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Anthony Angello broke free from from behind the net, collected a rebound that was shot by Patrick McCarron and sent in a game-tying goal just minutes after Quinnipiac opened the scoring. Angello pounded his chest and skated towards the student section where he was greeted by a pack of exuberant teammates.
Hockey was officially back at Lynah Rink.
“It was a team play, for sure,” Angello said of his goal. “We were just playing simple, getting the puck to the net and being greasy and wanted it more. It was a really good feeling.”
With five games, over 1,800 miles on a bus and three trips to New England under their belt, the men of Cornell hockey finally returned for a game at home in front of the Lynah Faithful — the last team in Division I hockey to do so.
There was no better opponent for a homecoming game to test of the team’s abilities than last year’s Frozen Four runner-up and current nationally ranked No. 4 Quinnipiac. It was the Bobcats who ended Cornell’s season with a statement-making 6-3 win in game three of the ECAC quarterfinals and it was the Bobcats who silenced an energized Lynah Rink with a come-from-behind overtime win in the team’s only trip to Ithaca last year.
Leading up to Friday’s puck drop, players said they were treating Friday’s game against Quinnipiac the same way they would any other team, but the play on the ice did not show that. Bodies were flying, feet were moving, scrums followed several whistles. But in the end, it was Quinnipiac who came out victorious with a 3-1 win.
“We didn’t play to win tonight, we played not to lose,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “When you play not to lose, you play tentative and that’s how we played the whole night.”
Quinnipiac got the scoring underway just over halfway into the first when Tim Clifton received a pass cutting to the net and stuffed one in past senior goalie Mitch Gillam, all executed on his knees.
To pour salt in the wound, sophomore forward Beau Starrett was called for a hook on the play and the Red dug itself into an even deeper hole. Yet, the ensuing penalty kill was more reminiscent of a power play, as Rauter was able to lead a rush into the Quinnipiac zone that goalie Chris Truehl somehow managed to keep out.
It seemed as if Cornell was at the advantage with the man down, at times.
“I think we have one of the better penalty kills in our league if not the nation,” said junior forward Alex Rauter. “What we really try to focus on is being aggressive and playing with a lot of poise. We almost had the advantage when we were down. If we played that way five-on-five we would have fared a lot better.”
Just shortly after killing the Starrett minor, Angello was able to find the McCarron shot and tie the game up in the first. It was Cornell’s first goal back at home since last March when senior forward Matt Buckles’ overtime goal against Union clinched a first round win in the ECAC playoffs.
While a quick response would surely energize any team playing its first home game, Schafer said he did not see that same resiliency from his squad.
“We tie it up 1-1, but I didn’t think we ever got got off track tonight and got it going,” he said. “We had spurts and created some chances, but we definitely didn’t get going, and that’s disappointing coming back to our home rink.”
The celebration of Anegllo’s goal followed the Red into the locker room, but was quickly killed when Craig Martin netted the second goal for Quinnipiac early in the second. Cornell was much more disciplined in the game, giving up only four power plays, but Martin was able to capitalize on one of the few chances the Quinnipiac power play unit got.
Bo Pieper put the Bobcats up by two late in the second, and Schafer knew that he needed to get his group into shape heading out into the third, but he did not see that effort out of his team.
“Some guys said we have to stick with the gameplan and I said we have to get with the gameplan,” Schafer said. “We had to get going and we never did. It was disappointing that we would not come out and execute.”
Overall, this was not the game that Cornell would have hoped for coming back to Ithaca. When asked for the reason why play was so lackluster, Schafer did not have a firm answer, but pointed out some things he knows need to change.
“We played slow. We got caught from behind,” he said. “Guys wouldn’t skate with pucks and move their feet, guys away from the puck wouldn’t anticipate and our defense wouldn’t challenge in the neutral zone. All the things we did a very good job over the last three games and tonight we just didn’t play the way we should be playing.”
Looking forward to tomorrow’s match with Princeton, the team knows that there needs to be an overnight change to salvage a win during the homestand. A winless Tigers squad and sense or urgency might be the best opportunity to get back on track.
“I think we are going to come back and play with that chip on our shoulder,” Angello said. “We have something to prove now. I think we are a great team but we have to play like it day in and day out. Tomorrow we are going to prove that we are.”