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NCAA DI: Marlène Boissonnault | Cornell Big Red

One of the great success stories of the decade, Cornell women’s ice hockey established a superior standard of excellent talent that don its colors, especially between the pipes. With a decade that began with Amanda Mazzotta emerging as a key contributor on a Big Red roster that advanced to the 2010 Frozen Four Finals, Marlène Boissonnault brought the Big Red back to such surroundings, backstopping the program to an appearance in the 2019 Frozen Four.

Establishing herself as one of the nation’s finest goaltenders this season, gaining the opportunity to contribute to the Big Red’s growing mythology; it stands as one of the highlights of Boissonnault’s hockey narrative.

Boissonnault and a display of jerseys during her career (Photo by Studio Mario)

The pride of Dundee, New Brunswick, where Boissonnault starred at Rothesay Netherwood School, her time in Ithaca, New York, home of the Big Red, was part of a grander story in this decade. With an expanding base of amateur players in all corners of North America, she was part of an unprecedented number of talented players from the Maritimes earning the chance to compete in NCAA play.

Considering that Halifax native, and Winter Games participant, Jillian Saulnier also donned the Big Red colors during the decade, she was the catalyst for the next classes that followed. Among the other Maritimers that played for Cornell during Boissonault’s time included forwards Amy Curlew and Grace Graham, plus Stefannie Moak, who won an Atlantic Championship in 2012 and starred for Nova Scotia’s prestigious Metro Boston Pizza Midget AAA program, where she was also an alternate captain.

Akin to Saulnier and numerous other Big Red alumnae, Boissonault also enjoyed the privilege of wearing Canada’s jersey internationally. Having played for Canada’s contingent with the Under-18 National Team, Boissonault recorded a solid 1.71 goals against average at the 2015 IIHF U-18 Women’s World Championships in Buffalo, New York, reaching the gold medal game.

Considering the impressive number of Big Red in this category, there was no shortage of Big Red teammates in Boissonault’s four seasons that were Hockey Canada alums, including Jamie Bourbonnais, Hannah Bunton, Micah Zandee-Hart, Kristin O’Neill, Cassandra Poudrier and Morgan Richardson. Indubitably, the opportunity to be part of such a gregarious group of celebrated players represents a treasured hallmark.

“It is an honour to be part of this elite group, to be able to hear of the path that these girls took and to learn from this group is truly admirable. It is an unbelievable honour to be able to join these girls in wearing the jersey for such a phenomenal country.

Cornell prides themselves on pushing us to achieve the next level. I am blessed to have been able to attend such a driven and passionate university.

The first time that I wore the (Canadian) jersey was a true feeling of a dream coming true. It is very difficult to put it into words. To be selected to take part of such a beautiful game at the international stage with some of the highest performing athletes of the country is truly humbling.”

Between the pipes for Canada (Credit: Hockey Canada Images, image obtained from: https://ici.radio-canada.ca/premiere/emissions/Le-reveil-Nouveau-Brunswick/segments/entrevue/54080/boissonnault-hockey)

Boissonault’s first season in Ithaca resulted in a very crowded goaltending picture as the roster also featured the likes of Amelia Boughn, the aforementioned Moak plus Paula Voorheis. Making her NCAA debut on October 24, 2015 versus the nationally ranked Boston College Eagles, an 8-0 loss, which included a hat trick by Alexandra Carpenter, marked a baptism of fire.

Undeterred, Boissonnault would bounce back, as the loss to the Eagles would prove to be the only one of the season. Defeating the Syracuse Orange in a 5-2 road win on November 14, Brianna Veerman recorded the game-winning tally in a milestone match for the freshman.

Among her season highlights was an impressive 4-2 victory versus the Boston University Terriers, another prominent program on a national scale. Taking into account that it was only her third career game, her 19-save performance was a character moment, resulting in a spot on the All-Tournament Team,

During the 2016-17 season, Boissonault posted a remarkable 10-1-2 mark, making a strong case to be the starter for the remainder of her Big Red career. As a junior, Boissonault took on the starter’s role, simultaneously adopting the duties of mentor with Lindsay Browning serving as the backup. Appearing in eight games, Browning enjoyed six starts, highlighted by a shutout of Dartmouth on January 18, 2018 plus 35 saves in a February 8 tilt against St. Lawrence. By season’s end, Boissonault would enjoy career highs in appearances (31), minutes (1842:58) and wins (21), sharing the William F Fuerst Jr ’39 Cornell Big Red Player of the Year honor with Diana Buckley.

With such strong numbers, it provided Boissonault with significant momentum heading into her senior season. Certainly, the numbers spoke for themselves. Recording a third straight season of double digit wins, while she appeared in at least 30 games and recorded 1700 minutes two seasons in a row, perhaps the most impressive number was her six shutouts.

Definitely, Boissonnault’s star status enhanced her senior season with a spot on the ECAC All-Star Team, along with an All-Ivy League selection for the third straight year. Other Big Red players that gained All-Ivy honors included Jaime Bourbonnais and Kristin O’Neill on the First Team, while the Second Team featured Boissonnault, Maddie Mills and Micah Zandee-Hart, plus Doug Derraugh earned Coach of the Year honors.

Complemented by recognition from the Cornell Daily Sun as their Female Athlete of the Year for 2018-19, an impressive amassing of accolades and honors commemorated Boissonnault’s final season, bringing with it a feeling of celebration and attainment.

Photo credit: Boris Tsang (Cornell Sun)

Prior to Boissonnault’s postseason heroics, the essence of competing for Cornell reached its apex on Senior Night. Joining her in the Class of 2019 included Diana Buckley, Pippy Gerace and Lenka Serdar, all part of the 2017 and 2018 Ivy League championship teams. Perhaps the most inspiring aspect of said Class is the remarkable pursuits off the ice. Boissonnault, who hopes to one day become a doctor, is not the only player with medical aspriations. Gerace, a PWHL alum with the Etobicoke Jr. Dolphins, has worked for Cornell Health, while employment at the Cornell Botanical Gardens has defined Buckley’s occupation.

As a side note, Gerace would finish the season as a nominee for the Mandi Schwartz Student Athlete of the Year Award. Serdar, whose sister Petra is a graduate of Cornell, did not miss a game over the last two seasons, also worked as an intergroup dialogue facilitator.

Undoubtedly, the feeling of friendship and unity, the sense of closeness and camaraderie acquired will never be matched at further levels of the game. One of the traits in Boissonnault’s prized time garbed in the Big Red paraphernalia, that feeling took on greater meaning on Senior Night.

“My experience and time at Cornell is compiled of countless memories from road-trips, to talking with our fans, to meeting new people, to winning games when all the odds were against us, to living with teammates, etc.

Certainly Senior night was a special night. We had the most fans ever recorded for a women’s game to my knowledge. Our team shutout our opponent and had a great performance, making the night even sweeter. It certainly was an emotional night, but mainly humbling, knowing that Cornell has pushed me to the max, making me a better athlete and person.”

Celebrated on February 16, the happenings at Lynah Rink included a 4-0 blanking of the Yale Bulldogs, outshooting them by a very convincing 36-14 margin, with Kristin O’Neill scoring twice, while Sam Burke logged a pair of assists. For her efforts, Boissonault’s 15th career shutout (and 51st win overall) placed her into a third-place tie for all-time shutouts in program history. With the Senior Night win, the Class of 2019 possessed a solid won-loss mark of 72-35-18.

Cornell’s 2019 Senior class featuring Diana Buckley, Pippy Gerace and Lenka Serdar and Boissonnault (Image obtained from: https://cornellsun.com/2019/02/14/unsung-heroes-seniors-cement-legacy-of-unrelenting-tenacity/)

With the postseason on the horizon, more wins would follow. Disposing of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the quarterfinals, the semifinals saw an intense double overtime win versus Princeton to advance to the ECAC Championship Game. Although Boissonnault was not active for said game, hosted at Lynah Rink versus the defending national champion Clarkson Golden Knights, an event that also featured an all-female officiating crew (who would also work the succeeding Frozen Four tournament), her absence was impactful, as the Big Red endured a visceral defeat by a 4-1 count.

Qualifying for the NCAA Tournament, Boissonnault was back in her familiar place between the pipes. Facing 22 shots versus the Northeastern Huskies of Hockey East, it was a see-saw battle which saw a scoreless second period, while the Big Red scored twice in the first, followed by the Huskies evening the score in the third.

As overtime was required to determine the winner, a highly tense game saw Gillis Frechette, whose sister Finley also plays on the team, score the game-winning tally, extending her playoff scoring streak to four games, as Diana Buckley and Devon Facchinato earned the assists. Allowing the Big Red the opportunity to reach the prestigious status of the Frozen Four for the first time since 2012, it stood as Boissonnault’s finest hour.

Opposing the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the Frozen Four, the fourth appearance in program history, an opportunity to bookend the decade with another Finals appearance was not meant to be. A valiant effort featuring 25 saves saw Boissonnault keep the Golden Gophers off the score sheet in the first period.

With the Big Red outshot in the second and third periods, the result was a second period goal by Nicole Schammel followed by Sarah Potomak scoring an empty net goal in the third, allowing the Golden Gophers a 2-0 win. In spite of the result, the opportunity for Boissonnault to finish her collegiate career in the NCAA’s biggest showcase brought a celebrated closure

“(It was) very special. We had an amazing group this year. We fought our hearts out for every single game with the goal of becoming national champions. Our coaching staff were very well structured and had high expectations for us – while truly believing that we could reach these expectations.

As you may know, our coaching staff had quite the recognition this year from various associations, making it that much more special for us. To reach the Frozen Four stage my senior year was a great way to go out.

Knowing that my team challenged themselves to the max every day for this is truly a special feeling. Frozen Four is the highest competition stage in the NCAA and so to have had the chance to be there competing was truly amazing.”

“All quotes obtained first hand unless otherwise indicated”</em

Featured image obtained from: https://cornellbigred.com/roster.aspx?rp_id=48802


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