The Four Nations Cup’s disruption of the college hockey season is now past. Even though the international tournament ended on Sunday, its impact still extended to the showdown between No. 3 Harvard and No. 6 Providence on Tuesday night.
U.S. national team members Julie Chu and Angela Ruggiero, albeit jet-lagged, returned from Sweden in plenty of time for the game, but their equipment did not. This was one last reminder of the Cup’s influence, which had already kept top players from Harvard, No. 2 Dartmouth, No. 5 St. Lawrence and No. 7 Wisconsin out of games this past weekend.
This Four Nations Cup proved to be the least disruptive in memory, however, not just because of the crafty scheduling that kept No. 1 Minnesota and No. 4 Minnesota-Duluth off the ice, but because of the way the affected teams kept their composure. Dartmouth, Wisconsin and Harvard all went undefeated for the weekend against lighter D-I foes.
St. Lawrence pulled off a shocking win with eight seconds left at New Hampshire on Friday night, though it was too much to ask for history to repeat itself in Sunday’s defeat. Then Harvard topped Providence 3-0, a win Crimson coach Katey Stone characterized as gutsy but not pretty. Nicole Corriero, the player that the Canadian national program turned its back on this summer, proved to be the impact player for Harvard. More on that later.
Northeastern turned out to be the one team with a player scheduled to be missing for the Four Nations Cup that did not go — Chanda Gunn. But the knee injury that kept her out of the Four Nations Cup kept her out of college hockey too. Yet the Huskies proved their resilience in sweeping through Yale and No. 10 Princeton with Katy Augustyn filling in for Gunn. While it was easy to forecast that Northeastern’s success would rest primarily on Gunn’s shoulders — she is the only senior on the team — the Huskies have now won three straight without her. It’s not what a team picked last in Hockey East was supposed to do.
Surprisingly, the two leading scorers in Hockey East are not wearing Wildcat and Friar jerseys, they’re Northeastern’s Cyndy Kenyon and Marie Desrosiers. Had Kenyon finished one of her hard-earned chances in transition at Providence in the Hockey East opener, her name would be better known already. Joy Woog, like Jeff Vinezor of No. 10 Minnesota State, seems to have already established herself as the Coach of the Year frontrunner for her league. Northeastern looks to continue its success against D-I yearling Clarkson this weekend before a statement game at New Hampshire on Thursday.
With the Four Nations Cup over, the Western schedule is back in full swing. Minnesota makes its only regular season trip East with a pair at Brown. UMD plays two against upstart North Dakota. In the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, Minnesota State seeks some respect when Wisconsin visits Mankato. The Mavericks turned heads by sweeping UMD early on, though taking three of four from North Dakota and sweeping Bemidji State was not enough for them to maintain momentum in the polls. As usual, Mankato will hope for some more great goaltending from Shari Vogt and just enough scoring this weekend.
On the Eastern side, Princeton looks to reestablish itself against Hockey East rivals New Hampshire and Providence. St. Lawrence’s brutal travel schedule comes to a merciful conclusion against Cornell and Colgate. Maine hopes to finally find some luck at Boston College. Almost everyone is in action, but not Harvard, which has 11 days to recuperate and build on its success.
Weakness Becomes Strength
You might have noticed that despite not playing a game until last Friday, Harvard junior Nicole Corriero leapfrogged Minnesota’s Natalie Darwitz as the national scoring leader. Granted, 16 of her 18 points came in a pair against D-I newbie Union, but given that she broke a Harvard record with two shorthanded goals in a single period and scored the difference-maker on a breakaway against Providence, there’s plenty of reason to be heaping praise on her.
Corriero was a second team All-American and the nation’s second-leading scorer during her freshman year at Harvard. Sophomore year, she got lost in the national limelight as the sport was flooded with Olympians. A year wiser now, she’s starting to hold her own again.
Corriero was flying all over the ice on Tuesday as she earned the game’s No. 1 star against Providence. She showed off her newfound skating abilities, as well as her puck control skills, in impressively winning one-on-one battles and making last-second moves on goaltenders.
There were driving forces behind Corriero’s improvement during the offseason. There was Harvard’s double overtime loss to UMD in last night’s national title game, of course. There was the usual pressure that comes with any college athlete to keep up with her teammates and make improvements. Then there was that striking thing about the Canadian national under-22 roster team this summer — Nicole’s name wasn’t on it. The powers that be told Corriero that she needed to improve her skating.
“It was really a slap to the face,” Corriero said. “I wasn’t expecting it. But I think it was good for me.”
Corriero found a higher purpose in that moment of weakness. She used it to take a critical look at her game and what she needed to do to get to the next level.
Corriero says she has tried to work on the little things every time she takes the ice in practice. It’s been about three months since she was left off the U-22 roster, which doesn’t seem like a lot of time to make drastic improvement. But Corriero said she thrived in the company of her teammates.
“To go above and beyond the call of duty is standard for this team,” she said. “I’m just trying to keep up with everyone else.”
Her recent success should come as no surprise, because after all, she is a superb enough athlete to be well-trained in four martial arts and kickboxing. Why not be the ideal all-around hockey player too?
“Just in general, defensively I think I’ve improved a lot,” Corriero said. “I got a lot stronger. I hope that my skating has improved and I’m getting quicker so I can break into the open spots. That was something I’ve always struggled with.”
Perseverance through adversity is commonplace for Corriero, who is not one to mope about failure. She showed that again with her game-winner at Providence. Upset that she didn’t score on her first breakaway that game, she made sure she did not fail the second time.
Corriero now has more than a week of practice to elevate her game beyond what she did this summer. Her next opponent is Niagara, coached by Margot Page. For those not familiar with the Canadian national program, Page also happens to be the Canadian U-22 coach.
Crusade Almost Over
Oct. 19 was the last time St. Lawrence has played at home. Six top ten road games later, they are 4-3-1 for the season and lurking on the edge of Frozen Four contention. The middle of a lengthy road trip proved not to be the best timing for St. Lawrence to play two games on the oversized ice surface of the Whittemore Center. The Saints were fortunate to salvage a split. The 6-3 loss to UNH on Sunday was a downer, but it was not a crusher.
“I don’t think you’ve seen what this team can do this weekend,” said Saint senior Ricki Lee-Doyle, the overtime hero of Friday’s win. “I think the road is getting to us, but I would say this is the best team I’ve been on at St. Lawrence in three years. It’s got athletes, people with a lot of passion for the game, and we’ll battle through it right to the end.”
St. Lawrence has three of its next four weekends on the road, before a 10 game homestand. Then comes two critical road series at Dartmouth and Harvard in mid-February. St. Lawrence coach Paul Flanagan was kind enough to avoid the one-game-at-a-time mantra for an instant and think about where his team needs to be come February.
“That’s where we’ve got to crank it up,” Flanagan said of the Harvard-Dartmouth sets. “That’s where we’ve got to be firing on all cylinders.”
On the other side of that Whittemore battle, New Hampshire coach Brian McCloskey was beaming after his team’s dominant victory over the Saints after a pair of devastating last-minute losses.
“I’m very proud of our team,” McCloskey said. “Top to bottom we just outcompeted them. It was just a great team effort. I told them the old Calvin Coolidge thing, it’s determination and persistence that pays off.”
The Wildcats next play a Princeton team that’s coming off a close-call 3-2 overtime victory Maine on Saturday, and a game that went the exact opposite way against Northeastern on Sunday. Coach Jeff Kampersal felt lucky to get the win on Saturday. Despite dramatically tying Northeastern in the final seconds on Sunday, that luck did not last into overtime.
The Tigers did not generate the quality shots this weekend as they had against UConn, but they were just opportunistic enough to score the victory against Maine. Senior linemates Lisa Rasmussen and Gretchen Anderson combined for both the second and third Princeton goals. The first came with Rasmussen feeding to Anderson on an odd-man rush. On the second Rasmussen, retrieved a puck deep her in zone that Maine intended to change on and fired it perfectly to Anderson for a breakaway at the opposite blue line. Anderson made the most of the opportunity.
“Gretchen is one of the better players in the league and one of the better skaters,” Kampersal said after the win over Maine. “When she gets three, she let’s go, and she can really fly. She’s got great skills. The kid always scores a big goal in the end like she did today.”
Kampersal called the senior class of Anderson, Rasmussen, defensemen Susan Hobson and Angela Gooldy, and All-Ivy goaltender Megan Van Beusekom one of the best in the ECAC. To build up a team that placed third in the conference last year and scored a late-season victory over Dartmouth, he’s added three strong freshmen forwards and a freshman defenseman in Dina McCumber who can play every other shift.
Princeton’s strength has typically rested with its special teams, and so far this year has been no exception. The power play ranks fourth in the nation so far, and Kampersal still sees room for improvement. The penalty kill has been so dominant that Princeton is outscoring opponents 2-1 when down a man.
After New Hampshire, Princeton hosts a Providence team that’s still searching for an identity after a disappointing effort in a 7-2 defeat to Dartmouth and struggles in finishing against Harvard. Providence coach Bob Deraney sees improvement, however, and expects more to come.
“We just want to continue to play better,” Deraney said. “I think our kids are committed and they’re working hard in practice. I think the reason why we are getting better and we can see some drastic improvement is because of the work ethic the last two weeks practice. It’s not going to happen overnight. The work we started two weeks ago is going to pay off in the near future.”
On the other end of that Princeton matchup Sunday, Maine coach Rick Filighera had plenty of reason to be frustrated. His team is now 1-5-2, with all but one defeat coming by a single goal.
“This is the most frustrating time for my program right now because we are a good hockey team,” he said after the Princeton defeat. “We played Brown 1-0 last night, we battled and battled. We played one of the top teams in the country [Princeton] to overtime when we didn’t even have our A game.”
Filighera praised his Black Bears for getting two goals against Princeton on Saturday by finally shooting from high slot in motion instead of playing too close to the net or too stationary.
Mistakes caused all those efforts to go for naught, however. The Black Bears gave up the puck haphazardly on the first Princeton goal, got caught in the corner on the second goal, and failed to clear the puck deep on the change for the third goal.
“As a coach I’m really frustrated because we’re not scoring around the net and we can’t produce on the power play, and I think the kids are thinking about it too much,” Filighera said. “I’ve got great goaltending, I’ve got some really good freshmen, two seniors that I need to produce goals for us, but at the same time we’ve got a good balanced team, I think we make too many of the little mistakes over and over again that end up going in our net. Outside of that I can’t complain.”
Next Maine plays BC. Filighera hopes for better fortune.
“The last three games we’ve played great and we have a tie to show for it,” he said. “That’s why you play a lot of games, hopefully it’ll go our way the second half of the season or when we get into our Hockey East play.”
Bear Market, Part II
Well the best Bear of the weekend was not at Maine or at Brown, who lost to Boston College for the first time in recent history. It was a recent Brown alum, Pam Dreyer.
Dreyer, who graduated last year, gave up just one goal in two games against Canada in the Four Nations Cup. That includes zero goals allowed in 11 penalty shots during the shootout of the championship game, that was finally decided by Providence alum Cammi Granato. There were 22 shots between both sides, and only Granato scored.
Ruggiero, who was named the most outstanding player of the final for the U.S., was one of the players to hit a post in the shootout prior to Granato’s dramatic game-winner. Ruggiero gave most of the credit to the goaltenders for the shootout’s 22-shot duration, but she said the surface was a factor as well.
“The goalies were really playing well and ice was really choppy,” Ruggiero said. “We had to go out of the same end, so with a lot of players the puck was chipping on their stick. On a move where you were trying to slide it across, it was getting stuck in a ditch and you couldn’t lift it.”
Ruggiero said she was psyched to see Dreyer play so well against Canada, and that the team was able to have fun through the course of the tournament with a mixture of new and old faces. Not to mention, this was the biggest win for the U.S. in an international championship since the 1998 Olympics, a fact that Ruggiero said the team definitely recognized.
“There were a lot of new faces on the roster that proved to beneficial,” Ruggiero said. “They all got a lot of ice time. There was just that new freshness and intensity they brought to our team and that desire to win. They didn’t have all that experience of coming in the second, they were just there to put their best foot forward and that’s what they did.”
So in all, the Four Nations trip proved worth the jet lag, the time difference, the 20-hour flight, for all the college hockey players — all worth the opportunity to play the best women’s hockey the world has to offer.