COLUMBUS, Ohio — Cornell entered its season opener against Ohio State looking to shake off the rust of the preseason and notch a win in the process. It accomplished both goals as the Red (1-0-0, 0-0-0 ECAC) eked out a closer-than-apparent 3-1 win over the Buckeyes (3-2-1, 1-0-1 CCHA) Friday night.
Sophomore goaltender David LeNeveu had 28 saves, allowing only a power play goal, and classmate Mike Knoepfli scored the gamewinner and an empty-netter to lead the Red and capture the No. 1 and 2 stars, respectively.
Traveling to Columbus with a shortened roster with freshmen Cam Abbott, Matt Moulson and sophomore Mike Iggulden out, unset lines and only an exhibition game under their belts, the Red icers knew they had their work cut for themselves. The Red was playing against a team that had its first game three days before the Ivy League schools began official practices.
That was a great win for us. We knew coming in to the game Ohio State had a great hockey team,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We got 12 practices. Because of Ivy League rules, we started two to three weeks later than everyone else.
“We knew we had to win ugly, and I think that’s what we did. We kept things pretty simple and grinded out a defensive win.”
Cornell scored at 3:51 in the first period when senior Shane Palahicky found freshman Chris Abbott alone in the slot, who fired a shot past Ohio State goalie Mike Betz. However, that was only one of the Red’s four shots on target in the stanza.
After an obstruction holding penalty to senior Mark McRae, the Buckeyes capitalized on their first power play of the night. R.J. Umberger beat LeNeveu up high with assists from Dan Knapp and Ryan Kesler.
“The power play goal that they scored, we haven’t given up that kind of goal all last year, probably. It was a simple mental mistake that our penalty killers made,” Schafer said.
That wasn’t the lone mental error of the period, as Cornell was called for too many men on the ice.
Cornell was on the defensive most of the game as the Buckeyes forwards peppered shots toward the Red goal.
“We felt all week that we had to clean up our own end, because they could be a very physical, punishing team, and we did that and generated the offense we needed, but the pucks weren’t going in the net,” Buckeye coach John Markell said.
The tempo and physical play picked up after the first intermission. Cornell’s play along the boards tired the smaller Ohio State team.
“You get some of the big men who can protect the puck, and it’s tough on your guys when they’re pushing, pushing, pushing all the time,” Markell said.
Cornell had one of its few offensive spurts with three minutes remaining. Vesce took two shots toward Betz, but eventually settled for an assist as he found Knoepli on the right side of the crease.
“We were just working hard and were cycling in the corner and good things come when you’re working hard, Ryan Vesce just saw me and