When sophomore defenseman Matt Nuttle — one of Cornell men’s hockey’s dependable, unsung heroes — scored late in the third period to give his team a lead, it looked like the Red was going to accomplish something it has not done since the 2004-05 season: a sweep of North Country on the road.
But on his senior night, Clarkson’s Troy Josephs got his team back tied less than a minute after Nuttle’s go-ahead goal for his second of the night. Just over two minutes was all that separated Cornell from breaking a decade-long drought, and the team ultimately exited the weekend road trip with three out of four points after Friday’s win at St. Lawrence.
“Disappointed” — emphasized several times — and “pissed off” were the words head coach Mike Schafer ’86 used to describe his team’s performance against Clarkson.
Cornell (17-6-4, 12-4-4 ECAC) took five power plays on the night, not capitalizing on a single one and garnering seven of its 26 total shots on the man-advantage. By comparison, Clarkson’s (14-13-5, 9-8-3) power play sent six shots at senior goalie Mitch Gillam in one fewer try than the Red. Neither team scored on special teams, however.
The player who closed the scoring against St. Lawrence opened it the next night against Clarkson. Senior forward Jake Weidner got Cornell on the board first 9:12 into the first period thanks to heavy net traffic. Clarkson would get the next two — one from Devin Brosseau and Josephs’ first — to give the Golden Knights their only lead of the game.
Sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan sent a one-timer from the slot past Clarkson’s Jake Kielly to knot the game back up, then Nuttle’s wrister from circles less than four minutes later regained Cornell its short lead. Josephs’ second goal in the third period’s waning minutes meant overtime was coming.
For the second-straight meeting, the two teams entered overtime locked up at three, and it ended in a tie yet again. Cornell carried a power play into the extra frame, but Schafer was highly critical of that power play’s lackluster showing in particular. “Disappointed” was that word he used, yet again
The final buzzer blew, and a wild game ultimately ended in a rather mundane way: both teams receiving a single point.
Despite narrowly missing out on a win, the weekend was not short of its rewards for Cornell. The team’s unbeaten streak now sits at seven to go along with the Red’s clinching of a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament — something the team has not done since 2014.
However, a win on Saturday would have kept Cornell in pace with Harvard, who won both of its games over the weekend and is poised to make a run at first with a game in hand over Union. A win could have put Cornell one point behind the Crimson, but instead, that gap is now two.
“We want more than just the bye,” Schafer said. “That’s why getting up to the top of the league was so important. It’s something we strive for and one of our goal to get home ice, but right now we have to address where we are with some of our guys … because we just did not play very well.”
However, it is hard to look past what the team has accomplished as of late. After dropping two heartbreakers against Harvard and Dartmouth at home, Cornell has not lost since, earning 12 of the possible 14 points available. The team now sits two points ahead of St. Lawrence for third in the league, and clinching a bye in the ECAC tournament is certainly something to smile about.
The team is still never satisfied, and Cornell will have one last chance to prove itself against the league’s top-ranked Union and bottom-of-the-league RPI this coming weekend back in the confines of Lynah Rink.