After suffering a heartbreaking loss in the ECAC Championship, Cornell women’s ice hockey team was rewarded for its tremendous season by earning a bid to compete in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Despite losing to its rival Princeton, the Red still earned the No. 1 seed in the eight-team field and will face Mercyhurst at an empty Lynah Rink in the first round.
Even after a stinging loss that snapped a 22-game unbeaten streak, the Red has moved on and set its focus on the upcoming matchup.
“We’ve got an experienced group that has some big wins and some big losses,” said head coach Doug Derraugh ’91. “Every weekend in the ECAC is kind of that way where you play one game and you might have a big loss or a big win, and then you got to get ready for the next game the next day.”
Derraugh acknowledged the magnitude of the loss to Princeton.
“It was definitely a big defeat for us, but we’ve had others in the past,” Derraugh said. “Sometimes, you get too high or you get too low and you carry that into the next, and it’s going to be trouble.”
Even while the Red remained undefeated for such a long stretch, Derraugh believed that the team wasn’t playing its best hockey and that the loss will benefit the team.
“Having that undefeated streak is something that has been lifted off our shoulders now,” Derraugh said. “Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve been winning games, but we haven’t been quite as sharp as we have been early on in the season. That’s something we have been talking to the team about, and sometimes it takes a hard loss like Sunday to realize that.”
Cornell (28-2-3, 19-0-3 ECAC) will square off against Mercyhurst (21-10-5, 13-4-3 CHA) in the national quarterfinals. The Red will look to build off of its success against the Lakers this season. In the weekend series that took place in the beginning of 2020, Cornell topped Mercyhurst in the first contest, 6-2, before grinding out a 2-1 overtime victory in the second.
Junior forward Finley Frechette believes that there is a benefit to playing the same opponent again.
“It’s definitely an advantage because we have been doing the same systems all year, and we’ve seen how that’s stacked up against them in the same series,” Frechette said. “But with that being said, we also played them a while ago, and we’ve had a lot of games in between.”
The Lakers rank ninth in the country in scoring average (3.14) but have struggled to contain their opponents, allowing nearly two goals per game, which is the double the total of Cornell junior goaltender Lindsay Browning. Though Mercyhurst has the lowest RPI of any team in the field, the Red still expects a tough challenge.
“Mercyhurst is always a hardworking team,” Derraugh said. “We know we’re in for another tough battle. They’re very well coached. Both teams know each other well — we’ve had a lot of games against one another over the years, so I wouldn’t expect anything different this weekend.”
A win over the Lakers would clinch a Frozen Four appearance, which has now become an expectation for the Red following its appearance on that stage last year. Cornell is also seeking the grand prize — a national title.
“From the beginning of the year, the conversation has always been that we want to get back [to the Frozen Four], but we want to go further,” Frechette said. “This year, it’s what we can do to take a step farther than last year — remembering that feeling and how awesome it was but wanting it back so badly enough that we can take it to the next game and even further to accomplish our goals.”
Cornell will aim for its second straight Frozen Four appearance in its tilt with Mercyhurst. Puck drop is set for Saturday at 2 p.m. at Lynah Rink. Fans cannot attend the contest, but it will be livestreamed online.