The St. Lawrence University women's hockey team rallied from a two-goal deficit in the second period to tie the score at 2-2 with the hosting Big Red heading into the third period of Saturday's ECAC Hockey semifinal game in Ithaca, NY. However, Taylor Woods' third goal of the game proved to be the game-winner, coming with only 1:51 left, lifting the Big Red to the conference championship game on Sunday behind a 4-2 victory against the Saints.
The Big Red (25-5-1) will take on the winner of Clarkson and Harvard at 1:00pm tomorrow on ESPN3. St. Lawrence's title defense and season comes to an end with a record of 19-14-5. Junior Rylee Smith scored both goals for the Scarlet and Brown, becoming the 20th player in University history to reach 100 career points.
"That is the way I believe the game ought to be played. Two teams giving everything they have, working hard on both ends of the ice," said St. Lawrence head coach Chris Wells. "This group has been resilient all year and they came through again in the second period. Cornell is a great team, Doug (Derraugh) is a great coach and they earned the win today."
St. Lawrence gave the Big Red all they could handle throughout the game, as Cornell held a slight 29-27 advantage in shots on goal. Both goaltenders, St. Lawrence's Carmen MacDonald and Cornell's Lauren Slebodnick, made 25 saves in the contest. Cornell closed with a 1-for-3 mark on the power play, while St. Lawrence was 0-for-4, including a chance to take the lead late in the third when they were awarded a 5-on-3 advantage.
Cornell would assert itself in the opening period, but St. Lawrence held its own as MacDonald steered away several good chances for the home team. It wasn't until 17:37 of the first that Woods would strike for Cornell, stealing the puck behind MacDonald's net and banging in her own rebound for a 1-0 lead.
The Cornell power play would keep the momentum churning only 1:31 later, as Woods was able to corral a rebound and beat MacDonald for a 2-0 lead with only 52 seconds left in the period. Lauriane Rougeau and ECAC Hockey Player of the Year Brianne Jenner assisted on the insurance goal.
The Saints would settle into the game during the second period, outshooting their opponents 12-6 and controlling the pace. Smith got the visitors within a goal at 2-1, sniping a wrist shot past Slebodnick at 14:43 for her 14th of the year with Dayle Wilkinson picking up the assist.
After St. Lawrence successful killed a penalty, a Cornell turnover in the offensive zone gave senior captain Kelly Sabatine and Smith a clear 2-on-0 against Slebodnick. Sabatine used a slick drop pass to her linemate, catching Slebodnick off guard as Smith buried her second goal in 3:26, tying the score at 2-2.
Both teams had excellent scoring chances throughout the third period, as Woods nearly had the hat trick on a backhand try from the slot until MacDonald flashed leather and snagged the bid. Sophomore Kayla Raniwsky had a great 1-on-1 try with Slebodnick, but was turned away from the right circle keeping the game tied.
St. Lawrence's best chance came with 7:08 remaining, as they were awarded a :31 second 5-on-3 power play with Jillian Saulnier and Emily Fulton sent off for Cornell. The Big Red penalty kill did its job, though killing off the advantages, though a tip by Sabatine towards goal beat Slebodnick but rang off the right post.
After Woods came out of the penalty box, the Saints got caught in a change, giving the Big Red an odd-man rush up ice. Jenner found Laura Fortino, who laid a beautiful crossing pass to the top of the crease where Woods re-directed it past a sprawled-out MacDonald for the hat trick and a 3-2 lead with only 1:38 remaining.
St. Lawrence would get the puck deep into Cornell territory, and pulled MacDonald for an extra attacker. Though the Saints had a few chances near the goal, the Big Red successfully cleared the zone and Jenner put the game away with an empty net tally with under :40 seconds left for the 4-2 win.
Saturday's game was the last for the five St. Lawrence University seniors, including Sabatine, co-captain Jamie Goldsmith, Brooke Fernandez, Kayla Sullivan and Michelle Ng. They leave St. Lawrence having been a part of 75 wins and the program's first ECAC Hockey title in 2012.