Since the 2009-10 season, Cornell women’s hockey has been a perennial contender for a national title. Since coming up just short as the national runner-up in 2010, the Red has been a mainstay in the postseason, clinching seven additional NCAA Tournament appearances as well three Frozen Four showings.
At the helm for the entire ride has been head coach Doug Derraugh ’91, who has led the team since 2005 and is the winningest coach in program history. After starting off his tenure with four straight losing seasons, Derraugh and the team flipped the switch beginning in 2009.
The biggest catalysts for women’s hockey’s new success in the 2009-10 season were a group of underclassmen in sophomore forwards Chelsea Karpenko and Catherine White and freshmen defensemen Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau.
Over the course of the season, the four underclassmen racked up a total of 139 points. But not only did they succeed at finding the back of the net, but the freshmen defensemen also helped stifle opponents behind the blue line.
Cornell also had sophomore goaltender Amanda Mazzotta, who led the country with 11 shutouts — also a program record — and was ranked sixth in the nation in goals-against average.
Though the Red’s season began with two losses to Mercyhurst at Lynah Rink, the team regrouped for conference play, notching five wins in a row. A mid-season lull saw Cornell only pick up five victories from mid-November to early May.
But the Red regained its footing for a late-season push. Powered by Mazzotta, who recorded four straight shutouts from Feb. 5 to Feb. 13 and only allowed three goals over the final month, Cornell rode into the ECAC Tournament with a five-game winning streak and plenty of momentum as the No. 1 seed. Once it reached the conference stage, the Red continued to stay hot. After handling Colgate and Rensselaer in the opening rounds, Cornell clinched its first-ever ECAC conference championship with a 4-3 overtime victory over Clarkson.
The winning strike came from sophomore forward Kendice Ogilvie, who beat Golden Knights netminder Lauren Dahm. Ogilvie, who also scored earlier in the tournament, was named the most outstanding player in the ECAC Tournament.
Now making its first appearance in the NCAA Tournament, the Red entered with relatively little experience compared to the rest of the field. In sports such as women’s hockey, several teams continually dominate in the NCAA Tournament. From 2001 to 2009, only three different teams were crowned champions.
Despite the uncharted territory, Cornell encountered a familiar foe with Harvard as its first-round opponent. Earlier in the season, the Red defeated the Crimson by one goal at home before recording a tie at Lynah East.
While the previous two results were close, the first-round result was not. Cornell advanced to its first Frozen Four with a 6-2 stomping of Harvard. At the time, the Red’s victory marked the second time in Cornell Athletics history that a women’s team moved on to a national semifinal, with the first being the 2002 women’s lacrosse team.
The Red kept rolling in the Frozen Four. Pitted against Mercyhurst, which dealt the Red its first two losses, Cornell remained undeterred, pulling out a 3-2 overtime victory to book a ticket to the title game. White was the skater who earned the winning blow, jamming in a rebound to send Mercyhurst home.
Minnesota-Duluth, Cornell’s opponent in the national championship, presented itself as a titan in the sport. Since the inception of the NCAA Women’s Hockey Tournament, the Bulldogs claimed four titles in the tournament’s first nine years.
The Bulldogs returned to a familiar spot, playing a Cornell squad that had only just won its first conference championship weeks before. Each new win for the Red marked new territory, and it hoped to cap off its improbable run with a national title.
Cornell lost in a long battle. In a truly epic affair, the Red fell 3-2 in triple-overtime. Trailing by a goal near the end of the third period, Melanie Jue, who scored Cornell’s only goal earlier, found the back of the net once more, forcing the first of three overtimes.
As the game went into its third overtime to become the longest NCAA Tournament in women’s hockey history, fatigue settled in on both sides, but both teams fought until the very end.
For the Red, though, it came out on the losing end as Minnesota-Duluth’s Jessica Wong delivered the winning dagger. Despite the loss, Mazzotta recorded 61 saves as she continually turned away the Bulldogs’ relentless attack.
Since the loss, Derraugh and the team have established themselves as one of the best in the sport. While the Red has yet to make it back to the national title game, it continues to attract top-tier talent solidifying Cornell in the upper echelon of women’s hockey.