In spite of the fact that Cornell had outscored SLU 15-3 in three games earlier this season, this game was much tighter than the last three. St. Lawrence knew that it was its last chance to continue its season and Cornell knew that it had some revenge to exact for SLU taking the ECAC Championship away last season. The first period was all Cornell, as Taylor Woods scored two goals (though the second looked like Barley-Maloney on video), putting the Lady Rouge in the lead for the frame off an even-strength and power-play goal apiece. The second period the Saints struck back as Rylee Smith scored two goals of her own toward the end of the period. It was knotted going into the third with each team taking a penalty (or three in the case of the Big Red) including a soft call for a 5-on-3 in St. Lawrence's favor. The game could have been decided then and there, but the Lady Rouge would not let that stand. They killed off both penalties and another before freshman Taylor Woods scored her third of the game, her first career hat trick, to put the Big Red ahead, 3-2 with less than two minutes left in the game. With forty seconds left, Woods assisted Jenner on an empty netter to ice the game. Final score 4-2. It was an incredibly tight, well fought game by both teams and it is a shame that St. Lawrence's season ended there. But that was not the end of the weekend for the Big Red.
Saturday, Harvard beat Clarkson with the same score as the Big Red beat the Saints for Harvard's first win over Clarkson this season. Winning when it mattered put the Crimson in the title game in a heated Ivy rematch. Cornell and Harvard had split the season, each winning 3-1. The game was incredibly tight, in spite of the shot count. The first period saw Brianne Jenner score less than five minutes in, and the Big Red looked like it was ready to win. Harvard, however, was not giving up without a fight. They put a goal in toward the end of the period to even up the score and once again the game was tied, this time at one. The second was tight, with Harvard killing off a 5-on-3 and the period ending with the Lady Rouge on the kill. The next period started with the score tied 1-1. The Big Red killed a penalty and then Harvard killed one of their own. The game looked poised to go into overtime when Harvard was called with a slashing penalty with just over three minutes left in the frame. Toward the end of the penalty, the Lady Rouge took several close shots on Maschmeyer, one from Saulnier, and one from Fulton, when finally Jessica Campbell found the puck on her net and she put in a beauty of a shot to put the Big Red up 2-1 with 100 seconds left. The defense and Lauren Slebodnick made some monster plays, some beautiful blocks and saves in order to end the game with their one goal lead. The women took the trophy back to give these seniors and this program their third ECAC championship.
The Next Step
The NCAA tournament has been set with Cornell coming in at number two in the country behind only undefeated Minnesota. Three ECAC teams were represented, the most of any conference. Here is what the matchups look like:
North Dakota at 1. Minnesota
Mercyhurst at 2. Cornell
Harvard at 3. Boston College
Clarkson at 4. Boston University
Three of the four pairings have played each other at least once this season. Minnesota has beaten North Dakota five times this season, with their last game being a 2-0 win for the WCHA Championship. Cornell defeated Mercyhurst 4-0 at Lynah. Boston College defeated Harvard 2-1. Only Boston University and Clarkson have not played. Whether statistics and previous results say anything about outcomes is yet to be seen, but it is interesting nonetheless. Now let's look at Cornell's quarterfinal opponent, the women who stand between the Lady Rouge and the Frozen Four.
Mercyhurst, the champion of the CHA, is not unfamiliar to the Big Red. Mercyhurst and Cornell began playing in 2001-02 season. The record including this year is 5-13-1, but that should not alarm the fans of the Lady Rouge. All five wins have come since 2010. That means that this senior class has a record of 5-4 against Mercyhurst; the juniors have a record of 4-2; the sophomores have a record of 3-1; and the freshmen have a 1-0 record against Mercyhurst. While Mercyhurst should by no means be taken for granted, this team and Coach Derraugh have found ways to beat them, especially on big stages. The only time Cornell and Mercyhurst have met in the post-season was in 2010, marking the seniors's and Cornell's first win over Mercyhurst.
As far as this season, let's look at what Mercyhurst has done. Mercyhurst has had a fair number of mutual opponents including two games a piece against Quinnipiac, Yale, and Boston College. Mercyhurst pulled a win and a tie out of QU, two wins out of Yale and a split with Boston College. Mercyhurst is not a team to be taken lightly, even if Cornell beat them 4-0 earlier in the season. As we have seen in the past two weekends, teams play harder in the playoffs, especially when they are the underdog.
Here is what Cornell is going to have to do to beat Mercyhurst this weekend. Mercyhurst has an impressive goaltending tandem, a penalty kill of 87.1%, and a power play of 21.4%. Those statistics are staggering if you don't look at what Cornell has. Cornell has a solid netminder in Slebodnick and reliable backups in Pippy and Moak, a penalty kill above 90 percent, and a power play that is clicking in the post-season more than its numbers suggest. These teams are well matched and each of them are going to be fighting hard. Cornell will need to stay out of the box, as Mercyhurst is great on the power play, but they will also need to take advantage of every scoring opportunity they can, even strength, shorthanded, or power play because Mercyhurst is one of the few teams in the country more penalized than the Lady Rouge. If the Big Red play THEIR game, don't underestimate the Lakers, and play with their hearts, there will be a trip to Minnesota in the works. Let's Go Red!