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Being the center of attention isn’t anything new for Nicole Corriero.
During her first training sessions at Harvard, she boldly wore spandex and revealing slit T-shirt outfits, earning the nickname “Cleave” from her teammates.
Her 2002 ECAC Rookie of the Year Award speech has become the stuff of lore in the Harvard women’s hockey program for its aimless rambling and unintended comic effect.
And while many expected her to shoulder a good portion of the offensive production, no one predicted she would be grabbing so many headlines while setting the NCAA record for most goals in a season.
“I think she established herself as a premier player in her freshman year,” long-time teammate Ashley Banfield says. “She stumbled a bit sophomore year and bounced back junior year. But I don’t think anyone expected her to absolutely tear up the record books this season.”
Her record-setting 59 goals on the season shattered the old mark of 51. She managed to score a goal in 28 of 36 games—including 19 multiple-goal games and six hat tricks—while registering a point in all but three.
Corriero added 32 assists to her goal count for 91 total points on the season—accounting for over 60 percent of the Crimson’s total offense, fourth best in the nation. And by season’s end she had passed A.J. Mlezcko ’97-’99 for third on Harvard’s all-time scoring list with 265 career points.
“This season Nicole just did it all. It didn’t matter if we were down three goals, up two goals, whether we needed a power play goal, or needed a penalty kill for two minutes,” junior Jennifer Raimondi says. “She put her body on the line for the team every night.”
Others took notice. Corriero received the Sarah Devens Award from the ECAC as the player who most “demonstrates leadership and commitment both on and off the ice.” She finished as a Top-10 finalist for the Patty Kazmaier Award for the best player in women’s college hockey, was named ECAC and Ivy League Player of the Year, first team All-ECAC and All-Ivy, Beanpot Most Valuable Player, and the Most Outstanding Player at the 2005 ECAC Women’s Hockey League Championships.
When the team found itself with a 7-6-1 record at the close of 2004, Corriero remained a scoring staple that helped the Crimson burst out of the rut in 2005—including a five-goal clinic against rival Dartmouth—en route to an undefeated campaign into the NCAA tournament.
“I get a lot of attention because of my stats, but the important thing to realize is that I couldn’t have done a fraction of that without my teammates, and more specifically my line-mates,” Corriero says. “I wouldn’t be a better player if in practice my teammates didn’t challenge me.”
“If you ask Nicole, she’ll be the first to tell you that it wasn’t a season about her, it was a season about the team,” Raimondi says. “She had the highest level of appreciation for the whole package because it was her last year, and you could tell from her higher level of commitment to the team.”
This dedication often translated into coming up big in the clutch because each win down the stretch prolonged Corriero’s career.
Corriero does not plan to play competitive hockey again. She was left off the Canadian National Team roster, in part because according to national team scout Wally Kozak, “she would literally have to learn how to skate” to make the team.
Nevertheless, Corriero beat the odds—both by proving doubters wrong about her capabilities and by leading the Crimson to the NCAA Championship game.
While campaigning for the title, Mercyhurst had Harvard on the brink of elimination in the NCAA Quarterfinals. Corriero rose to the occasion, scoring four of Harvard’s five goals—including the game-tying goal to force overtime—as well as assisting on the final game-winner in triple-overtime.
Then, as so many other times this season, she had the fans on their feet chanting, “Scor-ri-ero.”
But for all she accomplished this season on the ice, one goal remained out of reach.
Down 4-3 with time running out in the NCAA Championship game, the Crimson was desperate for an answer. In fitting fashion, Corriero had one last shot to keep Harvard’s title hope alive. With four seconds remaining, she received the puck at center ice, turned to her left, and fired a shot from the blue line—only to see it blocked by Minnesota defenseman Lyndsay Wall.
“As the clock was winding down I took that shot and I knew it had only a one-in-a-million chance of it actually hitting the net, let alone going in,” Corriero recalls. “And I actually fell after that shot and thought, ‘Oh my gosh, not again.’ It’s heart wrenching—extremely sad and really emotional. But you’ve got to just get back up.”
Though she admits a national championship has been her ultimate goal for the past four years, Corriero doesn’t wonder “what if.” Instead, she’s ready to walk away from the game.
“I hate it how the past two years it didn’t matter what our records were, what we had done. All we could think about was that one game where we didn’t do what we set out to do,” she says. “I didn’t want that to happen to us this year, because in the process we have been doing so many amazing things and if we just forget them all because of one game, that’s just silly.”
While she may have come up without the title, she can walk away from the game satisfied that she left everything on the ice this season.
—Staff writer John R. Hein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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