It took senior goaltender Mitch Gillam 13 starts this season to notch his first shutout of the year. Last year, Gillam blanked an opponent in the second game of the season and had three shutouts after just 13 games played, en route to seven on the year, third best in a single season in Cornell history.
Gillam’s numbers have slightly dipped this season through the same amount of time, as he has allowed three more goals on 19 fewer shots when compared to last year. Part of this tribulation can be attributed to a knee injury he suffered in the second game against Miami (OH). He recovered from the injury over the holiday season to play against Northern Michigan down south, but reaggravating it kept him out of the championship game of the Florida Classic against Colorado College, which the Tigers won 2-1 with junior goalie Hayden Stewart starting in net.
Against Merrimack (7-10-3, 1-4-3 Hockey East) in the first game of the season, Gillam was chased out of the net when he allowed three unanswered goals by the time the clock hit 8:36 in the second period.
On Saturday, however, the Red (9-4-1, 3-1-0) put the first goal on the board and although Gillam was not tested to an extreme degree, he made all the saves needed to record his first shutout of the year and lead Cornell to a 1-0 revenge victory over Merrimack.
“Coming back in this rink after he played poorly this year he came back and … made some big saves in the third period,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of his netminder. “[It] shows maturity of him as a goaltender as the season has gone on.”
Even with Gillam’s marginal decline in production, he has been greatly helped by his offense, which has found its scoring touch this year. Cornell’s three goals per game when Gillam starts this year is up from 2.69 in the first 13 games of the season last year.
Tonight, the scoring came from senior forward Matt Buckles, making it his second goal in the past three games since he returned from injury.
It was an uneventful game apart from the Buckles goal. Both teams finished the games with 18 shots on goal; only five penalties were called throughout the 60 minutes.
Cornell’s goal came just moments after the team’s second power play of the game expired. Sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan teed up a cross-ice pass to senior linemate Jeff Kubiak. Kubiak unloaded a shot on goal, and Buckles jostled with a defenseman, but was able poke in the puck off his skirmish partner and past goalie Collin Delia.
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“I thought we got things going a little bit and found some guys in front of the net and found some guys in the soft area,” Schafer said. “[Delia] made some huge saves for them. He kept it a 1-0 game.”
Later, Cornell was awarded a five minute power play when Merrimack’s leading scorer Hampus Gustafsson was called for hitting from behind and assessed a game misconduct, therefore ejecting him from the game. The Red was not able to capitalize on the five minutes of man-advantage time, leaving the burden on Gillam to keep the Warriors scoreless.
“[The coaching staff] talked and told them to be very patient against here and I thought they played well,” Schafer added. “We knew it was going to be tough, but it’s not too often you go on the road and you don’t compete very well in the first period and don’t come out with a victory and our guys did that tonight.”
Gillam accomplished his task, giving him his ninth career shutout and Cornell the same amount of wins on the season.
With the victory, Cornell ends its non-league play with a 5-2 record. Now, the team can look down the schedule and see a welcoming sight: nine of the last 15 games of the season at home, all of which are against ECAC rivals. Next on the docket is a trip to both Princeton and Quinnipiac starting this coming Friday.