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Nearing the end of the third period, sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan darted towards the goal crease as a defender pulled him to the ice. A ricocheted shot sent the puck fluttering towards Vanderlaan, who tipped the puck in from his skate to give Cornell men’s hockey the go-ahead goal against Princeton.
The officials gathered to review the play and determined that Vanderlaan did not intentionally kick the puck into the net, which would have waved off the score. It was a gutsy play from Vanderlaan, who also gained a penalty on the play when the Princeton defender dragged him down.
After trailing by two goals early in the game, Cornell (3-3-1, 3-2-1 ECAC) would go on to top Princeton (0-6-1, 0-5-1), 4-2.
On the go-ahead goal, Vanderlaan was not entirely sure who scored when his teammates started to celebrate.
“I got [the puck] back to [freshman defenseman] Yanni [Kaldis] who threw it at the net and then I got taken down,” Vanderlaan said. “I got up and everyone was celebrating and the guys told me it went in off of me.”
Vanderlaan added a second goal shortly thereafter off of a Princeton turnover to put the game out of reach and secure the victory for the Red, who picked up a much needed victory after losing at home to Quinnipiac (9-3-1, 5-1-0) on Friday night.
While Vanderlaan’s goals were crucial to the win, it was his play in the second period that really turned the tide for Cornell, who trailed after the first period, 2-0.
“Mitch came out in the second period and had one of the best periods of hockey that I’ve seen from a kid in a while,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He was a workhorse and I think all of the guys fed off of him and got their feet going.”
Vanderlaan stepped up at the right time, as Cornell desperately needed a jumpstart at the start of the second period after a sluggish early going.
“It was a slow start and not the start we wanted,” Schafer said.
In the first period, Princeton capitalized off of sloppy play in both zones by Cornell and pestered senior goalie Mitch Gillam.
“We made some huge mistakes behind [Mitch] tonight and turned pucks over,” Schafer said. “He bailed us out one time and couldn’t bail us out the second time.”
Princeton forward Eric Robinson put the Tigers up 1-0 on a power play goal. Cornell responded with a stretch of pressure and generated a few scoring chance, but the team could not get the puck into the back of the net.
Junior forward Alex Rauter streaked down the left the side of the ice and connected with a shot that just deflected off of Tigers’ goalie Colton Phinney’s pad. Phinney later denied a chance from sophomore forward Anthony Angello to preserve the tight lead.
In what would continue for much of the night, both teams made several mistakes, which allowed for several scoring chances on the power play. In the first period, Princeton capitalized on its power play while Cornell could not.
After Princeton killed a late power play opportunity for the Red, the Tigers counterattacked and scored another goal to break open a two-goal lead just as the first period wound down.
In the locker room during the intermission, Schafer encouraged the team to play with more energy.
“We weren’t working, we weren’t competing,” Schafer said. “We came out [in the second period] and moved our feet in all zones, which was supposed to be one of our keys going into the game.”
Cornell generated consistent offensive pressure from the start of the second period to the end. Princeton struggled to keep the puck out of its own zone.
After Phinney denied several Cornell shots, junior forward Jared Fiegl came through for the Red, ripping a shot into the top right corner of the net from the slot. The goal was assisted by sophomore defensemen Alec McCrea and Brandon Smith on the power play.
Cornell maintained the pressure for the remainder of the period and almost had a second goal off of a blistering shot from senior forward Jake Weidner. The shot just clipped the post after Weidner broke free from the Princeton defense on another power play.
Following the Fiegl goal, Cornell tied the game on a power play goal from junior forward Trevor Yates. It was the first Red power play goal in 22 attempts.
“This year with the amount of power plays that we are getting, to see one go in the net was huge for our confidence,” Weidner said.
Vanderlaan’s pair of goals in the third period allowed the Red to complete the comeback and earn its first win at home this season.
Cornell will look to carry the momentum of the win into action next weekend when the team takes on UNH (5-5-2) at Madison Square Garden.