WORCESTER, Mass. — The men’s hockey team’s season had to end sooner or later.
But with a 4-3 loss against UNH in the national quarterfinals here at the Worcester Centrum Centre last night, Cornell’s season probably ended one step too early. All year, the Red had set its ultimate goal to be an invitation to the Frozen Four in St. Paul, Minn. And that’s what was at stake yesterday in the East Regional.
But on a night when raucous UNH fans were substantially more vocal than the small troupe of traveling Lynah Faithful, the Red (25-8-2) threw everything in its arsenal at the Wildcats (30-6-3) — and just fell short. The game was cracked up to be a clash of titans: UNH — No. 1 in the East — has the nation’s top offense while fourth-seeded Cornell possesses the country’s best defense. And it lived up to the billing, offering both UNH’s wide-open play and the Red’s bruising, grinding style.
Down 3-2 late in the third period, Cornell’s hopes of scoring a huge upset appeared dim. To its rescue, however, came junior Shane Palahicky who banged in a rebound past Wildcat goalie John Carney with 6:43 remaining in the game.
“We knew someone would do it,” junior Sam Paolini said about the Red’s confidence in squaring the game.
However, the possibility of a Cornell victory, or even an overtime, came crashing down four minutes later. UNH’s Jim Abbott collected a loose puck along the left boards and hammered a shot between Cornell senior goalie Matt Underhill’s pads.
“I just shot one low on the ice,” Abbott said.
The Red tried to barrage the Wildcat net in the final minutes but to no avail. Cornell even put its top power play line on a 6-on-5 situation in the last 47 seconds in search of desperate offensive chances. While the strategy did produce a rocket slap shot by junior assistant captain Doug Murray, it could not generate any goals.
As the UNH players toppled on each other in celebration after the final whistle, Underhill quietly slunk out of the rink– leaving the rest of his team to languish on the ice in disappointment.
Although this Cornell team set standards that haven’t been reached in nearly 30 years —