When the halfway point of the second period rolled around, it seemed like the same story, different chapter for Cornell men’s hockey.
Thanks to three goals in the first period — two of which came within a minute of each other and one which came in the frame’s dying seconds — Cornell got out to a hot start yet again. Including Friday, it has been 16-straight games where the Red headed into the first intermission holding a lead. The last time Cornell trailed after 20 was Dec. 2 against Miami (OH) — over 2.5 months ago.
But two goals less than two minutes apart for St. Lawrence (15-10-6, 11-5-3 ECAC) in the second period had Cornell trending in the same direction as of late — letting the game slip away after building up the early lead.
Luckily for Cornell, however, that chapter came to an abrupt end, as the Red (17-6-3, 12-4-3) added another goal in the third period for a 4-2 win in Canton. The win gives the men from Ithaca sole possession of third place in the ECAC.
“That game has followed what we’ve been doing recently,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Getting out to a strong start, kind of taking a little bit of a break and for the most part finishing it off in the third.”
Senior forward Matt Buckles kicked off the scoring for Cornell when he sent one from the right circle past St. Lawrence netminder Kyle Hayton — one of the country’s best. An even 30 seconds later, the Red lit the lamp again, this time off the stick of sophomore forward Beau Starrett. A first goal on the road is sure to be a huge momentum boost. But getting the first two, Starrett said, was essential for setting the tone.
“The whole game is about gaining momentum right from the start,” he said. “After we score the first goal the next shift is always a huge shift. Teams are going to come back after the first goal. We knew the whole game was going to be a battle so we just had to compete.”
Sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan reclaimed the team lead in goals after a deflecting a shot from senior defenseman Patrick McCarron past Hayton with just 3.6 seconds left before first intermission. With a three-goal lead heading into the locker room, Cornell also had more than double St. Lawrence’s shot total, leading 15-7 in that category.
Then, the hints of games of Cornell past began to set in. St. Lawrence’s Ben Masella got his first of the year almost exactly halfway into the second frame, then Joe Sullivan cut the deficit to one under two minutes later.
“We’ve been in this situation before,” Starrett said. “We knew what it took to compete for the last 20 minutes of the game. It starts with our leaders and our captains. Once we see they’re doing all the little things right, it gives [us all] the confidence to push through as well.”
Going along with Starrett’s comments, it was the senior captain Jake Weidner that got Cornell back to a multi-goal lead a few minutes into the third. Senior goaltender Mitch Gillam turned away all 12 shots the Saints threw at him in the final period — 27 overall — and Cornell secured the two points to boost by St. Lawrence in the league standings.
“Big win for us,” Schafer said.
Now, Cornell will travel 10 miles north when the men take on Clarkson (14-13-4, 9-8-2) in Potsdam. The Red and Golden Knights last met Jan. 20, when junior forward Trevor Yates scored two second-half goals to salvage a tie at home. It was a game where Schafer was highly critical of his squad, calling out the missing intensity that was needed to get two points as opposed to one.
Clarkson hosted Colgate Friday, blanking the Raiders by a score of 3-0 for Jake Kielly’s third shutout of the season, this time turning away 23 shots. Forward Sam Vigneault scored all three of the Golden Knights’ goals and had two assists when he last met Cornell. He outpaces the rest of his teammates in points by a margin of nine, good enough for 32 overall.
Puck drop is at 7 p.m. from Clarkson’s Cheel Arena as Cornell looks to distance itself from the lower portion of the field.