October 24, 2012

Women's Journal: Slebodnick relishes homecoming

By Kat Hasenauer Cornetta

For Cornell University starting goaltender Lauren Slebodnick (Manchester, N.H.), the Big Red’s weekend series at Boston University was a homecoming.

The Cushing Academy alumna does not get the opportunity to play in front of her family often due to the realities of the ECAC schedule, but her first season in the starting seat for Cornell will give her family three opportunities to see her in net. 

Big Red junior goalie Lauren Slebodnick (Photo: Cornell Athletics)

“It's really nice because we usually only play Dartmouth and Harvard up here,” said Slebodnick after Saturday night’s 5-2 win over the Terriers. “But this year we have this weekend, we have our usual Harvard-Dartmouth weekend and we have a Boston College-Northeastern weekend in January.”

Slebodnick is coming off a sophomore campaign that saw her win 14 of the 15 games she played, including five shutouts. She also had the fourth best goals-against average in the nation (1.45.) Her freshman year, she amassed a 12-1-1 record while also recording five shutouts.

Though her statistics were stellar, Slebodnick had to wait her turn behind former starter Amanda Mazzotta, who graduated this past May. She was excited to get to play in front of her family in her first regular season game as the Big Red’s starter.

“They're really excited, especially because I have earned my spot to play,” explained Slebodnick. “It's not like, ‘Is she going to play? Is she not going to play?’”

Slebodnick’s Saturday start against Boston University was a great start to the season. She made 25 saves against a Terriers team that had scored at least three goals in their first four regular season games.

“She was real solid for us tonight,” commented Cornell head coach Doug Derraugh after the win. “Early on, I think she wasn't getting a lot of shots. Once we got the lead, she started seeing a lot more shots, and we relied on her more as the game progressed.”

Slebodnick refused to take all of the credit for her success Saturday. She pointed to the strong Cornell defense, which includes senior ECAC preseason team selections Laura Fortino and Lauriane Rougeau, for helping her out. “They blocked a bunch more shots than I did, and they took care of the back door very well in this game.”

The Terriers and Big Red have become heated rivals over the past few years, meeting in the last two NCAA Tournaments. Slebodnick recognized the importance of starting the season with such a strong non-conference matchup.

“We always know it is going to be a physical, tough game (against BU),” she said. “They beat us my freshman year to go to the Frozen Four, and we beat them last year to get to the Frozen Four, so the teams just kind of clash and it is always a tough game.”

Sunday’s game against the Terriers did not turn out as well as Slebodnick would have liked. She gave up five goals as Boston University struck back to tie the weekend series with a 5-1 win. Cornell righted the ship with their own 5-1 win over St. Lawrence on Tuesday, where Slebodnick made 16 saves.

Cornell may be favorites to win the Ivy and ECAC titles this season, but Slebodnick will not settle with those titles alone. She wants to lead her team back to the Frozen Four while making herself a goalie worthy of consideration when U.S. Olympic Team selection time starts up.

“I would like to be one of the top goalies in the NCAA, and maybe get a look at the 2014 Olympics,” said Slebodnick. “That is my ultimate goal.”

While she tries to impress women’s hockey followers across the country this season in pursuit of that goal, Slebodnick is happy she will have those additional chances to play in front of her family this season.

“It's nice for them to see me play because it has been a really long journey.”

Player of the Week

Brittany Dougherty (Chesterfield, Mich.), Maine

The senior center had two goals and two assists in the Black Bears’ weekend split of UConn. A selection on last season’s Hockey East Second Team All-Stars, she has good chemistry going with her right wing Brianne Kilgour, combining with her for two of Maine’s goals in their 3-2 Sunday win.

Game of the Week

New Hampshire at Wisconsin, Friday and Sunday

The Wildcats split their weekend home-and-home series with Boston College last weekend after dropping a mid-week game to Vermont. They currently sit at 3-2, and are pressuring in ways that were not expected in the preseason. Traveling out to Wisconsin, who have fallen on tough times themselves, will be a huge test for the Wildcats. How they fare against last year’s NCAA runners-up will help determine if they are set to challenge BU, BC and Northeastern for inclusion in Hockey East’s top tier.

Power Rankings

1. Boston University (5-1-0 overall, 2-0-0 Hockey East) – A chippy weekend split against Cornell proved that BU has the guts to play against the country’s best, and the resolve not to let disappointment keep them down for long. The Terrier defense needs to step up if they want to continue their success.

2. Northeastern (4-1-0 overall, 0-1-0 Hockey East) - A weekend off should have done the Huskies some good after their mid-week loss to Boston University. They host Robert Morris Friday night and Maine on Saturday afternoon.

3. Boston College (1-2-0 overall and Hockey East) – Their 5-2 win over the University of New Hampshire on Sunday gave the Eagles their first Hockey East win of the season. Boston College will hope to start a winning streak while hosting Minnesota-Duluth, a team on the outside edge of the national rankings.

4. University of New Hampshire (3-2-0 overall, 1-2-0 Hockey East) - Taking a game from preseason favorite Boston College last weekend raised several eyebrows in Hockey East, but their 5-2 loss on Sunday showed that there is still a lot of work to be done.

5. Quinnipiac (3-2-1 overall, 0-0-0 ECAC) - Women’s hockey fans will finally be able to discern the beginnings of the Bobcats’ ECAC fate this weekend as they host strong Harvard and Dartmouth squads in the two Ivys season openers. Quinnipiac needs to make a statement against both in order to erase the sting of splitting a weekend series against the CHA’s Syracuse.

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