January 9, 2013

Women's Journal: Teamwork key to NU's success

By Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

With the home stretch of the Hockey East season coming up, the Northeastern women’s hockey team is looking to hang tight with the top of the league. After an up and down first half of the season, the Huskies (11-6-2) face a week full of games against strong national opponents: Boston College on Wednesday, Cornell on Saturday and Boston University next Wednesday. 

For senior Rachel Llanes, Northeastern’s key to success in this important stretch will be an emphasis on teamwork.

“If we choose to play like individuals, we won’t win,” said Llanes earlier this week. “When we play as a team, we’re unbeatable.”

The Huskies first line center named her team’s game against St. Lawrence last Thursday, a surprising 6-0 loss, as a prime example of how a me-first mentality won’t help put them in the win column.

“Against St. Lawrence we came out flat and we were playing like individuals,” said Llanes. “They outworked and outplayed us.”

Northeastern’s increasing experience helps when the team has a tough loss like they had against St. Lawrence. Llanes, fellow senior Casey Pickett (Wilmington, Mass.) and junior Katie MacSorely recognize how far the program has come during their tenure, and it helps them set a comeback tone when needed.

“I think this team is used to winning,” admitted Llanes. “Sometimes we need a loss to motivate us. The good thing about this team is that we rebound well.”

Northeastern definitely rebounded the day after the St. Lawrence loss, edging the Golden Knights 4-3 in a statement making win against one of the nation’s best teams. “Against Clarkson, we were able to come out quick,” said Llanes. “A lot of the credit goes to our line of Paige Savage, Brittany Esposito and Kelly Wallace. They played well, got where they needed to be and scored all of our goals.”

But don’t let Llanes sell herself short - she’s been having a great year on the scoresheet as well. She enters this week third on the Huskies with 7 goals and 13 assists for 20 points total. The native Californian and North American Hockey Academy alumna has already equaled her point total from last season, and needs 11 more points to equal her career best. She’s spent a significant chunk of the season on the top line with Kendall Coyne and Pickett, and is a strong presence on the ice whenever her line plays.

As the regular season enters its last few weeks, Llanes knows what she and her team need to do to achieve their overarching goals of winning the Hockey East tournament title that eluded them last season.

“We’re going to take it game by game,” said Llanes. “We’re going to prepare for each opponent individually, and work on our strengths against them. Being a senior, you always want to go out on a high note.”

Player of the Week

Corinne Boyles, Senior, Goaltender, Boston College

In one of the best matchups thus far this season, Boyles made 28 saves in Boston College’s 5-1 win over Clarkson Thursday evening. For an encore, she made 38 stops Friday afternoon in a 4-3 overtime decision against St. Lawrence. Boyles has now won 11 straight games, and is a remarkable 11-1-0 this season. The Wheaton, Ill., native now leads Hockey East in the three major goaltending statistical categories: goals against average (1.70), save percentage (.926) and winning percentage. (.917.)

Game of the Week

Cornell vs. Boston College, Sunday afternoon

Boston College doesn’t have an easy week (though, either does Northeastern.) After the Eagles take on Northeastern Wednesday night (a tilt that can be seen live on WBIN), they host Cornell on Sunday afternoon. Cornell closed out December with tough ECAC losses to Harvard and Clarkson, and will be looking to re-cement their status as a national contender. Lauren Slebodnick (Manchester, NH) is still one of the nation’s best goalies, and has shown promise in stymying high power offenses. The Big Red know they need a weekend of valuable non-conference wins to help them down the home stretch towards the post-season, and the Eagles will need to be on the A game they demonstrated last weekend in the North Country.

Division III Note of the Week

St. Anselm came back from a month-long holiday break with a vengeance. Junior forward Courtney Winters (Swampscott, Mass.) notched a natural hat trick in the Hawks’s 5-0 win over Franklin Pierce on Saturday. The St. Mary’s alumna’s three goals came in the late second and early third periods, and were her fifth, sixth and seventh goals of the season. St. Anselm is 9-2-2 on the season overall, and face ECAC East foes Bowdoin and UMass Boston this week.

Power Rankings

1) Boston College (13-3-2 overall, 8-2-1 Hockey East)

The Eagles are on a 14 game unbeaten streak, which is the program’s best ever stretch. They haven’t lost since October 25th, and if they can get through the next week unscathed, they have to be considered a favorite for the Hockey East title and an NCAA tournament berth.

2) Harvard (11-1-1 overall, 9-0-0 ECAC)

The Crimson scored nine goals against Union last weekend, then squeaked out a one-goal win against RPI the following day. They face a key ECAC test on Saturday, when they host Quinnipiac. Harvard shutout the Bobcats 2-0 in their first game of the season back in October.

3) Boston University (12-3-3 overall, 7-2-1 Hockey East)

The Terriers returned from break with a 4-2 Hockey East win over UConn Tuesday night. Isabel Menard has been a quiet but steady contributor this season, and earned her 150th career point in the win. BU travels to Maine this weekend for a two game series.

4) Northeastern (11-6-2 overall, 5-4-1 Hockey East)

The Huskies will look to keep the momentum from last weekend’s win against Clarkson going as they host Boston College Wednesday night, then Cornell on Saturday.

5) Quinnipiac (12-7-2 overall, 8-3-1 ECAC)

The Bobcats travel north this weekend for a ECAC play against a surging Dartmouth and offensively minded Harvard squad. Wins this weekend would help Quinnipiac out a ton as they are neck and neck with the Crimson, Clarkson and Cornell for the top spots in the league. Junior Kelly Babstock is still in the national top five in scoring with 37 points so far this season.

Kat Hasenauer Cornetta can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter at @sportsgirlkat.