ITHACA, N.Y. – At the tail end of a stretch of five games in eight days, the fourth-ranked Big Red showed no signs of slowing down in a crucial league contest against No. 6 Clarkson. Cornell took a 2-0 lead into the second period and held on for a 3-1 victory against the visiting Knights at Lynah Rink on Saturday evening, moving into a tie for second place in the ECAC Hockey standings.
Lauren Slebodnick had a strong effort in goal, stopping 16 Clarkson shots including a dangerous three-on-zero in the third period to pick up her third win of the week (11-4). The Big Red’s scoring came from Jessica Campbell in the first period, Brianne Jenner in the second and Emily Fulton in the final frame.
“This is a huge for us, and we got some timely saves from Slebodnick when we needed them,” coach Doug Derraugh said. “We just came up with some goals that they couldn’t. From front to back, I have to say I’m fairly pleased overall with the effort [on Saturday].”
Clarkson (18-6, 10-2 ECAC Hockey) entered the weekend two points ahead of Cornell (14-4, 10-2) in the conference. But with victories against the Knights on Saturday and St. Lawrence on Friday, Cornell leapt from fourth to second in the league with five weekends left to go in the season.
The Knights, down 2-0 entering the final frame, nearly completed the comeback in a furious five-minute span. Shelby Nisbet struck from the left side of the slot just two minutes into the period, and Clarkson then got its three-on-zero opportunity when Cornell turned the puck over.
Vanessa Gagnon had the puck on her stick with players to her left and right and no one in front but Slebodnick. Gagnon tried to go forehand to backhand and sneak the puck right of Slebodnick, but she was in position to make the night’s biggest save. Clarkson had a power play shortly afterward that Cornell also killed off.
“She made a couple saves on the penalty kill right in the slot that were big for us, and then that three-on-zero was huge,” Derraugh said. “Those were definitely big saves and many times that’s what you need from your goaltending in this league. Sometimes it’s not how many saves you make, but when you make them.”
The Big Red sealed the victory when Fulton showed restraint inside the crease by not kicking the puck into an open net. The play began when Jillian Saulnier passed to Jenner on the left side for a one-timer. Clarkson’s Erica Howe made the initial save, but the puck bounced free and into the crease. Fulton crashed the net, and the puck bounced off her stick and off a Clarkson body into the net.
“I did all I could not to kick it in, sitting there in the crease, but it did slowly trickle across the line,” Fulton said. “We needed it. We needed some insurance there to keep us going for the last few minutes of the game.”
Slebodnick completed her victory 4:33 later, and the Big Red got its third win of the week. Cornell is now 9-0 in Lynah Rink, and Derraugh is now two wins shy of tying the career mark for a coach at Cornell (135).
Toward the end of a fairly even first period, the Big Red got on the board thanks to the quick reflexes of Campbell. The teams were lined up for a faceoff at the left side of the Cornell offensive zone, and Erin Barley-Maloney won the puck cleanly to her right. Campbell was standing there, and she ripped a slapshot immediately past Erica Howe for a 1-0 lead.
That goal also moved Cornell’s streak of scoring at least one goal to 100 consecutive games.
The Big Red earned three consecutive power plays in the second period, and Jenner converted on the second. Taking a pass from Taylor Woods near the blue line, Jenner skated down toward the goal on the right side. With a screen in front of the net, Jenner found space on the short side of Howe and gave the Big Red a 2-0 lead with 1:53 showing on the clock.