Cornell Claims Fourth Consecutive Regular-Season Crown

Cornell Claims Fourth Consecutive Regular-Season Crown

SCHENECTADY, N.Y. – The  Big Red ended its regular season with a victory on Saturday evening, but it got even better news from three hours away in Cambridge, Mass.

Thanks to a 4-0 victory over Union at Messa Rink and a 3-1 Clarkson win over Harvard, Cornell moved up to 38 points in the ECAC Hockey standings and won the league's regular-season championship for the fourth consecutive season.
 
“As a coach you're looking for consistency, and obviously to be able to do that four years in a row is something that we're proud of,” Cornell coach Doug Derraugh said. “I'm really proud of the effort that these players have put forth.
 
“This year especially was a real tight race, and there's a lot of great teams in the ECAC this year, so this is a great accomplishment for us to win the regular season.”
 
Cornell (23-5-1, 18-3-1 ECAC Hockey) got a first-period goal from senior Lauriane Rougeau, two goals from her blueline partner Laura Fortino and a third-period strike by Olivia Cook to seal the win over Union (7-23-4, 0-18-4). Lauren Slebodnick made 18 saves for her fifth shutout of the season.
 
About five minutes after the game concluded, Clarkson pulled off the win against Harvard. Five minutes after that, ECAC Hockey commissioner Steve Hagwell presented Rougeau, the team captain, with the league's regular-season trophy in its locker room.
 
“It's still special,” said Rougeau, who has won the regular season crown in each of her four years at Cornell. “But our job is not over because this just means we did well during the season.”
 
When sophomore Jillian Saulnier's phone beeped with a text message update from her father after the game, she announced the Clarkson-Harvard result to her teammates. Screaming ensued, and the joy in the Big Red locker room was audible from the other corner of Messa Rink.
 
Two hours earlier, the team was cheering on the ice for its first goal.
 
Rougeau got things going offensively as the teams were playing four-on-four hockey after Taylor Woods and Haley Welch took matching roughing minors seven minutes into the period. The open space provided by fewer players on the ice led directly to the Big Red's first goal.
 
Rougeau got the puck on the right boards of the offensive zone and skated hard behind the defense through the right faceoff circle. She got all the way through to the crease and kept going, sneaking past Union goalie Alana Marcinko and firing into the open left side of the net. The goal was similar to her strike in Friday's contest at Rensselaer except it came from the opposite side of the ice.
 
Three minutes later, Fortino made it 2-0 on when she scored her first goal since Nov. 16 against Colgate. She got the puck dropped off to her by Rougeau at the blue line, and she drifted right of center. She wound up for a snap shot and took it, but with a screen in front of the net and perfect placement, Fortino found the twine for the fourth time this year. Rougeau got the primary assist and Anna Zorn picked up the second.
 
“I saw the defender coming out and I knew I had to get the puck by her,” said Fortino, a senior assistant captain who will leave Cornell with four league regular season championships under her belt. “We had good screens in front, which really helped, and the goalie didn't even move. It went straight in.”
 
The second period was much more even as Union outshot Cornell 10-7. Cornell had multiple quality chances including terrific centering feeds, but Marcinko stood up to the test, even stopping a Brianne Jenner breakaway.
 
But in the third, Cornell got two more goals to seal the game. The first came thanks to Jenner's athleticism. With one defender in front of her, she went around and took a backhanded shot on Marcinko. The goalie made the intitial save, but the rebound came out to Fortino who was skating into the slot, and cleaned it up for the 3-0 lead.
 
“It does feel really good to finally put the puck in the net after a lot of chances,” said Fortino, a senior assistant captain who will leave Cornell with four league regular season championships under her belt. “It's my last year, and winning [the league regular season title] again for a fourth time is an unbelievable feeling to share with your teammates.”
 
With just 2:04 left, Cook scored on a wrist shot as she was fed from the left side by Jenner. Cook beat Marcinko from the right side of the slot, scoring for the first time since playing Yale on Feb. 12, 2011 in her freshman year. Cook's goal was also the 10th point of her career.
 
The Big Red, as the No. 1 seed, will host a best-of-three ECAC Hockey Tournament quarterfinal series next weekend against No. 8 seed Colgate. The games will be played on Friday, Saturday and Sunday (if necessary) at times to be announced. If Cornell wins that series, it will host the semifinals and final at Lynah Rink the following weekend.
 
“Now it's the postseason,” Rougeau said. “Last year we let it slip away, and we need to get it back this year.”
 
Other quarterfinal series include No. 2 Clarkson hosting No. 7 Rensselaer, No. 3 Harvard hosting No. 6 Dartmouth and No. 5 St. Lawrence visiting No. 4 Quinnipiac.