Nearly two years ago, the No. 1 team in the country went on the road for a late January game against an ECAC rival and suffered its second defeat of the season. In that game, it was then No. 1 Cornell that was shut out by Quinnipiac.
On Saturday, No. 8 Cornell (12-3-1, 7-1-1 ECAC) will hope to return the favor when it hosts No. 1 Quinnipiac (17-1-3, 8-0-1 ECAC) at Lynah Rink.
The Bobcats ascended to the top spot in both major polls this week, adding more intrigue to a top-10 matchup between the two teams at the top of the ECAC standings. Saturday night will mark the first time a No. 1 team has played in Lynah Rink since the top-ranked Cornell women’s team suffered an overtime defeat in the conference championship game on March 8, 2020.
Before it’s highly anticipated contest with Quinnipiac, the Red will have to get through a Friday night game against Princeton (3-10-1, 2-5 ECAC).
The Tigers are riding a nine-game losing streak, with their last win coming back on Nov. 12 against Long Island University. Princeton has scored just three goals in its last six games. On the other side of the ice, the Tigers allow 4.14 goals per game, the third worst mark in the country.
Cornell has already seen Princeton this year, albeit in an exhibition game. The Red won that game easily, shutting out the Tigers en route to a 5-0 victory, its first game back at Lynah this year.
Saturday’s matchup features much tougher competition. Quinnipiac has not lost in its last 16 contests. The Bobcats have won their last eight and have only allowed two goals during that stretch.
Quinnipiac sports the best defense in the country, allowing an average of just one goal per game. It also has the best penalty kill in the country, with a .933 kill percent.
Behind that defense, freshman goaltender Yaniv Perets has emerged as one of the best netminders in the nation. Perets has a .954 save percentage, a .74 goals against average and has notched eight shutouts in 14 starts.
Part of Perets and Quinnipiac’s defense’s success can be attributed to the low number of shots the Bobcats allow opponents to attempt. Quinnipiac has allowed 342 shot attempts in 21 games, the second lowest in the nation.
Cornell, meanwhile, has allowed 403 shot attempts, which puts the Red one spot back of the Bobcats. The Red’s average of 2.25 goals allowed is 12th in the nation.
The two teams’ defensive numbers could suggest Saturday’s contest will be a low scoring affair, but both Cornell and Quinnipiac are in the top 10 in goals per game.
Keys to the weekend
1. Beat up on Princeton.
In a midweek game between travel partners, Quinnipiac handed Princeton a 9-0 drubbing on Tuesday. Princeton’s weak offense and defense will give Cornell an opportunity to build additional confidence and momentum after its shutout of Yale last weekend. In a tight race for the Cleary Cup, Cornell should expect three points against the last place Tigers.
2. Just keep shooting against Quinnipiac.
Scoring opportunities have been few and far between for Quinnipiac’s opponents. Cornell should trust its offense to eventually break through. The Red has the second best shooting percentage in the country at 13.3 percent. While Quinnipiac may limit opportunities, keeping the puck in the offensive zone and pressing for shots for all 60 minutes will give the Red the best chance to crack the Bobcats’ code.
3. Stay composed in a close game.
Cornell may very well find itself playing from behind against the top-ranked Bobcats, who have held a lead at some point in 18 of their 21 games. Cornell is 5-2 in games decided by one goal and is 4-1 when opponents score first. The Red cannot afford to get away from what has made them successful in close games this season. Even battling for an equalizer to send the game to overtime would help Cornell in the league standings and the Pairwise. Likewise, Cornell needs to stay composed, especially against an extra attacker, if it finds itself with a narrow lead.
4. Defend home ice.
Cornell has not lost at Lynah since March 15, 2019. Even Lynah’s limited capacity crowd will be a welcome sight for a Cornell team that has not played at home in two months. Quinnipiac defended its home ice when No. 1 Cornell came to town in January 2020. Saturday will be Cornell’s opportunity to do the same.
Cornell hosts Princeton at 7 p.m. Friday and Quinnipiac at 7 p.m. Saturday at Lynah Rink. You can follow The Sun’s live coverage of both games on Twitter.