Sunday, March 18, 2012

Cornell Makes Great Showing AT NCAA Frozen Four; Lost to Minnesota

Despite a valiant attempt to rally from an early two-goal deficit, the Big Red women's hockey season came to an end Friday night in the national semifinals when Cornell lost to Minnesota by a 3-1 margin at AMSOIL Arena.

No. 2 Minnesota (33-5-2) got two power play goals in the first period, and that advantage held up throughout the game as the No. 3 Big Red (30-5) was only able to take 18 shots on goal.

Cornell's lone goal also came on the power play off a shot by Alyssa Gagliardi, but the one goal was not enough to take down the Gophers. Senior goaltender Amanda Mazzotta made the final game of her career one of the best games of her career as she saved 38 shots including 19 in a frantic first period.

“As we saw last weekend and this weekend they never stop coming and they never give up,” head coach Doug Derraugh said. “We just came up one goal short there. I'm proud of this team, and there's absoulutely no reason to be hanging their heads. We had a great season.”

Cornell's third consecutive trip to the Frozen Four ended like its previous two, but there was plenty of fight in the Big Red on Friday night as it was squaring off against a team essentially playing with a home ice advantage.

Mazzotta faced a season-high 22 shots in the first period and played incredibly well, stopping the Gophers cold early in the frame even though they had the clear advantage in offensive zone time.

Eventually, taking penalties caught up to Cornell as Minnesota's Amanda Kesssel beat Mazzota on the power play to give the de facto home team a 1-0 advantage at the 17:16 mark. Kessel took the puck near the left dot and skated into the crease. Cutting back and farther right at the last minute, she forced Mazzotta to commit and beat her far side.

Just a short 23 seconds later, Lauriane Rougeau took the Big Red's third checking penalty of the game. Just 50 seconds into the man-advantage, the Gophers pounced.

Megan Bozek fired a slapshot from the center of the blue line, and the puck bounced off Cornell's Alyssa Gagliardi, off the right post and into the net. Minnesota's lead was 2-0 with 1:31 to go in the period.

Cornell's best chance in the period came when Jillian Saulnier  stole a puck at center ice and went in for a brief breakaway, but a Gophers player tripped her on the way to the net. Saulnier drew the tripping penalty, but any chance of a power play was neutralized immediately as the Big Red took a bench minor for too many players on the ice on the same play.

The second period was much less lopsided as the Big Red came out of the gate controlling possession. The team's hard work paid off later in the period when it got its first goal.

On the power play thanks to a hooking penalty against Minnesota's Kelly Terry, Alyssa Gagliardi capitalized on a seeing-eye slap shot from the center of the blue line. The puck made it through everyone, and Cornell cut Minnesota's lead in half with eight minutes left in the second period.

After only taking five shots in the first period, Cornell held a 13-9 advantage in that category in the second period, making Minnesota goalie Noora Raty work harder than she had. Mazzotta had another excellent period, stopping all nine Gophers shots on goal.

But the Gophers defense steeled itself for the third period, and Cornell took only three shots on goal in the final 20 minutes. Two Big Red players took back-to-back penalties in the final five minutes, making a late comeback that much more difficult.

Minnesota added an empty-net goal with 34 seconds remaining immediately after Mazzotta left the net for the extra attacker, sealing its trip to the national championship game against conference rival and defending national champion Wisconsin on Sunday. The Badgers defeated Boston College in the day's earlier national semifinal.

Cornell's terrific season comes to a close, as does the career of seniors Rebecca Johnston, Chelsea Karpenko,Amanda Mazzotta, Kendice Ogilvie, Catherine White and Amanda Young. They will graduate from Cornell as the winningest senior class in program history.

“The seniors pretty much put Cornell women's ice hockey on the map,” Derraugh said. “When they first came in, we had finished last in the Ivy League for a long time. They changed our culture and changed our program.

For the second consecutive year, Cornell eclipsed the 30-win mark. The team, which had just four wins the season before Derraugh arrived seven years ago, has become a consistent player on the national stage. Cornell won its third consecutive Ivy League championship and regular-season ECAC Hockey title this season. Four players on the team (Johnston, Brianne Jenner, Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau) were nominated for the Patty Kazmaier Award 

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