For the Cornell men’s hockey team, the difficulties it experienced in the ECAC Championship game against St. Lawrence was a microcosm of the whole season.
Despite outshooting the Saints 32-22, the Red was unable to convert on all but one of these scoring chances and fell 3-1 to take second in the league.
“We didn’t capitalize on our scoring chances, something we have struggled with all year,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
However, Jeremy Symington was a wall in net for the Saints throughout the tournament, holding Dartmouth scoreless in the semifinal contest and keeping the Red off the scoreboard for the first 58:54 of the finals. For these efforts he was named the Most Valuable Player of the tournament.
St. Lawrence took the early lead, when Russ Bartlett beat junior Matt Underhill 9:32 into the opening stanza.
“I don’t know where the puck went on me,” Underhill said.
However, the Red did not play well in its own zone for the opening minutes of the game.
“We didn’t communicate at all during the first couple of minutes, ” Underhill said.
After gaining the lead, the Saints played a very defensive style clamping down on Cornell in the neutral zone.
“The first goal is critical, especially in a championship game, and they got on the board half-way through the first period,” Schafer said.
Despite being held off the scoreboard in the opening period, the Red did have opportunities. But Cornell was unable to convert on a power-play, as Symington was equal to every challenge.
“In the first period we had two or three chances where we brought the puck to the front of the net and Symington did a very good job of taking the lower part of the net away,” Schafer commented.
The second period saw the Saints extend their lead when Blair Clarance converted a rush into the second goal of the night. Alan Fyfe fed Mike Gellard in the neutral zone, who slipped the puck over to Clarance for the eventual game-winner.
The second period also saw Cornell take three penalties, preventing the Red from cutting into the deficit.
“That took a little wind out of our sails that we had to kill three in the second period,” Schafer said.
Junior Krzysztof Wieckowski made a spectacular play while the Red was short handed, but was unable to corral the puck to put it past a sprawled-out Symington. But as he was unable to convert, the Red headed into its final period of hockey for the season down two goals.
Cornell applied pressure during the final stanza, and drew a power play when Clarance was whistled for holding just 1:13 into the period. It looked as though the Cornell man-up squad would again prove its mettle when senior tri-captain Larry Pierce took a shot from the between the face-off circles. But Symington again showed that it was his night as he made the incredible save look easy.
“Early in the third when we were on the power play he made a big save on Larry [Pierce] in the seam. That could have made the game 2-1,” Schafer said.
Sophomore Doug Murray, who was named to the All-Tournament team, was shadowed during this power-play and had most of his shots blocked by defensemen.
“They did a great job of blocking shots,” sophomore Sam Paolini said of the Saints’ penalty kill unit.
St. Lawrence continued to clog the neutral zone and play impressive defense as the final minutes approached.
Down by two with just 2:47 remaining, Schafer decided to pull Underhill in favor of the extra skater.
Unfortunately for the Red, it was unable to control the puck in the Saints’ zone and Fyfe forced a turnover and shot the puck in from the redline with just 2:36 left to play.
Underhill left the ice again following the ensuing face-off, and at 18:54 junior David Kozier finally beat Symington, with assists going to sophomore Stephen B