As men’s hockey senior captain Andrew McNiven skated away from the trophy presenter at the Syracuse Invitational Tournament, he stared solemnly down at the War Memorial ice as if he was almost ashamed to tote the runner-up hardware in his hand back to his teammates.
If second place is indeed the first loser, then Cornell epitomized that idiom last night, falling 4-3 in the final of the Syracuse Invite to an unproven Niagara squad that (on paper at least) it should have easily handled.
A night after posting a come-from-behind 2-1 win against ECAC rival Clarkson in a game featuring the physicality that has become its trademark, the Red (3-3-2, 2-1-1 ECAC) fell prey to uneasy goaltending and a lackadaisical offensive effort against the Purple Eagles (4-7-3, 2-1-1 CHA).
If anything, the Red can blame its woes on the schedule-makers, who thrust five games in nine days on the team.
“I think we’ve come through a tough stretch here,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “I don’t know if we were emotionally dry or physically dry, [but we were] one or the other. I just thought we played with real passion or heart for [only] the last six or seven minutes of the game.
“I’m really disappointed in the way we played.”
Down 4-2, Cornell’s offense did finally display a pulse with 5.8 seconds remaining in the game when sophomore defenseman Doug Murray swatted a desperate slap shot above Niagara goaltender Rob Bonk’s shoulder to trim the Eagles’ lead to one.
But the Eagles had essentially wrapped up their championship plaques by hammering three unanswered goals during the heart of the contest, starting with a Shaun Burkart tally four minutes into the second period which led Schafer to pull sophomore netminder Chris Gartman in favor of senior Ian Burt.
“We didn’t play how we would have liked to and the results show,” explained a glum-faced Stephen B