Considering the numbers Nicole Corriero has racked up all season long, a one-goal performance might be considered an off night for her. Then again, consider just what that goal signifies.
With her 52nd goal of the season, Corriero now holds the all-time record for most collegiate goals scored in a single season, passing Tammy Shewchuk ’00-’01, who set the former record of 51 goals during the 1998-99 season. The goal also gave Corriero her 254th career point, passing Angela Ruggiero ’02-’04 for fourth on Harvard’s career scoring list. Add to this that she helped lead her team past Clarkson to the ECAC semifinals, and you start to wonder just why Corriero wanted to get this weekend over as soon as possible.
The play started with a collective Harvard effort to keep the puck in the Golden Knights’ zone, allowing senior Ashley Banfield to fire a shot on net. Freshman Laura Brady, standing beside the left post, took a swipe at the rebound but was stopped by Clarkson goalie Kira McDonald’s blocker. Then the puck squirted out beside the right faceoff circle, where Corriero stood in striking position.
Like so many of her other goals, No. 52 wasn’t going to come easy. While Clarkson defenseman Meghan Park guarded Corriero, Golden Knight winger Ashley Shaidle had already started skating over from beside the right post in pursuit of the puck.
Without much time to think, Corriero backhanded the puck—and sent it over McDonald’s right shoulder, stick-side into the top left shelf of the net.
“It’s more of a reaction, just trying to get your stick on the puck and just get whatever you can to the net,” Corriero said. “It’s not like I was picking the corner—I was being taken out of the play. So I was just trying to get something on it.”
“I sort of joked with her that her record breaker was her backhand, that famous backhand,” Harvard coach Katey Stone said. “It was great.”
On the ice, the celebration looked like you might expect. As soon as the red light flashed behind the boards, Corriero’s teammates mobbed her as she raised her arms in the air. Especially happy was Banfield, a long-time friend who grew up playing on the same line as Corriero. Banfield not only received the second assist on the record-breaking goal, but she recorded assists on goals No. 50 and 51 Friday night.
In addition to the obvious thrill that accompanied breaking the record came an unnoticeable, but equally emotional, collective sigh of relief. Few knew just what it really took out of Corriero and her team to get there.
For most of the weekend, the quest to score the goal and break the record hung over her head like a dark rain cloud that followed her wherever she went and refused to go away.
“You can’t ignore something like that. At the beginning of the game it was something that was on my mind at times, like if I was coming in on the goalie,” she said. “I think that it’s natural—it’s hard to ignore something like that. It’s just a matter of working through it and not changing yours style of play.”
After Friday night’s 5-0 blanking of Clarkson, Stone voiced her displeasure at what she saw as a complete distraction for Corriero and the rest of the Crimson.
“I know that she and I both wish she had broken it tonight because it’s hanging over her head and you could see it,” Stone said. “She gets one and then—get it over with. Records are meant to be broken. You’ve got to let the game come to you. You can’t force things, especially in hockey. She’s got to get this thing over with so we can just play with a little bit of a lighter step.”
Throughout the first game of the series, Corriero’s desire to tie and then break the record was painfully visible, as was her teammates desire to feed her the puck on each and every drive she was a part of. Shots and passes were forced with good intentions, but with the wrong mindset for a team prepping for a run at the ECAC Championship and the Frozen Four.
“I think everybody’s pushing, everybody’s trying to give her the puck, and she’s hanging onto it too long and we’re staying out there too long,” Stone said after Harvard’s win Friday night. “I’ve seen it happen—fortunately and unfortunately, it’s happened here because we’ve had some record-breakers, and you want to just get it finished so there’s a sense of relief. And then you can just focus in on what’s most important—team play.”
Corriero agreed in full with her coach. Without making excuses, she spoke plainly and even took responsibility for most of the team’s distraction.
“I think everybody was trying to get me the puck or trying to set me up,” she said. “Overall, we were working hard, but we needed to execute what’s best for the team, not what’s best for an individual player, whether it’s me or anyone else for that matter.”
Corriero pulled through, rising to the occasion not only to break the record, but also to lead her team to victory once more. For her efforts, her name sits atop the goals-scored record for the time being.
But her reward is staying focused on what she’s been playing for all season long—not breaking records or scoring goals, but winning games and ultimately, a championship.
“From here on out, it’s not about goals. It’s about playing Harvard hockey.”
—Staff writer John R. Hein can be reached at email@example.com.