference penalty. Like in game one, Cornell’s penalty kill swarmed Colgate, producing an effective counterattack. O’Neill stole the puck from a Raider forward in Cornell’s zone and charged down the ice.
Zandee-Hart left the puck for Bourbonnais, who put the team ahead with a short-handed goal from right outside the goal crease. O’Neill would go on to take over the game, as she scored the next three goals for the Red.
Shortly after the first score, O’Neill won a faceoff in Colgate’s zone. Junior forward Maddie Mills first controlled the puck, and then passed it back to O’Neill, who was waiting near the faceoff circle. The senior one-timed the shot for her first goal of the night.
In the second period, O’Neill stole the puck again from a Raider defender. Coasting into her opponent’s zone on her forehand, she deeked to her backhand and shot top shelf for the unassisted goal.
For her final act, the star senior would sink her third goal of the night just 30 seconds into the third period. Junior defenseman Kendra Nealey’s shot went wide of the net and deflected off the boards to find Mills. She threw a pass out in front to find O’Neill streaking towards the net, who scored right off the pass.
With that goal, O’Neill moved onto Cornell’s top 10 all-time leading scorers list. At 70 career goals, O’Neill is one of the most prolific goal scorers the program has ever seen.
“Achieving this milestone means a lot to me, and of course it’s a huge signifer of how skilled my teammates are, as well,” O’Neill said. “It means a lot to me to be able to contribute to my team’s successes as much as possible.”
As the other star of the game, O’Neill’s hat trick was her second of the season.
“Getting a hat trick against Colgate was also very special because they have been a huge competitor of ours the last four seasons and to be able to win back-to-back against that team is very important,” O’Neill continued.
O’Neill was not the only Cornellian to make history Saturday night, as Browning, with her 14 saves on the night, moved into fifth place on Cornell’s all-time shutout list with nine.
“Lindsay has been tremendous,” O’Neill said. “She is extremely modest and will definitely tell you that all of her shutouts are because of our team defense but her ability to stop the puck while maintaining a smile, calmness and enthusiasm is like no other.”
Sitting on a four-goal lead with just over a minute left in the game, junior defenseman Willow Slobodzian sent the puck around the boards from her own zone, where it was picked up by junior forward Joie Phelps. Phelps pushed it ahead to junior forward Finley Frechette, who scored from the blue line for the final goal for the Red.
With excellent goaltending, a solid penalty kill and a surging offense, Cornell appears to have all the tools for success, with the Red playing its best hockey down the final stretch of the season.
The team will look to continue its dominance in the ECAC next weekend as it hosts Clarkson on Friday and St. Lawrence on Saturday.