Listed at only 5-5 and 155 pounds, freshman Topher Scott isn’t exactly the most physically imposing presence on the ice. He does, however, have a knack for coming up with the big play at precisely the right time.
That time was approximately 9:45 p.m. on Saturday night. Twelve minutes into an overtime period, Scott received a centering pass from classmate Raymond Sawada and instantly went top shelf on Clarkson goalie Dustin Traylen to put an end to Game 2 of the ECACHL quarterfinal series between the Golden Knights (13-23-3, 7-13-2 ECACHL) and the No. 2/3 men’s hockey team at Lynah Rink. The goal gave the Red (24-4-3, 18-2-2 ECACHL) a 3-2 victory and completed a two-game sweep of the series. Top-seeded Cornell advances to the conference semifinal in Albany, where it will face Vermont at 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
“[Junior] Cam [Abbott] worked really hard in the corner and gave it to Ray. I just kind of got in the slot and Ray made a great pass to me and I just got it over his shoulder,” Scott said of his goal. “I was just trying to get it on net. In overtime anything could happen, so I was just trying to get it on net and see what could happen.”
Scott’s goal was a seminal moment in one of the most tightly contested games played at Lynah this year. If not for the play of sophomore goaltender David McKee throughout the third period and overtime, Scott’s heroics never would have been possible.
McKee, who broke Cornell’s career shutouts record with Friday night’s 5-0 blanking of Clarkson, wasn’t at his most brilliant early in the game, but he turned it on late. He made 22 of his 34 saves in the third period and overtime, and in several instances, denied the Golden Knights on fantastic scoring opportunities.
“That’s why he’s a Hobey Baker finalist,” said Clarkson head coach George Roll. “He made some unbelievable stops at crucial points in the game and gave their team a chance to win.” Like McKee, it took the entire Cornell team a little bit of time to get into its game. Clarkson completely outplayed the Red in the first period, capitalizing on several mental mistakes to take a 2-1 lead into intermission. When Clarkson’s Jay Latulippe scored at 1:48 in the first, the Red found itself trailing at home for the first time all season. Though junior Shane Hynes tied the game with a fortuitous goal that banked off the left post two minutes later, Clarkson retook the lead at 11:22 on a hard slapper from the left circle by David Cayer.
“Not the way you want to start a game, with a stick handle that knocks the puck back into our own net and gave them life,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
Cornell began its return to its usual form in the second. Junior assistant captain Matt Moulson again tied the game with a goal at 8:58 in the period. He skated in to the Clarkson zone along the boards, then crossed the ice and poked a pass from Hynes into the net on Traylen’s stick side.
“It was a floater, it came across the ice, someone picked up the puck, it went wide, guys drove the net hard, and that gave me some room, and I saw Traylen a little far out,” Moulson said. “Shane and Danny Glover set a pick for me, and I came around the open net and I didn’t really have to do much.”
Notably, the Red had a huge advantage in shots on goal in the second, outshooting the Golden Knights, 12-3.
“I thought we calmed down after the first period,” Schafer said. “After we came out in the second, we had a lot of good chances on the power play. We couldn’t capitalize on the power play tonight, but it’s was good to see them have that composure.”
The third period marked the beginning of a classic battle typical of the series Cornell and Clarkson have played in recent years.
Both teams created several chances on offense, only to be turned away time and again by stellar goaltending by McKee and Traylen.
“In the third period I think we played the best period we’ve played all year,” Roll said. “They were a big physical team and we wanted to outman them in the defensive zone, get three guys on the puck and work our way up the ice. We reversed the puck a lot better than we did Friday night, but the biggest thing was just our competitiveness, being first on the puck and going hard to the net. It was a much better team tonight than we showed last night.” Clarkson outshot the Red, 12-6, as McKee again rose to the task.
“I think their goaltender doesn’t get the credit he deserves and tonight he proved that he deserves all the accolades,” Roll said.
In overtime, junior Daniel Pegoraro made a bid to end the game at 17:45, when he elevated the puck on the left of the crease, but couldn’t put it away. The Golden Knights also had several chances, all of which were stopped by McKee and the Cornell defense, setting the stage for Scott.
“Topher Scott’s coach in junior hockey said ‘he won’t lead your team in goals scored, but he only scores the big ones,'” Schafer said. “How prophetic from his junior coach. [Sawada] made a great pass for him to step into it and get it to the upper part of the net against Traylen, which you have to do.”
After scoring the goal, Scott leapt high in the air and into a mob of his teammates in the corner of the ice.
“I was finally up to the other guys’ heights,” he joked. “I’ve probably never been so excited in my life. A lot of the older guys deserve the best and we’re working really hard to get them the best. We have to keep going though.”
With the win, Cornell completed an undefeated home season, and will continue on to the ECACHL final four this weekend in Albany as the top seed.
“This is the biggest pressure, Albany’s gravy. We know what all the expectations the fans have here, just thinking we’re going to walk through the games and get to Albany,” Schafer said. “It put some pressure on us, but they came through tonight. Once we get to Albany, it’s a one-game set, you get there, you get to the championship, and guys relax a little bit more and get after it.”
Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Senior Writer