Following a 7-2 defeat the day prior, St. Lawrence was not going to go down so easily on Saturday afternoon. A loss, after all, would mean that the Saints’ season was over.
But No. 1 Cornell women’s hockey prevailed in the end, breaking away from a tied game with 12 minutes to play in the third. With the victory, Cornell punched its ticket to the ECAC Semifinal next weekend.
St. Lawrence goaltender Lucy Morgan held off the Red for much of the contest, recording 27 saves across 60 minutes. Morgan, who had been pulled in the first game of the series after allowing three goals in seven minutes, came out with a vengeance Saturday afternoon.
“I think it was important probably for [Morgan’s confidence] to get some saves early on,” said head coach Dough Derraugh ’91. “I remember there was one on the backdoor, she made a really good save on that — I think that really helped her to get back in her groove.”
Even with Cornell’s offense barraging her throughout the game and dominating the ice, Morgan kept the Saints in the game to try and bring St. Lawrence to a tie-breaking game Sunday.
But Morgan couldn’t save St. Lawrence’s season, as Cornell tallied a pair of goals in the third period to ensure a Red victory.
“We just turned around … and we ended up executing on our chances,” said senior forward Grace Graham, who scored twice in the contest. “And that’s really important in playoffs, like, that’s absolutely essential in playoffs.”
But at the beginning of the game, a Cornell team that was perhaps over-eager to close out the quarterfinals came out of the gates a little too amped up and not paying enough attention to the finer details.
“I wasn’t crazy about our start. I thought, first period, our passing was pretty sloppy,” Derraugh said. “We didn’t seem to be able to execute. I thought the effort was there — I just didn’t think that the execution was very good in the first.”
The first period saw the Cornell offense dominate, but none of the Red’s 11 shots could sneak past the goal line. The two teams entered the first intermission tied at zero.
But under halfway into the next frame, the Red finally put a score up on the Lynah video board with a power-play goal from Graham. Leading up to the tally, Cornell had desperately been trying to get something going, even pulling junior goaltender Lindsay Browning for upwards of 20 seconds for six-on-five play.
Ten seconds after St. Lawrence was handed a tripping penalty, though, the 0-0 score was gone. Graham put Cornell up for the first time in the game off assists from sophomore forward Gillis Frechette and junior defenseman Devon Facchinato.
“Our seniors have been tremendous all four years here, but especially this year,” Derraugh said. “They’ve really shown a lot of leadership, a lot of character on the ice.”
But St. Lawrence wasn’t going to enter the third frame facing a deficit — with just over three minutes left in the second period, it was St. Lawrence’s Julia Gosling with an even-strength goal to tie it back up.
The third period started with the score even again — it would all come down to the final 20 minutes.
The Red broke through again when senior forward Kristin O’Neill found the back of the net 7:29 into the final frame. Fewer than three minutes later, O’Neill was called for cross-checking to put St. Lawrence on the man advantage.
31 seconds into the penalty kill, it was Graham who notched her second goal of the night on a breakaway short-handed goal.
“I don’t remember it that well, because I was kind of just in the moment, but I just saw the puck squirt out and I skated as fast as I could,” Graham said. “And somehow I got by — I thought the D[efense] were catching me — but I don’t know, I shot it and it happened to go in the net.”
St. Lawrence would not be deterred, returning with under two minutes left in the contest with its final attempt at staying alive — an extra-attacker goal. But that would be the last score of the day for the Saints, who couldn’t save their season by the time the final buzzer sounded on a 3-2 game.
The Cornell seniors will get one last go-around at Lynah next weekend, when Cornell hosts the ECAC Semifinals and Championship.
“Really, our mentality was, like pedal to the metal, especially for our seniors,” O’Neill said. “I mean, this is a couple of our last games, and one of our last weekends at Lynah. So I think that really sunk in this weekend. And we made it count, and all the seniors really stepped up.”
The Red will play either Yale or Harvard — as determined by this weekend’s outcomes around the league — on March 7 at home.