Over the weekend, No. 1 Cornell women’s hockey completed its near-perfect regular season by picking up two wins against RPI and Union. The homestand marked the end of the regular season for the team, which has not lost a game since late November.
On Feb. 21, Cornell (25-1-3, 19-0-3 ECAC) hosted RPI (0-32-1, 0-21 ECAC). The Ivy League champions played in front of a packed Lynah Rink and did not disappoint. Less than three minutes into the opening frame, senior Amy Curlew took the puck over the blue line and found junior Maddie Mills in front of the opponent’s net. Her shot trickled right to senior Kristin O’Neill who fired it into the back of the net. O’Neill continued her late-season dominance, scoring her eighth goal in just seven games.
In the second period, Mills doubled the Red’s lead off a brilliant deek. Taking a pass from O’Neill by the faceoff circle, Mills switched from her forehand to her backhand and flicked the puck over the RPI goalie’s glove for the goal. Mills recorded another goal in the third — this time off a feed from senior Jaime Bourbonnais. Charging towards the Engineers’ net on her backhand, Bourbonnais shot the puck up and was deflected by Mills on the way to the net. Her redirection was enough to get past the goalie for her second goal of the night.
With the game out of reach late in the third, Cornell’s young fourth line got significant ice time and netted the final goal. With less than a minute remaining, freshman Izzy Daniel took control of the puck off a rebound from senior Micah Zandee-Hart. Daniel circled the ice and shot the puck. Her rebound bounced right to fellow freshman Elana Zingas putting an exclamation on the squad’s 4-0 victory. It was the first goal of Zingas’ collegiate career.
Junior Lindsay Browning recorded her 11th shutout of the season in the 4-0 win. The star goalie permanently etched her name into the record books by becoming the program’s outright leader of shutouts in a single season.
After a few hours, the Red headed back to Lynah Rink for the season finale against Union (5-24-5, 5-14-3 ECAC) on Feb 22. Just like in the first game, Cornell jumped its opponent early. Receiving a centering pass from Zandee-Hart, Mills tipped the puck towards the net and into the top left corner for the goal. Later in the first, Bourbonnais threw the puck at the net. Sophomore Gillis Frechette intercepted her shot and before the Dutchwoman goalie could react, she released a quick shot to put the Red ahead, 2-0.
In the second period, Daniel picked up a pass from junior Finley Frechette in Union’s zone. Daniel found junior Kendra Nealey streaking towards the net. Nealey took the puck and was able to sneak it through the skates of several defenders for the goal. Junior Joie Phelps scored a similar goal later in the period. With a simple touch off a pass from Zandee-Hart, the forward extended the lead.
Despite the Red’s strong start, Union kept pushing, though and the Dutchmen put in their first goal seven minutes into the final frame. Mills responded on the power play by scoring her second of the night off assists from Bourbonnais and Zandee-Hart.
The final minutes of the period saw a late push by Union. Scoring two goals on the power play, Union cut into the Red’s lead, but Cornell still emerged with a 5-3 victory.
The victory closed out a remarkable regular season for Cornell. After being crowned Ivy League and ECAC regular-season champions, the Red’s win against Union marked the first time in program history the women’s team had gone undefeated in ECAC play.
With the regular season now behind them, Cornell will now embark on its postseason quest, which starts with a three-game series against St. Lawrence on Feb. 28-Mar. 1 in the ECAC quarterfinals.