Cornell hosted Colgate for the third and fourth time this season in what was a very different series than the one that took place mid-November. In mid-November, Cornell shellacked Colgate by a combined score of 18-2. Each game was decided by a single goal. Also, not characteristic of the previous series, Cornell had to come from behind for both wins this past weekend. Friday's game was very different from previous ones against Colgate. Cornell led in shots in the first period, 12-4, but when the buzzer marked the end of the first frame, Colgate held the goal advantage, 1-0 on a power-play goal from a 5-on-3 situation. The second period fared slightly better for the Big Red. Brianne Jenner scored her first of the night, from Barley-Maloney and Leck. Colgate would not be silenced, though, scoring an even-strength goal less than two minutes later. The third period was just as back and forth as the second. Colgate scored a power-play goal less than two minutes into the frame. Barley-Maloney answered back, assisted by Jenner and Fortino, on a power-play goal of her own. Jenner scored her second of the night, again on the power play, to tie the Big Red up with Colgate. Colgate was not ready to give up and scored a fourth goal with less than three minutes left in the game. Cornell would not be denied, as Monika Leck scored the equalizer with less than a minute remaining in regulation, pushing the game to overtime. Overtime in the playoffs is not unfamiliar to most of the Big Red players, but it was not as long as their overtime game against BU last year. Brianne Jenner got her hat trick just 39 seconds into overtime from Rougeau and Leck. Cornell outshot Colgate 48-19 over the entire game, with 'Gate's goaltender stopping 43 shots. Penalties were more than a problem for both teams. Cornell got eight power-play opportunities, scoring on three of them. Colgate got three power-play goals of their own, of the six they were given. Cornell's 25 penalty minutes, including a major, were a huge problem for the Red.
The next night, Cornell was much more disciplined in terms of penalties, taking only 10 minutes of penalties, to Colgate's 17. The game started off just as ugly as the previous night, with Colgate scoring two goals in the end of the first, one on the power play and one on the penalty kill. One notable difference that first period was that it was the only period where Colgate came anywhere close to matching shots with Cornell, with an 11-10 edge to the Big Red. The second period was scoreless, in spite of almost 20 combined shots, and the Big Red once again went into the third period down, this time 2-0. The third period, however, was all Cornell. Freshman Taylor Woods scored just fifty-two seconds in the final frame, to put the Lady Rouge on the board. With one minute left in the period, Cornell was still down by a goal. At 19:07, senior defenseman Lauriane Rougeau scored the equalizer from Brianne Jenner. The game looked destined to go into overtime for the second night in a row when junior forward and Patty Kazmaier Top-10 Finalist Brianne Jenner shot a blast at the net from Taylor Woods and Emily Fulton with one second remaining on the clock. The goal went in and Cornell decided the series. Cornell led for a total of one second of the entire series, but won both games this weekend. This was not how the team typically wins, but they found a way to do so under great adversity. They advanced once again to host the ECAC Semi-final and Final games next weekend.
The other teams in the ECAC had their weekend series decided as well. Number two seed Clarkson took on seventh seed RPI. Their first game went to overtime, with RPI having a strong outing. In spite of that, Clarkson outshot the Engineers almost 2-1, scoring the game-winning goal 8:51 into overtime. RPI did not show as much fight the next afternoon, as Clarkson skated to a 5-2 victory to advance. Number three seed Harvard hosted number six seed Dartmouth in what was the most dominant series, as well as the only one of the weekend not to go to a single overtime. Harvard won the first game 3-0 and swept the Big Green in the second game with a 4-0 score in spite of the fact that they tied the Crimson earlier in the season. The final quarterfinal game was number five seed SLU at number four Quinnipiac. While Quinnipiac was the numeric favorite, beating and tying the Saints earlier in the season, the Saints had something the Bobcats did not: a historical reason to win. That is why the Saints will likely be one of the biggest tests the Big Red have in the tournament. The Saints are the reigning champions of the ECAC, beating the Lady Rouge last season in the ECAC Championship game. The first game was incredibly even, going to overtime, tied at 0. The Saints scored the game winner almost 11 minutes into the overtime period. The second game was even more impressive, lasting the length of two games. Regulation ended knotted at 2-2, with four times the number of goals scored in regulation as were scored in almost 71 minutes. But the game was still ongoing with the first and second overtimes being scoreless. Quinnipiac, this time, scored the unassisted game-winning goal, almost nine minutes into the third overtime, pushing the series to a third game, the only quarterfinal matchup to do so. The third game was decided early. For as incredibly tight as the previous two games were, the Saints had control of this entire game. SLU scored the first two goals in the first frame and MacDonald was more than equal to all 34 of Quinnipiac's shots the entire game. SLU skated to a 2-0 victory, advancing to the semi-finals.
Cornell has faced SLU more times in the regular season than any other team, sweeping the Saints in all three games with a combined total of 15-3. This, however, should not be any sort of relief to the Big Red, especially given what Colgate put up against the Big Red last weekend. Moreover, the last time the Saints met the Big Red, which resulted in a 6-0 Cornell victory, was in mid-January. Here is what the Big Red will need to do in order to solve the Saints.
Take Fewer Penalties
Prior to this weekend, the Lady Rouge had been much better at eliminating unnecessary penalties and time in the box. The women took 35 minutes in penalties over two games last weekend, far outpacing their average of 11.3. The Saints average only 8 penalty minutes per game, one of the fewest in the country for the women's teams. The SLU power play is not stellar, but if they are given that many opportunities, they will find the net. Notably, two of their three goals against the Lady Rouge earlier in the season were on the power play in spite of Cornell's more than 90 percent penalty kill. In their last three games, SLU had a combined 16 penalty minutes in what averages about 4 PIM given the overtime periods. SLU will not give many penalty opportunities of their own. Which leads us to the next point.
Find the Net
Finding the net is not always an issue for the Lady Rouge, but detractors had said it might be after their 0-0 tie with Dartmouth and the loss to Quinnipiac. However, the Lady Rouge average almost four goals per game. But SLU only averages giving up 2.38. Cornell has played in many tight games, but they will need to solve whichever SLU netminder they find playing. MacDonald seems to be the netminder of choice for SLU, almost starting every game, though not finishing every one. Regardless, Cornell has faced each of SLU's netminders this season. MacDonald was twice chased from the net, and Mazzocchi and Thomspon were both solved. Regardless, Cornell will need to take the opportunities it can, which leads into our final point, which is true for the rest of Cornell's postseason games.
Do Not Underestimate the Opponents
Cornell needs to do one thing above all in the rest of its games this season: not underestimate its opponents. This is the time of year when everyone plays her best hockey and Cornell will face different teams than it has previously in the season. SLU sits in the PWR but not highly enough that they will receive a bid to the tournament without either a win over Cornell or an automatic bid. Cornell sits highly enough that in spite of a loss, it might still receive a bid to the tournament. That, however, is not definite. The top women's teams are close enough that one could well be sitting on the outside looking in without an automatic bid. Each win is important to the Big Red for this very reason. Not only will bids be up, but seeding as well.
Potential Final Matchups
Harvard and Clarkson both play at 4pm Saturday afternoon to determine which team advances to the ECAC Championship Final. Clarkson and Harvard both have a lot to gain or lose in this game. The last time both teams made the NCAA Tournament was 2010. For Clarkson, it was the only NCAA tournament it has made since the format existed. For Harvard, it was merely the most recent. Harvard has made eight tournaments, with no championships at the NCAA level. Clarkson, meanwhile, has no NCAA wins, losing their first game to Minnesota in overtime.
History is also important for potential matches. Clarkson beat Harvard twice this season, but Harvard wants a win. Both teams have the option of making the tournament if they lose, but the options are increasingly slim. Regardless who wins, if Cornell advances, they will have a tough opponent. Cornell split with both Clarkson and Harvard this season, losing on the road and winning at Lynah. Clarkson takes considerably more penalty minutes than Harvard, but neither take as many as the Lady Rouge. Harvard has the number one penalty kill in the country, Cornell has number three, and Clarkson has number five. In terms of power play, Clarkson is at 20.4%, number nine in the country, Harvard is at 18.8%, number thirteen in the country, and Cornell is at 17.5%, number fifteen in the country. Each team is in the same band and each team could win on each night. Cornell will need to win not only special team battles if it wants to defeat Harvard or Clarkson. It will have to win even-strength battles, as well as be ready to play their game.
When it comes to history, these three teams have a lot of post-season history. Cornell and Harvard met in 1998-99. Harvard beat Cornell for Harvard's first ECAC Championship. In 2002-03 and 2003-04, Harvard beat Cornell. In 2003-04, it was when Harvard was en route to their second Tournament Championship. In 2004-05 and 2005-06, Harvard beat Clarkson in the playoffs en route to another ECAC championship. In 2007-08, Harvard eliminated both Cornell and Clarkson en route to their ECAC Championship. In 2008-09, Harvard eliminated Cornell in the semi-finals. In 2009-10, Cornell beat Harvard in the semi-finals and Clarkson in the finals en route to Cornell's first ECAC Championship.
Cornell has played Harvard five times in the playoffs, Harvard played Clarkson twice in the playoffs, and Clarkson played Cornell only once in the playoffs, but it was en route to Cornell's first championship and the furthest that Clarkson has gotten in the playoffs in the eight years it has had a program. These teams all have history in the playoffs and reasons to play harder against one another. That will undoubtedly play into this weekend's games.
If you cannot make it to Lynah this weekend, there is another option of viewing the games. ESPN3 will be airing the games. The Cornell-SLU game is available here; the Clarkson-Harvard final is available here. The championship final will be aired on ESPN3 as well, with the link available here.