Leilani Burke/Sun Contributor

The Red narrowly suffered a loss in its first game back on Friday, but rebounded with a 4-0 shutout on Saturday.

October 26, 2021

Women’s Ice Hockey Splits a Pair in Return to Lynah Rink

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After a nail-biting 2-3 opening loss against the Mercyhurst Lakers (7-3-1) on Friday at Lynah Rink, the Red (1-1-0) rebounded on Saturday to shutout the Lakers, 4-0, in its first home weekend of the season.  

“I’m really happy we came back stronger than ever after yesterday’s game,” fifth-year goaltender Lindsay Browning said. “It shows we have a lot of resilience as a team. One loss isn’t going to change the way we play.”

587 days after the Red’s first round NCAA tournament matchup against the Mercyhurst Lakers in 2020, the Red opened its season against the same opponent. The Red had not competed at Lynah rink for 19 months after COVID-19 ended their run at the NCAA championship.

“Everybody is leaning on each other, and everybody is excited to get the season going again, being on the ice and playing games,” said freshman defender Rory Guilday, who was named the ECAC Hockey Rookie of the Week for her debut weekend. “It’s been a long time for a majority of our players, so I think it’s brought us closer together and made us stronger.” 

For many of the upperclassmen who returned to the rink for their first game of the season, the opener on Friday held strong emotional significance.

“We’ve been practicing this whole semester, but it’s such a different atmosphere once the fans come in,” Browning said. “We had the pep band [on Friday], and I think we had a few people tearing up a little bit during the national anthem.” 

While Friday’s match was the first for the Red, the game marked the Lakers’ 10th match of the season, and Mercyhurst had played last year as well. The Red initially struggled to match the Lakers’ gameplay experience, and in the 12th minute of the first period, the Lakers snuck a rebound behind Browning to score.

However, the Red quickly responded. For a tense five and a half minutes, the Red tested the Lakers’ goalie, making several close shots until sophomore forward Claudia Yu sank a pass from senior forward Izzy Daniel into the back of the net. The first period ended in a 1-1 tie.

“We were waiting for this game for a long time, so I thought that we handled our game pretty well and kept our emotions in check,” said Assistant Head Coach Edith Racine in a post-game interview.

“We competed for 60 minutes, and I think that’s something,” Racine said. “Especially because it’s been a while since we played a game, and with a young team, it was great to see.” 

Despite the Red’s impressive skating in the second period, neither team scored a goal. In the third, an early Lakers goal in the first 30 seconds forced the Red to play catchup. Despite a goal by senior forward Gillis Frechette tying the score, the Lakers scored the game-winning goal during a power play, defeating the Red, 3-2. 

Sophomore Gabbie Rud takes a faceoff against Mercyhurst on Oct. 23. (Leilani Burke/Sun Contributor)

Just 19 hours later, the Red returned to Lynah for its second match against the Lakers. From the moment the puck dropped, the Red settled into its element and the familiar snap of connecting passes rang around the rink. 

“We had a lot of good aspects to our game [on Friday], and we just needed to perfect them [for Saturday], and I think we executed them better,” Browning said.

The Red was rewarded for its strong skating when Guilday buried a puck in the back of the Lakers’ net. 

“I have my teammates to thank for that one. The net front presence was unreal,” Guilday said.

During the second period, the Red faltered slightly, and Browning made several close saves to keep the Lakers off the board. 

During her junior year, Browning broke records. She was the first goalie to open with three straight shutouts and had the highest single-season save percentage in the history of Cornell Women’s Hockey. Due to COVID-19 cancellations, Browning was unable to compete for the Red during her senior year. Upon returning to the Red as a graduate student, Browning is grateful for the chance to be back on the ice.

“It almost feels like I’m on borrowed time, and I’m really appreciative of everything and everybody letting me come back and the school letting graduate students play,” Browning said.

Entering the third period with two goals under its belt, the Red returned even more confident. Sophomore forward Lily Delianedis flicked in the third goal, and Bella Kang netted a fourth goal to secure the win. When the final buzzer sounded, the team and fans cheered for the resounding 4-0 shutout.

“I think now we were feeling a bit more comfortable on the ice. I think that really helped us. Mercyhurst played pretty hard. They were tough, so they gave us a good game,” Racine said.

The Red looks ahead to being on the road for next week’s games. This marks yet another first for this year’s team.

“I think it’s exciting going to Harvard, our first road trip as a team,” Racine said. “And for the freshmen, it’s always the first road trip when you create memories with your teammates, and I think that’s something special.” 

With renewed purpose and another chance to prove themselves after a year of stagnation, the Red will return on Friday, Oct. 29, to face Harvard (2-0-0) in their opening ECAC match in Cambridge, Massachusetts. The following day, the Red will challenge Dartmouth (0-1-0) in Hanover, New Hampshire.