Women’s Hockey to Face #10 St. Lawrence this Weekend in ECAC Quarterfinals
After the Cornell Women’s Hockey team dropped their first four games of the season, and six of their first nine, it looked as if their streak of five straight top-four ECAC finishes and NCAA tournament appearances would come to an end. However, after getting all its players and coach Doug Derraugh back from the Canadian National Team, they have looked more like the force that has dominated ECAC hockey the past few years. The Big Red (16-10-3, 14-6-2 ECAC) have gone 13-4-3 since their rocky start to earn a fourth-place finish in the ECAC, and will face #10 St. Lawrence (19-10-5, 13-5-4 ECAC) in a best-of-three ECAC Quarterfinal matchup this weekend at Lynah Rink. The series will start Friday at 7:00 pm, with game two on Saturday at 4:00 pm (and a third game, if necessary, on Sunday at 4:00 pm).
These two teams are very evenly matched. They tied for fourth in the ECAC with 30 points apiece, but the tiebreaker was given to Cornell due to their 1-0-1 record vs. St. Lawrence this season. The Big Red beat the Saints 4-2 in December on two late third-period goals in Canton, and then overcame a two-goal deficit to earn a tie at Lynah in January. Both teams are known for aggressive, high-scoring play and are ranked in the top 10 nationally for goals per game. Both have had virtually the same results on defense, with Cornell surrendering 2.48 goals per game, and St. Lawrence 2.5. The biggest difference between the two teams, however, comes on special teams. Both kill off penalties at virtually the same rate, but Cornell converts on its power plays almost 21% of time (ninth in the nation), while St. Lawrence is near the bottom of the country in that category, only converting about 9% of the time.
The Big Red are led by their trio of senior forwards, Brianne Jenner, Emily Fulton, and Jillian Saulnier. The three have combined to score 49 goals, more than half the team’s total, and have accounted for 124 points. Their playmaking skills and ability to finish plays has helped turn Cornell into one of the highest-scoring teams in the country the past few years, as they are a threat to score anytime one of them is one the ice.
Defensively, they have gotten a superb season out of freshman defenseman Erin O’Connor. The Illinois native leads all freshmen defensemen in the NCAA in points with a 7-18-25 line, and has scored four power play goals as well. In goal, Paula Voorheis has rebounded nicely after a rough start to the season. The sophomore currently sports a 2.46 GAA, with a .919 save percentage. If she and the defense are able to limit the St. Lawrence attack this weekend, the Big Red should have enough firepower to advance to the next round.
St. Lawrence will bring their balanced attack into the series, as they have six players with over 20 points. Unlike Cornell, they don’t have any superstars that stand out, but they are a deep team that can compete with all of their lines. Brooke Webster (16-13-29) and Kayla Raniwsky (13-16-29) are tied for the team lead in points, with Jenna Marks (14-14-28) and Kennedy Marchment (12-16-28) not far behind. On defense, sophomore Kirsten Padalis has stood out, leading the team in +/-, while blocking a team-best 56 shots. On the last line of defense, Carmen MacDonald has emerged as one of the better goalies in the league in the latter half of the season after splitting time with Brooke Wolejko to start the year. The senior has a .926 save percentage with a 2.02 GAA. She also has had success against Cornell in the past, making a career-high 51 saves against the Big Red in a 1-1 tie last season.
One advantage Cornell has, though, is experience in these kinds of games. They have been in the ECAC Championship game every year since 2010, winning four of them, including the past two. This included last year’s memorable final, when they beat eventual national champion Clarkson 1-0 in their own rink. Even though the team has underperformed slightly compared to the past few years, they know what it takes to bring home another ECAC title. The goal at the beginning of the season for the Big Red women’s hockey team was to win the national championship, and the next leg of that journey starts on Friday.