It is playoff time again; once more, after another impressive season, the Cornell women’s hockey team will start off the ECAC Playoffs with a best-of-three home series. The action starts Friday at 3:30 p.m. at Lynah, with the Red taking on Brown. The series continues Saturday, with the Bears returning to Lynah at 2 p.m. If a winner still has not been decided by that point, Brown will make a third appearance on Sunday at 2 p.m. for a final contest to decide who advances to the next round.
The No. 3 Red (26-3, 20-2 ECAC Hockey) comes into the weekend as one of the hottest teams in Division I women’s hockey, winning its last seven, tying the longest winning streak in the nation. The Bears (8-14-7, 5-13-4), on the other hand, are limping into the playoffs after losing four of their last five, most recently suffering a 2-1 overtime loss at Dartmouth.
“We’re expecting a lot from Brown,” said senior goaltender Amanda Mazzotta. “They took Dartmouth into overtime last weekend. Their goalie is playing really well right now and they’re an extremely hard-working team that likes to shoot from anywhere.”
The Red has already met the Bears twice this season, once in Ithaca and once in Providence, and both times the result was the same: a definitive victory for Cornell, with the Red outscoring Brown by a combined score of 14-0. Still, the Red maintains that Brown will indeed be a tough opponent and that it can’t take anything for granted.
“Every time [the] playoffs come around it kind of gives everyone a little more life,” said senior forward Chelsea Karpenko. “They’re going to be energized and ready to go. We’re going to have to be ready for that.”
While the Red dominated ECAC play in the regular season, the Bears found themselves struggling to gain even a playoff bid, barely holding onto the last spot after RPI — who, like Brown, finished the season with 14 points in the ECAC — failed to garner a victory last weekend. Additionally, Colgate, who was also on Brown’s heels, earned no points against the North Country teams, finishing the season with 12.
The Bears will come into the weekend hungry for a pair of victories. Brown has not made the ECAC Tournament since 2006 and first-year head coach Amy Bourbeau may seek to prove that she can turn things around in Providence.
Led by senior forward Katelyn Landry, who has tallied 19 points on the season, the Bears are playing for new life in the playoffs after surviving the regular season, barely.
According to junior defender Lauriane Rougeau, while the Red remains optimistic about moving on to the next round, it maintains that there are still things the team needs to work on in order to advance past Brown and deeper into the tournament.
“We need to work on our defensive zone,” she said. “We put a lot of pride on defense…because a good defense makes a good offense. Being strong defensively, not allowing them a lot will really help us down the stretch. [The power play] will also be a key factor, and [so will] being strong on our forecheck, putting a lot of pressure on their defense so we can control the play better.”
While the team as a whole has been strong as of late, a few players have been singled out for their individual contributions by being named as nominees for the Patty Kazmaier Award, the highest honor bestowed upon a player in women’s college hockey. The nominees include senior forward Rebecca Johnston, junior defender Laura Fortino, sophomore forward Brianne Jenner and Rougeau.