In 2006-07, the class of 2010 entered Cornell as freshmen. Their freshman campaign ended with four wins in the entire season. The same number the team in 1972 had, though the season was considerably longer now. After their 4-23-2 season, missing the playoffs, the class made a pledge to one another, "When we’re seniors, let’s make sure we don’t know it’s our last game, because we want to be in the playoffs, and if we’re in the playoffs, you never know when it’s going to end.” They kept that promise to the best of their abilities, even if they did know when their last game was.
Three years later, after garnering two season of 12 wins apiece, the class of 2010 was set to begin its senior campaign, determined to keep the promise they had made to each other as freshmen. Head coach and former player Doug Derraugh had three goals for this team. Win the Ivy League, win the ECAC Championship, if you’re in the NCAA Tournament, why not win it all?
The season began with a series against Mercyhurst at Lynah. The Lakers swept Cornell in the first two games of the season, 4-1 each time. Those losses could have seemed like a bad omen for the team. But they took positives out of them. Captain Liz Zorn expressed, "Even though we lost, we thought we kept up with them and that gave us confidence. Having that experience showed us that they’re not hockey gods. They get lucky and get good bounces just like everyone else." The 2009-10 team took this attitude into their ECAC run of games, going 6-1-1 in the next games, losing their only game in the North Country by one goal. Their Ivy games included three wins. This team set itself up for success at two of Derraugh's goals in the first six weeks of play.
Their second out-of-conference test came in the last weekend of November. The now defunct Niagara team traveled to Lynah. Cornell won its first out-of-conference game of the season, 2-1. The second game saw the Purple Eagles taking a 2-1 victory of their own out of Lynah. The final games of the first half of the season were two more Ivy contests, this time against Yale and Brown. It ended with a tie and a win, boosting their Ivy record to 4-0-1.
After the break, Cornell faced another three out-of-conference contests. During those three games, and the next seven, Cornell faced the loss of players due to injury, illness. They dropped all three out-of-conference games, including a two-game stretch at Providence, and went 2-4-3 between January and February fifth. Zorn spoke well even about that rough patch, “It was a building process. That stretch helped us come together and realize that we needed every person on this roster to be successful. It made us appreciate each other that much more and accept our roles, which can be tough to do.” And that was exactly what they did. They won the next five games, including a win against Yale which clinched the Big Red's Ivy Title, the first of the team's goals.
Now it was time to try for the second goal. The senior class had kept its pledge. They made the playoffs. The team hosted regional rival Colgate, the first time the Big Red had ever hosted a playoff game. Up to this point, Cornell had not won a playoff game, let alone a playoff series. The first game of the best-of-three series started off rougher than expected. Defenseman Lauriane Rougeau drew the first penalty of the game, putting Cornell on the defensive. They killed off their first penalty of the night and less than five minutes later, Laura Fortino on a one-on-five scored a crazy goal from her knees. Kendice Ogilvie added a tally of her own from Jess Martino before the frame was over. The second was scoreless, but not for lack of opportunities. 22 shots between the two teams were unleashed. Four and a half minutes into the third, Colgate solved Amanda Mazotta to cut the lead to one. Colgate continued to press, but Mazotta held strong. She stopped 25 shots on the night, ten in the third period, to backstop the Big Red to their first playoff win in program history. The first game had been won, but the second goal of the team was not yet achieved. In spite of the close game the night before, Cornell showed its scoring proficiency as they blasted Colgate 5-0 with a pair of goals each from Lauriane Rougeau and Catherine White and a fifth from Laura Danforth. Amanda Mazotta earned her eleventh shutout of the season, stopping all 19 shots she faced from Colgate's players. Cornell advanced, for the first time in program history, to the ECAC semifinals.
As the top remaining seed, Cornell was given the privilege of hosting the ECAC Final Four in Ithaca. RPI was the next test. Catherine White opened up scoring for Cornell just 3:26 into the first. RPI answered with a shot of their own before the period was over. The women went into the locker room with the score knotted at one. Their winning streak and their goal were on the line. They would not be stopped. The second period saw four Lady Rouge goals, two from Liz Zorn and one each from Laura Danforth and Amber Overguard to put the Big Red up 5-1 at the second intermission. It was looking like the Big Red would advance to their first ever ECAC final. But the Engineers wouldn't go down without a fight. In the last ten minutes, RPI solved Mazotta three times. Just 90 seconds remained as two desperate teams fought for their right to advance. RPI pressed hard. Cornell stood tall, trying not to watch the seconds tick down. The final buzzer rang and the score stood. Cornell advanced to the ECAC final by a score of 5-4.
Their second goal was within reach. Only Clarkson stood between Cornell and its first ECAC championship. The first period began at four pm at Lynah Rink on March 7, 2010. Both teams were fighting for their first ECAC championship. Both teams had won their semifinal matchups by a single goal, Cornell against RPI and Clarkson against Harvard. The first period began, once again with a penalty by Cornell. After killing it off and failing to score on a power play of their own, it looked like the period was going to end as it began, scoreless. Catherine White did not allow that to happen. As she had in the previous game, she opened up the scoring, with just 34 seconds remaining in the first. The second period saw the Golden Knights outshoot the Big Red 18-7. In spite of the shot differential, Cornell scored twice to Clarkson's one goal. Laura Fortino and Chelsea Karpenko scored for the Lady Rouge as they took a two-goal lead into the locker room. 20 minutes stood between them and their goal. Would they live up to their potential?
The third period was far from what they had wanted. Penalties were taken by both teams, but only one team was able to convert: Clarkson. Clarkson scored 8:48 into the third to cut the lead to one. 16:04 into the third, the Golden Knights tied the game. And that is how the game remained. Bonus hockey was to be had at Lynah that night. It would be only the seventh overtime final in the twenty-seven year history of the women's ECAC tournament. And for the first time since 2001, a new champion would be crowned. Clarkson in the first three frames, Clarkson outshot the Big Red by a differential of 35-17. But the numbers that mattered were on the scoreboard: 3-3. Cornell was no stranger to overtime. They had played seven overtime games and had not walked away with a single overtime win. Clarkson had three shots by the time Cornell took its first shot of overtime, but that didn't matter. Cornell's only shot of overtime, at 7:52, by Kendice Ogilvie off of an amazing effort by Liz Zorn, went in. Cornell had done it. These seniors who won only four games in their entire freshman year won the ECAC championship, the first in program history. They completed their second goal. And the season was still not over.
By winning the ECAC, Cornell had advanced to compete in its first ever NCAA tournament. But their first opponent was a familiar foe: Harvard. Cornell traveled to Cambridge for the second time that year, to play its biggest rival in a game on a bigger stage than it ever had before. Its dream season continued. But several things stayed the same. The first was the warmup that the Lady Rouge did before big games to stay loose: dance parties. The second was something that was present at every game: Coach Derraugh's pregame speech. Before every game, he gave the same speech. From the first loss to Mercyhurst to the championship game against Clarkson, all the way to this, their first ever NCAA tournament game, the speech remained constant.
In its previous two games against its archrival, Cornell took away a 4-3 win and a 4-4 tie. In spite of Cornell winning the ECAC, Cornell was the lower seed. Harvard had the privilege of hosting the Big Red. Bright Hockey Center was ready for the clash between the two rivals. As had become almost common, Catherine White opened up scoring in the game, pushing the Lady Rouge ahead of the Crimson just two and a half minutes into the game. The tone was set four minutes later. While killing off a penalty, the Big Red tallied a shorthanded goal as Karlee Overguard connected on a breakaway. The second saw three more unanswered goals from Laura Fortino, Melanie Jue, and Chelsea Karpenko before Harvard finally solved Amanda Mazzotta on the power play. Kendice Ogilvie answered back to end scoring in the second with just 20 minutes between the Lady Rouge and their first NCAA win in their first appearance. In spite of another 13 shots in the third, Harvard could only solve Mazzotta with an extra attacker as the Big Red punched their ticket to their first ever Frozen Four appearance after their 6-2 win over Harvard in the national quarterfinal.
The next game was in Minneapolis, quite a ways from the friendly confines of Lynah Rink, or even the familiarity of Bright Hockey Center. The opponent, however, was one that the Big Red had seen not too long ago, though it certainly seemed like a different time: Mercyhurst. Mercyhurst was the top seed, Cornell the lowest that remained. Their record this season was 0-2-0 in favor of the Lakers. Most other teams would have been happy to make it this far. But this team was not just any other team. Captain Liz Zorn said it best, "This wasn’t a vacation for us. We weren’t along for the ride. We were there to win it all just like the other three teams. We wanted to show everyone that we deserved to be there because we earned it, just like the other three teams.” And deserve it they did. In an incredibly evenly matched game, Mercyhurst drew the first penalty. Something that could have started the Big Red on a streak didn't. The power-play opportunity was not advanced. Special teams, however, would get the first goal of the game. Kendice Ogilvie charged Mercyhurst's goaltender, putting the Lady Rouge on the offensive. Toward the end of the penalty, Cornell took advantage of a turnover and after Karlee Overguard's shot was stopped by the netminder, Laura Fortino put in the puck to bring the Big Red to a 1-0 lead that they would still hold in the first intermission. The second period was all Mercyhurst. With thirteen shots on the period, the Lakers connected on two opportunities to lead the Big Red at the end of the second. Twenty minutes and a stalwart Cornell squad stood between Mercyhurst and the national title game. Karlee Overguard would not be denied again as she scored almost halfway into the third frame, knotting the score at two apiece. In spite of numerous opportunities, including diving saves by defensemen, the buzzer sounded with the score still even.
This was the ninth overtime game of Cornell's season. Holding a record of 1-1-6 this season and only two games removed from that sole win. In contradistinction to heavy pressure by the Lakers, Catherine White, so used to scoring game-opening goals, scored 13:14 into overtime. Cornell began celebrating, and Mercyhurst protested. The goal was under review. The net had come off but had it left its moorings before or after the puck crossed the line?
Officials reviewed and Catherine White's goal stood. The Big Red beat the Lakers in the game that mattered most and advanced to their first ever appearance in the national title game. In spite of all the hype and all of the emotion, the women had one more goal to achieve. They were in the NCAA tournament. They had reached the national title game. As Derraugh said, why not win it all?
Surreal emotions struck the team the night before their game, "It was a crazy feeling lying in bed that night knowing that when I woke up, I was playing the biggest game of my life.” But something remained. A promise the seniors made when they were freshmen, never to know when their last game would be. But this was it. How did they feel about knowing that this game was indeed their last? Liz Zorn captured it best, “We looked at each other in the locker room, realized it was our last game and we knew it. We started cracking up. There was no better last game to have than this.” A national title game for the team that, as freshman, had only won four games, the number of games it took them to win their ECAC championship. Cornell faced the Bulldogs of Minnesota-Duluth, a heavy favorite to beat the Cinderella Story Cornellians.
Duluth had won four national championships going into the game and did not seem to take Cornell seriously. The first frame saw a combined twenty shots from the two teams but not a single one connected. Two penalties were killed, one per team, and the first frame ended as it began, 0-0. The Lady Rouge not only could skate with the Bulldogs. They equaled them. And in the second period, Melanie Jue scored on one of the Big Red's four power-play opportunities, putting Cornell up 1-0. Minnesota-Duluth did not like that. "You could see them getting frustrated with each other. They were yelling at each other on the ice, which was fun for us. They expected to just run their tic-tac-toe plays and score goals. There was a point in the second period where we had a bunch of chances in a row that we didn’t capitalize on, but we really gained a lot of momentum and put them on their heels a little bit," Liz Zorn recollects.
The third period barely opened before the Bulldogs tied up the game on a power play left over from the second. The game was tied at one when, on another power play, the Bulldogs pulled ahead to lead. Melanie Jue was not done with her final game in carnelian just yet. She scored a second goal, tying the score once again, and sending the game for the second straight night into overtime.
This game would not be decided as quickly as the last few overtimes. In fact, the game would go on to be the longest title game in NCAA history. The first overtime saw 23 shots and a power-play opportunity for each team. The second overtime saw another 14 shots, with ten belonging to the Bulldogs. The third overtime was winding down. The game looked destined to continue onward. Both teams were exhausted, perhaps Cornell more so as it had only dressed 15 skaters in this game that was lasting for almost the length of two. With just 34 second remaining, Duluth made a play, and in spite of a diving Lauriane Rougeau, the puck found its way into the net. Liz Zorn reflects, "It's one of those things you can see in slow motion. I’ll probably always be able to see it. When the shot went off, I thought, ‘Oh no, here it comes.’ Then I buried my head not only out of disappointment but exhaustion.” They had beaten the odds. Won the program's first ECAC regular and postseason titles, an Ivy league championship, attained the program's first berth to the NCAA tournament, garnered the first win in the NCAA tournament, appeared in the program’s first national title game. The dream season ended just short of all their hopes and dreams. But it kick started a new wave of Cornell women's hockey. Amanda Mazzotta set the record for most saves in an NCAA game (61) and in the tournament (123), besting the previous highs by 20 and almost 30 respectively. Mazzotta, Rougeau, and Fortino made the all-tournament team. Laura Fortino was also the first woman in Cornell hockey history to become a First-Team All-American, and not for the last time.
Cornell outscored its opponents 16 goals to eight during the 2010 ECAC Tournament. Kendice Ogilvie beat Clarkson netminder Lauren Dahm 7:52 into overtime to win Cornell's first ECAC championship. Amanda Mazotta had a goals-against average of 2.00 and garnered a save percentage of 0.918 during the ECAC tournament. Cornell won its first ECAC championship in Ithaca on March 7, 2010.
Laura Danforth, Laura Fortino, Xandra Hompe, Hayley Hughes, Melanie Jue, Chelsea Karpenko, Jess Martino,
Amanda Mazzotta (G), Kelly McGinty (C), Kendice Ogilvie, Amber Overguard, Karlee Overguard, Jenna Paulson, Lauriane Rougeau, Catherine White, Katie Wilson (G), Amanda Young, Liz Zorn (C)
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