Cornell’s Lindsay Browning subscribes to a pretty simple and common philosophy when it comes to goaltending – “if it’s working, then it’s working.”
It’s why she prepares the same way for every game and why she models her preparation and her play after Marlène Boissonnault, the goalie that graduated her program last year as the second-winningest net minder in Cornell history. Boissonnault helped lead the Big Red to the Frozen Four with an ECAC best 1.64 goals against average.
So coming into her junior year, knowing the starting job was up for grabs, Browning spent the offseason doing the same drills and prep that coaches had created for Boissonnault. They’d helped produce and prepare one of the best goalies in the country that led her team to the final weekend of the season, so why do anything else?
So far, the approach has proved incredibly successful.
Browning leads the country with a 0.79 goals against average and is tied with Northeastern’s Aerin Frankel with a .959 save percentage and eight shut outs. She became the first goalie in program history to open the season with three shutouts. She didn’t allow a goal until Cornell’s fourth game.
Winning the starting job and leading the country in every goaltending stat wasn’t a given for Browning, who started just eight games over her first two seasons. Last year, as a sophomore, she had a 4-1-2 record with a 1.34 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage.
But she says she’s not sure she would be the goalie she is today without the time she spent learning from and being mentored by Boissonnault.
“I actually think that those first couple of years with Marlène were really beneficial for me because she was a great mentor for me. It gave me a chance to see what is needed out of a goalie in our games. Even during practice, she’d always be making little comments or suggestions on how I could do something better or something faster so that when the opportunity did arise, I would be ready for the game. So I have to give so much credit to Marlene for that mentorship that she really gave me. She’s a great person to look up to you and I still do look up to her,” said Browning.
Browning is supported by what is probably the best defense in the league. She faces an average of just 19 shots per game and she says Cornell is a team that doesn’t rely solely on the goalkeeper. Her stats say more about the team as a whole then they do about her individually, said Browning.
“We just have so many layers of defense and offense; it made me feel like I didn’t really have to worry about shouldering a ton of that burden,” she said.
The imposing and effective defense in front of Browning is anchored by Micah Zandee-Hart and Jamie Bourbonnais, who have both spent time with Hockey Canada’s senior women’s team. Knowing that such a strong blue line was in front of her has helped Browning feel comfortable this season.
“Half the time I’m like ‘oh, I can’t see the puck’ and it turns out the defense has blocked it. They save me all the time,” she said. “We sort of have an unspoken rule that if they’re in front of me, they have to block the shot. If they don’t think they can block it, then they block the other team out, and so far that’s worked really well. If I can’t see the puck, I pretty much put 100% of my trust in them to block it.”
Browning has allowed just 18 goals and her team has lost just one game this season, a 3-1 defeat to Ohio State. The Big Red won the second game in that series 5-1 and Browning says one of the things she’s most proud of this season is her team’s response to the loss.
“I think it showed who we are as a team. We didn’t quite come out on top in our first game, but that didn’t set us back and we came back the next day (and got the win). That one felt really, really good,” she said.
The Big Red are undefeated in ECAC play with six games left, something the team is proud of, but that they’re not letting do to their head, said Browning.
“Our team has a really good attitude, and we’re using that to motivate us to work even harder each and every day, rather than seeing it as an excuse to coast,” she said. “(My focus is to) just do whatever I can for the, for the betterment of the team, if I do my job then everybody else can focus on doing their job and hopefully that we can come out on top.”