Trailing by one goal in the third period against then-No. 3 Clarkson, Cornell women’s hockey had just proven over the last two periods that the team was good enough to play with any team in the country. But the question of whether or not Cornell was capable of winning against an elite team on the road with the clock winding down hung in the balance.
What happened over the next ten minutes answered that question. Thanks to an impressive stretch of play, Cornell scored two goals from sophomore defender Micah Hart and sophomore forward Pippy Gerace to steal a win away from Clarkson.
In what has been a defining moment of the season thus far, Cornell held on for a 2-1 victory. Sophomore Marlene Boissonault was outstanding in goal — something Cornell has been used to this season.
Whether it was Boissonault or senior Paula Voorheis, goaltending has been nothing short of consistent for the Red this season. Against Clarkson, the defense played together and limited scoring chances while the offense woke up at just the right time to snatch the victory.
Expectations were high this year under head coach Doug Derraugh ’91, who has sustained over a decade of success for the program. Over Derraugh’s 12-year career, Cornell has reached five NCAA tournaments and three NCAA frozen fours. All that remains for Derraugh is the elusive national title.
After an up and down 2015-16 campaign, Cornell turned to its younger players to step up and contribute, while its upperclassmen sought more consistency. From the get go, the team focused on developing chemistry, which included team building activities and long hours in the practice arena.
“The team is chomping at the bit to get the games rolling,” Derraugh said back in October, hinting at the eagerness to get the season underway.
At this point in the season, the offseason work appears to have paid off as Cornell looks to make a postseason run in the coming weeks. The Red has outscored its opponents 54 to 38 so far this season, in large part due to senior forward Hanna Bunton and freshman forward Kristin O’Neill, who account for nearly a third of the team’s scoring.
Bunton has tallied nine goals and 14 assists on the season, while O’Neill has scored 12 goals and notched nine assists of her own.
“My teammates have helped me improve my game this year,” Bunton said of her final season in the Cornell uniform.
O’Neill also credited team chemistry as a strong point this season.
“I think our team is really working well together and we seem to have a lot of chemistry,” she said.
Aside from Bunton and O’Neill, Cornell has generated scoring from players up and down the lines. Senior forward Kaitlin Doering has come alive as of late and has now scored eight goals on the year, while Gerace has added five.
“Kaitlin is having a real strong second half for us and she has been a great leader for us,” Derraugh said. “She takes faceoffs, contributes on the power play and gives us a lot of options on the ice.”
Freshman defender Jaime Bourbonnais has scored four goals and been tremendous on the defensive end. Cornell has gained contributions from all four classes of players, which has led to a balanced approach on ice and generated consistency.
Off a recent two game road trip in which Cornell defeated Dartmouth, 1-0, and tied Harvard, 2-2, the Red will look to generate momentum against a stretch of strong opponents in the next few weeks.
Cornell still has games remaining on its schedule against Clarkson and St. Lawrence, the two teams ranked ahead of the Red in ECAC standings. With the team trending upwards — in both production and rankings — these ECAC tilts will be make it or break it for a coach in Derraugh still searching for that first NCAA championship.
“I think that especially in such a short season every game is important,” Bunton said. “But games around this time of year will set the tone for the playoffs.”
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