Women’s Hockey Poised for a Deep Playoff Run
Fresh off a convincing victory to clinch the Ivy League title, Cornell women’s hockey prepares for tournament play. The Big Red beat Brown 6-1 on Saturday, with five of those goals coming in the second period. The team sat at sixth place as of Friday. However, this is very much subject to change after a wild weekend among the top teams. Clarkson is expected to fall from its top spot after being shut out by that Ivy League school in New Jersey. Also, New Hampshire came out and stunned No. 3 Boston College. In yet another good break for the Big Red, No. 5 Ohio State was defeated by Minnesota State. As the stars begin to align with two regular season games remaining, this team is in an ideal spot. Since January 9th, Cornell has suffered only one loss and a few ties.
To comment on her team’s great success and her experience as a freshman on such a talented team, first-year player Kendra Nealey gave BRSN an interview prior to this big weekend.
Rafe: At times, is it hard to not take this success for granted, considering it’s all you’ve known since arriving on campus?
Kendra: We are a very successful program, and sometimes when we win against historically weaker opponents, we as a team do not find satisfaction. Knowing that I was joining one of the highest-ranked D1 teams in the country, I began to hold myself to a higher standard and sometimes lost confidence in myself, even if I’m not necessarily doing anything wrong.
Rafe: What differences, if any, do you see in the way the seniors are treating this tournament run compared to the freshmen?
Kendra: I think that seniors are more aware of how the tournament works and how to get into it, just through their experience. The freshmen haven’t fully come to understand how the rankings between all the teams works and the ways in which tournament rankings are determined.
Rafe: Once you get inside of the top two teams, the winning percentages are staggering compared to especially teams 5, 6, 7 and 8. In your games against Wisconsin and Clarkson in particular, what have you learned about those teams that makes them so dominant?
Kendra: Both Wisconsin and Clarkson have a lot of depth in their team. They’re also fast and strong. We only lost to Wisconsin 2-1 and to Clarkson 4-3 in OT. I think that shows that we can play with any team in the nation and even though we’re not ranked top four at the moment, hockey is very competitive and there are a lot of good teams out there.
Rafe: Most of the freshmen have played a considerable amount this season. What best described this freshman class in terms of a mindset and identity?
Kendra: We all contribute by giving positive energy. Our freshman class makes up eight out of 21 on the team, which makes us the largest class on the team. We’re all really excited for the next four years. Maddie Mills is doing exceptionally well, scoring a bunch of goals and has been a huge impact on the team. It’s been interesting having half of our D-core be incoming freshmen, but I think all three freshmen D are adapting to the college level and learning more and more each practice and game.
Rafe: How do you think last year’s first-round loss plays into the way the more veteran players are approaching each game as the playoffs come closer?
Kendra: We’re determined to prepare for the upcoming weeks in the best way that we can. It’s definitely going to be a challenging playoff season, with so many teams in our league who are having a strong year. The best thing we can do is stay together and focus on taking down one opponent at a time.