The team chosen to finish first in the ECAC left a lot to be desired with how they began play on Friday. They started out scoring a goal on their own team (which was awarded to Cornell's Caroline DeBruin for her set-up on the play), and did not appear to be the team that the media all assumed would wipe the floor with the Big Red. Just over a minute later, Jillian Saulnier would find the back of the net again to put the women up by a seemingly commanding 2-0. Clarkson then began to find its game. After about five minutes, Clarkson was buzzing and gaining appreciably presence in the zone. It wasn't long until they cut the lead in half. Cornell answered in the form of another Jill Saulnier goal to give the Big Red the two-goal lead once again.
The second period saw a tally from each team, with Hayleigh Cudmore notching Cornell's tally very early on in the period. Then, Cornell would be whistled for a major penalty...for body checking. The body checking penalty itself was questionable from the game-play that I saw, but as no one was hurt, if the checking did indeed occur, it did not deserve a five. Additionally, if the penalty were so egregious that it needed to be awarded a major, why was the offending player not thrown out? Don't misinterpret me, I do not think Saulnier should have been thrown out. But it appeared to me a way for the referees to try to get Clarkson back into the game after Cornell so thoroughly dominated the second. Clarkson capitalized early on the penalty, but after that, the Big Red shut down the Golden Knights, killing off the remaining time and allowing only a single goal on the major, the only power-play goal that the Red had given up in the season thus far. The Red took a while to get back into their game, but the period ended with the scoreboard reading 4-2.
Clarkson opened up the period buzzing, hoping to erase the two-goal deficit early in the frame and knock off the higher-ranked Cornell team. They scored less than three and a half minutes into the frame, to pull the game within one. Cornell would not allow that to be the final score of this game. At 13:34, Jillian Saulnier set up a pass to co-captain Jess Campbell and she netted a beautiful goal for her first of the season to give the Red a 5-3 lead. Saulnier picked up her 100th career point on the play. And they were not done yet. Alyssa Gagliardi netted a pretty goal of her own on the power play to make the final score Cornell 6, Clarkson 3. There were several milestones in the game as Saulnier notched her 100th point, and netminder Lauren Slebodnick got her 54th win to put her in sole possession of the program record wins for a goaltender.
The next game would be a very different one. St. Lawrence had beaten Colgate the day before and were looking for a weekend sweep of the Central NY teams. Immediately from the start, the Saints appeared to be the better team from the North Country. If this writer hadn't known better, she would have thought that the Saints were ranked five in the country, not the Knights. But I digress. The game started with St. Lawrence challenging early, but Cornell held off for eight full minutes before the Saints put themselves on the board first. For the first time in the season, Cornell found itself down with the other team scoring the first goal. This was a defining moment for the team. How would they react? Would they respond or just be beaten down?
None of the Lynah Faithful in attendance would be surprised that the Lady Rouge responded strongly. Less than three minutes later, St. Lawrence found themselves taking undisciplined stick penalties. Cornell was on the two-man advantage. After failing to capitalize on a 5 on 3 earlier in the season, Cornell would not waste the opportunity again. Jill Saulnier evened up the score while Cornell was up two men. That wasn't all. Before the second penalty expired, Emily Fulton would score again to give Cornell the lead. Cornell was inflated, and St. Lawrence seemed down. The period ended with Cornell challenging and taking their hard-fought 2-1 lead into the locker room at intermission.
The second frame was even, with St. Lawrence seeming to get more of their confidence back. Cornell would not let that stand. On a play worthy of a Sports Center Top Ten, Alyssa Gagliardi put a shot on net from her knees and sent one past MacDonald to give Cornell a two-goal lead. St. Lawrence did not let the two-goal lead deflate them as much as they had the first period. They kept pushing and after a scrum, scored a second goal to pull themselves back within one. Co-captain Jessica Campbell answered back before the period was over to keep the game a two-goal one.
The third began with a buzzing Saints team who was so hyped up they took more penalties. In her first goal of her career, sophomore defenseman Kelly Murray scored a beautiful power-play goal to give the Red some more insurance as well as what would end up being the game winner. Not long after that, Murray took a bad hit into the boards. Lynah was silent. After being tended to by the trainers, she eventually was able to skate off with some help to rousing applause. For a player who had to miss a great deal of a season with an injury last year, the Lynah Faithful were excited to see the progress Murray had made. It was already apparent that she was going to be solid on the blue line, given her incredible play this season. Here at WAFT, as well as from the rest of the Lynah Faithful, we would like to wish Kelly Murray a speedy recovery. We can't wait to see her back on the ice.
Not long after the penalty, the team came together and Jessica Campbell scored her second of the afternoon and put the Lady Rouge up 6-2. But St. Lawrence kept on coming. They played a full 60 minutes of game time and scored one goal. Then on the power play, they scored another. Slebodnick and the shorthanded team stood tall through a Saints onslaught in the end of the game as the seconds would tick off the clock. Cornell won by a score of 6-4, with Kelly Murray's goal standing as the eventual game winner.
Many people will likely consider Quinnipiac the harder team of the weekend, but Cornell cannot sleep on Princeton. Princeton beat Dartmouth before dropping the second game of the weekend to Harvard. There is no doubt that the Tigers will prepare for Cornell. They currently stand at 1-1-0 on the season. The Tigers currently hold the worst penalty kill in the nation, a 50%, with four power-play goals allowed in eight opportunities. The only netminder who has seen time for Princeton, Newell, holds a 0.900 save percentage. They are a bit of a mystery given how few games they have played, but they should not be underestimated.
Quinnipiac suffered their first loss this season last weekend to Harvard, putting them at 6-1-1 on the season. That record is impressive on the surface, but the Bobcats only played one team in the top ten of the country and that was their sole loss. Their home opener was a scoreless tie against St. Cloud State. Since then, the Bobcats have scored no fewer than two goals per game. Scoring is not a problem for them. Quinnipiac averages over 36 shots per game. Their power play and penalty kills are middling, but solid. Why they are ranked so high seems to be a mystery at first glance, but the Bobcats have found a way to win each game. They also fought hard in their loss against Harvard. Their netminder holds a 0.942 save percentage.
Let's look at what Harvard did to defeat Quinnipiac: They kept their shot total only to 21. Harvard, however, was slightly outshot. The absolute number of shots is not what matters when playing this team, but the quality of shots does. Harvard scored twice on its power play, out of the four opportunities they were given. Quinnipiac also had a Harvard second-period onslaught. All four Harvard goals were scored in the second period.
Cornell will need to be incredibly solid and not take either team for granted if they want to pickup ECAC points this coming weekend.
12 - Fulton
10 - Campbell
6 - Cudmore & Saulnier
5 - Gagliardi & Woods
4 - Poudrier
3 - Leck
2 - Bunton, Doering, & Murray
1 - DeBruin, Richardson, & Slebodnick