For an in-depth, play-by-play recap of the win over Brown, click here.
Apart from a 4-0 win over Colgate last Tuesday, the past few home games have not fared well for the Cornell men’s hockey team, especially after the first period. In all of the games, Cornell held a lead going into the third period of play, but the given opponent found a way to topple the Red. Most recently, Cornell came out guns blazing against Yale Saturday night, scoring two early goals, but ultimately settled for the tie.
After the Yale game, players and coaches realized that the team needs to move on from the disappointing finish and prepare for a tough, scrappy Brown team. However, early on in the game against the Providence rival, it did not seem like the team had internalized the message quite yet.
The Lynah Faithful have been used to seeing the Red (15-6-3, 10-4-3 ECAC) come out strong as of late, but on Sunday night, it was the Bears (4-18-2, 3-13-1) who looked to have the upper hand. The Red looked hungover from last night’s disappointing outcome, highlighted by sloppy play on both sides of the ice. Brown, on the other hand, had an early 7-2 shot advantage and an early goal less than 4:30 into the game after Andrew Doane sent a rebound into the net.
The mediocre play continued for the Red, and it was obvious that someone needed to make a play to excite not only the team, but the home crowd as well. Less than five minutes later, senior forward Matt Buckles was there to answer the call.
Junior forward Alex Rauter sent in a shot through traffic from that left point that bounced around, but Buckles was there to put the rebound away and tie the game for the Red.
The goal was the spark that the team needed. Shortly following, the offense became more aggressive and played with more mental clarity. With seven minutes left in the opening frame, sophomore forward Anthony Angello took a pass off his skates and struck the puck into the goal from his knees to give the Red a 2-1 lead. Despite the early offensive drawbacks, the Red clawed its way back and finished the period with a 12-11 shots advantage.
Angello was not done for the night, though. With 8:45 left to play in the second, the sophomore took a one-timer from the faceoff dot after a pass from senior forward Jeff Kubiak and ripped it past Brown’s Gavin Nieto to give Cornell the 3-1 lead. The goal gave Angello the team lead for the season with 10, at least temporarily.
As a whole, it was quite the weekend for Angello, whose two-goal performance against Brown capped a three-goal weekend and is good enough for five goals in as many games.
“What’s nice about our team is that it’s not just one guy every game, it’s a different guy every single time,” Angello said. “I’ve been lucky that recently it’s been me. I don’t think it matters who scores the goals, as long as we get the two points at the end of the night, from a team perspective, we got the job done.”
With 4:58 left to play, sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan extended Cornell’s lead to 4-1, tying Angello’s goal mark and reclaiming a share of the team lead. Brown would respond 1:10 later, and the teams would head into intermission with a 4-2 scoreline.
The second period gave a slight scare to the Red and the Lynah Faithful, however, as junior forward Trevor Yates went to block a shot and fell down in pain. He was slow to get up, but the junior walked it off and came back shortly after.
“[My knee] is just a little sore after [the puck] hit me, but it’s fine now,” Yates said. “Just put some ice on it and rest up for the next couple of days, but I’ll be fine.”
Cornell had to wait until the 19:08 mark in the third period to get a power play, but unfortunately for the Red, it was the Bears who would capitalize during the two minutes. After a puck was sent back down to the Red side of the ice, senior goaltender Mitch Gillam took control and waited for his defenders to regroup. Freshman defenseman Yanni Kaldis came to help his netminder, but pressure from Sam Lafferty forced Kaldis to cough it up and Lafferty caught Gillam off-guard to tuck it home and cut the deficit to one.
Tensions were rising in Lynah — the fans had witnessed the story of the blown lead one too many times. Emotions were not helped as fans were upset over a play that they felt should have been called as a trip on Brown.
Before the crowd calmed down following the non-call, the Red came right down the ice to score, bringing the lead up to what would be the final score of 5-3. The goal was scored by Yates, a reassuring sign that Yates was, indeed, doing just fine.
“I think we just stayed true to the process,” Angello said. “I think we’ve learned our lessons — we’ve deflated like balloons in the past, but one of the things I took pride in tonight is telling the guys, ‘Hey, we’ve got a one-goal lead, let’s play like it, let’s play aggressive, let’s extend this lead and make sure we get the W.’”
While both teams went 0-4 on power plays, the Red finished with a 31-26 shots advantage, and a lopsided 38-19 lead in faceoffs won. The win now puts the Red tied for third place with St. Lawrence in the ECAC, and only two points behind conference leader Union. For the time being, Cornell would be awarded a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs — something the team has not achieved since the 2011-12 season.
“This part of the season, it’s hard not to look at the standings, but we’re trying to focus on ourselves and just play our kind of hockey,” Yates said. “Don’t even think about the standings, just play the next game and get two points.”
The Red is also now 6-4-1 on the season when surrendering the first goal, and the win caps off a grinding 10 days, a stretch head coach Mike Schafer ’86 has labeled as NHL-esque. With five games in 10 days, the Red finished with a 4-0-1 record.
“It’s been a grind, and we only dropped one point, and I consider that a success,” Schafer said. “[To play five games in 10 days], it’s like pro hockey, but with school, so we need to get some rest and [get ready] for an important weekend next weekend.”
Cornell will hit the road for the final time in the regular season next weekend, as the two third-place teams will face off in Canton Friday night, then the Red will turn around to play Clarkson Saturday night.