Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Senior forward Kristin O'Neill at the ECAC championship game against Princeton on March 8, 2020.

September 7, 2020

The Sun’s Female Senior Athlete of the Year 2020: Hockey’s Kristin O’Neill

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Forward women’s hockey captain Kristin O’Neill’s consistently stellar performances over four years on East Hill make her The Sun’s pick for Female Senior Athlete of the Year. O’Neill led the Red in goals every year of her NCAA career.

O’Neill’s accolades are numerous, with some of the most prominent including her time representing Team Canada in the Four Nations Cup during her junior year, being named to an All-ECAC team all four years, and earning a nomination for the Patty Kazmaier Award — NCAA women’s hockey’s premier award — in both her sophomore and junior years. She also captained Cornell to a No. 1 national ranking in her senior season.

The significant contributions to the Red that O’Neill made in her first season earned her the Ivy League Rookie of the Year crown and a spot on the ECAC All-Rookie team. As a freshman, she set a program record for short-handed goals with five.

O’Neill more than avoided a sophomore slump, earning even more ECAC honors throughout the season, which culminated in an All-ECAC First Team selection. Her signature short-handed goals kept coming, breaking the Cornell career record just halfway through her second season with the Red. She led Cornell not only in goals, but also in points and assists in a season where the Red just barely missed an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament.

In her junior campaign, Cornell would not settle for missing the national stage again and made it to the Frozen Four for the first time since 2012. Despite missing three games in the first part of the season as she competed with Team Canada in the Four Nations Cup — in which she recorded an assist — O’Neill still notched 38 points with Cornell, good for second-most on the team.

During that NCAA Tournament run, O’Neill recorded an assist in the 3-2 overtime win against Northeastern in the quarterfinal. Cornell would go on to lose 2-0 against Minnesota in the next tilt.

While the COVID-19 pandemic might have robbed O’Neill of her crowning achievement in the form of a national title, fans will not soon forget this year’s Cornell team, which was arguably the best in memory. Alongside seven other key seniors, O’Neill led the Red to a 28-2-3 record, with the Red’s one loss at home coming in the ECAC title game against Princeton. Cornell was set to take on Mercyhurst in Lynah Rink for the first round of the NCAAs before the tournament was canceled.

The Red’s 2019-20 season saw the team earn the nation’s best winning percentage and a No. 1 ranking in the polls for the final stretch of the season.

Even with her four outstanding campaigns with Cornell, O’Neill often credited her classmates and the team’s chemistry with much of the Red’s overall success.

“It makes me super confident just knowing that our senior class can step up on any given day,” O’Neill said after sweeping St. Lawrence in the ECAC Quarterfinals in February. “It’s a really crucial part of our team and it’s brought us a long way. I think the underclassmen really follow our lead and that’s really awesome to have on the team.”