The 2012-13 began with the loss of seven seniors, huge impact players, who had been to the national tournament in three of their four years. Most wondered if Cornell's run was over. Two ECAC championships. Would they go back to national irrelevance? This was the year they had to prove themselves as a team who could get results, not based on the past, but in the present.
Senior captain, Laura Fortino set the stage for the women's high standards. "We kind of don’t worry about what happened in the past. I think if you reflect on that and harp on that, bad things happen…It’s a new game, it’s a new year. We know that we’ve got to play our best every night. We’ve got to be consistent — whomever we’re playing. So yeah, maybe we’ve been successful in the past, but it’s a new year, a new team, so we’re just hoping to stick to our game plan and go from there."
The team started out with a tough test, playing Boston University in a series at Walter Brown Arena. After splitting the series, the women traveled back to Lynah in order to host foe and reigning ECAC champion St. Lawrence for the first of an unusual three regular-season meetings. Cornell dominated the game, walking away with an early season win before ECAC play began in earnest. They had an Ivy title to defend and an ECAC championship to attain. It began spectacularly. Junior goaltender Lauren Slebodnick picked up her first shutout of the season and looked destined for more. After her first two wins of the season, she was injured halfway into the second period, leaving the game as freshman Stefannie Moak relieved her to help preserve the win. The goaltender's injury mirrored that of her former goaltending partner, Amanda Mazzotta two years prior. Once again, the Big Red needed to rely upon underclassmen while their veteran netminder healed. The next night, Moak started again against Quinnipiac. She held the Bobcats scoreless through one as Cornell put two on the board. After Quinnipiac came back blazing in the second period, regaining the lead, sophomore goaltender Katelyn Pippy was called on. Pippy turned away all eleven shots that came her way, giving the Lady Rouge an opportunity to come back. They did just that, scoring two goals in the third to keep their perfect conference record for one more day.
No one knew how serious Slebodnick's injury was, but given a rare week off, fans were hopeful she would be back in action. However, when it came time to play regional rival Colgate, she was still healing. Katelyn Pippy this time was called on for her first career start. The result? Her first career shutout. Cornell swept Colgate that weekend with Pippy backstopping the team. Fortino had this to say, “[Pippy’s] been working hard. She’s been fighting for that spot, and we were all so proud of her the way she went in there. In a game like that, especially a close game like that, she went in and she played with confidence and I was so proud of her. We believed in her as a team and she proved us right...She really showed that she wanted to be in there and we were all so proud of her [and] the way she performed." This team proved that they were going to do whatever it took to win, with every player contributing.
Slebodnick was back the next weekend for two tough opponents, Dartmouth and Harvard. The women picked up a tight win and a tough loss, respectively. The women continued their road trip, this time to the North Country. Clarkson handed the women their second consecutive loss. This was the first time they had suffered consecutive losses since a three-game skid in January of 2010 against Syracuse and Providence. The last time they had lost consecutive conference games was January 2009 to Colgate. The women could have given up. They could have listened to the detractors. Instead, they bounced back the next night to beat St. Lawrence for the second time this season to close out the fall semester. The spring began with a trip to Boston to play the second and third Boston-area team that year. Cornell defeated Northeastern and dropped an overtime loss to Boston College. The following weekend they returned to league play, hosting the teams from the North Country once more. In their third meeting of the season, Cornell walked away with a 6-0 win from St. Lawrence. They also got vengeance against Clarkson, beating them at Lynah. They went on to win the next five games before they suffered a road loss against Quinnipiac during a huge snowstorm. Not making any excuses, they fought back the next night to beat Princeton. The last four games of the regular season were pivotal for playoff seeding. Cornell went 3-0-1, clinching not only a home ice advantage and a fourth consecutive Ivy title but a fourth consecutive first seed in the tournament and with that the right to play at Lynah as long as they were in the playoffs.
The quarterfinal opponent Cornell was set to face was the one closest to Ithaca, Colgate. In spite of two wins and a goal differential of 18-1 the last time these two teams met, these meetings would be a lot closer. Cornell had something of an issue with road games this year. In fact, they had only lost on the road, with a single scoreless tie blemishing the otherwise perfect home record. Coach Derraugh said it had more to do with how they start a game, regardless where they play.
The opening game against Colgate at Lynah was another one of those slow starts. 15 minutes into the game and it was still scoreless. Penalties were running rampant. At 15:11, freshman Taylor Woods was called for charging. Nine seconds later, junior Jessica Campbell was called for tripping. Colgate had a rare five-on-three opportunity and they capitalized on it 33 seconds later. The Raiders went up 1-0 and the penalties kept on coming. Alternate captain and defenseman Alyssa Gagliardi was thrown out of the game with just a minute left on the clock. The hit deserved a penalty, as it was a clear body check, but most in the crowd did not believe it was a "checking from behind" penalty. The crowd went nuts at the call but to no avail. Gagliardi was out of the game and Cornell would have to play a man down for five minutes, regardless of whether goals were scored.
Colgate pressed hard but Slebodnick and the penalty-kill unit stood tall, closing out the first period trailing 1-0. As the second frame started, four more minutes of penalty needed to be served. Slowly but surely, the time ticked off. The major was killed. The momentum seemed to switch. Colgate was called for a penalty and Cornell was not going to let that go to waste. Senior forward Erin Barley-Maloney let loose a shot. It almost beat the Colgate netminder. Brianne Jenner found the rebound and threw it back on net. The puck had eyes, bouncing off a Colgate skate before it found its way into the net. The game was evened up at one apiece. It wouldn't stay that way for long. 97 seconds later, the goal light came on. Laura Fortino was in position to block the pass when her stick broke, giving the Raiders a three-on-one. Colgate scored the first even-strength goal of the night to put the Raiders back up by one, a lead which they took into the second intermission.
The third period began just like the last two had, with a power-play goal. Colgate converted to put the Raiders up 3-1 early in the third. Not three minutes passed before Erin Barley-Maloney made for the net again, looking to capitalize again on the power play. This time, Barley-Maloney knocked in Jenner's rebound, cutting the lead in half and putting Cornell within one. Brianne Jenner scored herself at 13:16 to tie the game up yet again at three apiece. But Colgate was determined. With just two minutes and 35 seconds remaining, Colgate put another goal on the board. This time the Red did not have penalties to help them reach their goal. The seconds ticked away as Colgate looked for its first win against Cornell that season, one that mattered much more than the two losses they suffered earlier in the season. With 47 seconds left on the clock, sophomore Monika Leck put a shot on net. It wasn't pretty; it was dirty and hardworking, and just like that, the game was tied once more. Life was back in Lynah as all the air seemingly seeped back into the room. 1,500 people waited anxiously to see the result of the game. Cornell was 1-1-1 in overtime this season. Would they be able to improve on that record?
The crowd didn't have to wait long. Just 39 seconds into overtime, Brianne Jenner found the net, earning herself a hat trick and the team a win in their first game of the series. The next night Cornell looked to come out strong and Colgate hoped to do what they hadn't the night before, hold off the home team. The first period looked like Colgate was set on its mission. Cornell floundered. At the end of the period, within less than two minutes, Colgate scored a power-play goal and a shorthanded goal to take a two-goal lead into the first intermission. The second period was intense. 19 shots went off between the two teams. 19 saves were made. Cornell had a five-minute major against the Raiders and a short five-on-three. They still could not convert. Colgate was 20 minutes away from evening up the series. Cornell needed to get moving, and quickly. Freshman Taylor Woods showed her scoring touch and tenacity when less than a minute into the final frame, she lit the lamp to put Cornell on the board. The deficit was cut in half. Cornell pushed hard but Colgate stood tall. They needed this game. With less than a minute remaining, Cornell won the faceoff. The puck went to Lauriane Rougeau and she put her whole body into a slap shot. Her effort was rewarded as the Red finally solved Colgate's Rando once more. The game was tied, just like the night before, and seemed destined to go into overtime yet again. Brianne Jenner had other plans. With just one second on the clock, Jenner put a shot on net. The crowd watched as the puck went into the net and the Lady Rouge took their first lead against Colgate. Cornell won and sent an incredibly hardworking Colgate back to Hamilton for the season. Cornell was going to compete in its fourth consecutive semifinal matchup. They would have to wait another day to know their opponent, as Quinnipiac and St. Lawrence had each grabbed a win forcing a third game.
The next weekend at Lynah, Cornell had a chance for some revenge. St. Lawrence had advanced. The last time these two met in the postseason at Lynah, the Saints defeated the Red in the ECAC title game. This time they would spar to determine which team would advance to the title game, the defending champions, or the team hungry for their third championship in four years. Brianne Jenner, having tallied a point in all eight Big Red goals the weekend before, was looked to for another standout performance. She played an amazing game, but she was not the player of the game.
Cornell was determined not to get a slow start this game. In spite of their 3-0-0 record against the Saints, Colgate taught them once again that playoff hockey had a different level of intensity. Taylor Woods on a breakaway crashed the net. St. Lawrence's netminder made the first save. Woods got her own rebound and buried the puck deep in the net to put Cornell up late in the first. Barely 90 seconds later, Woods came through yet again. Brianne Jenner passed to Lauriane Rougeau who put the puck on net. Woods picked up the rebound in almost the exact spot she had been for her first goal. She put the puck on net. SLU's MacDonald made the save. Woods caught the rebound again and buried it deep. Cornell left the first with something it hadn't had in either of the two previous games: a lead.
In the second, St. Lawrence came back to life. They wanted a chance to defend their title. St. Lawrence outshot Cornell by almost a 2-1 margin. Their hard work finally paid off toward the end of the period. They scored an even-strength goal and just over five minutes later scored a shorthanded goal, Cornell's second shorthanded goal against in as many games. Just like that, the lead was wiped away. Two frames finished and two goals per side. The third frame would be the decisive one.
Play was even for for most of the period, even down to the shot count. But at 18:22, Taylor Woods scored the go-ahead goal, earning her first career hat trick. 58 seconds later Woods assisted Brianne Jenner on the empty-net goal to put the game away as Cornell skated to a victory and one step closer to its third ECAC championship.
Rival Harvard beat Clarkson in the other semifinal match to advance to the ECAC title game. Harvard was looking for its first ECAC title since 2008, and its sixth ever title. Cornell was looking for its third ever title, having lost last year as the defending champions. Cornell and Harvard had split the season, each coming away with a 3-1 victory at home. Cornell, determined to build off its victory from the night before and the adrenaline of playing another rivalry game at home, started strong. Not five minutes into the game, Brianne Jenner lit the lamp on an assist from Jill Saulnier. The building erupted. Harvard, however, was not giving up without a fight. Their freshman goaltender was standing on her head to stop shots. After a face-off win, Harvard threw the puck on net. Slebodnick got a piece of it, but the puck was destined to meet the back of the net as Harvard tied up the game. The next period was tight, with multiple opportunities, most by the Big Red on the power play. Although unable to convert, they didn't lose their stride, even killing off a five-on-three opportunity.
The third period saw some spectacular plays, both on defense and offense. Alyssa Gagliardi dove across the ice to stop Harvard from going ahead. Even as Cornell remained scoreless, its scoring opportunities were a thing of beauty. Lauriane Rougeau and Brianne Jenner attempted to double team Harvard's netminder, but she robbed them of the opportunity to achieve the go-ahead goal. Harvard had killed off penalty after penalty, 21 in a row in fact, to lead the nation. Jessica Campbell drew a penalty late in the third, with the score still knotted at one and 3:28 left in the frame. Campbell was instrumental on the power play, sending the puck to a wide-open Emily Fulton. Fulton's pass made its way behind the goaltender but a Harvard defender dove in, sending the puck the other way barely inches before it crossed the paint. The erstwhile puck landed directly on the stick of Jessica Campbell and she shot it straight in with ease.
The partisan crowd roared. Almost 2,500 people were on their feet. Cornell took the lead with 80 seconds remaining. The Crimson net was empty as they did their damnedest trying to solve Slebodnick. She was more than equal to every challenge as the seconds ticked away and the buzzer sounded. The score remained 2-1 and Cornell had won its third ECAC championship. After the win, alternate captain Lauriane Rougeau had this to say, "Winning this title means a lot. Especially after losing last year, we really wanted to get this one back. All year we’ve been prepping for this moment...we will enjoy this win for sure because it’s a big win for us." And that it was.
Cornell outscored its opponents 14 goals to nine during the 2013 ECAC Tournament. Jessica Campbell scored the game-winning goal 18:40 into the third period, besting Harvard's Emerance Maschmeyer to bring Cornell its third ECAC championship. Lauren Slebodnick had a goals-against average of 2.25 and a save percentage of 0.899. Cornell won its third ECAC championship in Ithaca on March 10, 2013.
Erin Barley-Maloney, Jess Brown, Jessica Campbell, Olivia Cook, Hayleigh Cudmore, Laura Fortino (A), Emily Fulton, Alyssa Gagliardi (A), Brianne Jenner, Monika Leck, Stefanie Moak (G), Kelly Murray, Katelyn Pippy (G), Victoria Pittens, Cassandra Poudrier, Morgan Richardson, Lauriane Rougeau (C), Jillian Saulnier, Lauren Slebodnick (G), Taylor Woods, Anna Zorn
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