For an in-depth, blow-by-blow recap of the 2-1 game two win, click here.
The ability to overcome adversity — highlighted by the regular season finish given several key injuries — served as the the mantra for Cornell men’s hockey after Friday night’s meltdown against Clarkson. An unexpected 6-2 lost against the Golden Knights could have easily been a demoralizing way to head into game two. Instead, it was the push the team needed to extend its season.
With the team’s back against the wall and facing ECAC tournament elimination, the Red got the essential response to force a deciding game three thanks to a 2-1 win Saturday night.
“We knew we had our hands full coming into the series anyway, but to get down in the first game and get beat like that [was tough].” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “[Tonight was] the kind of game that we needed to bounce back.”
Resiliency was the key word for the team entering Saturday. Even if a series sweep did not explicitly eliminate Cornell from the NCAA tournament, it would certainly not help the cause. With that in mind, Schafer elected to shake up his lineup by substituting sophomore forward Luc Lalor in for junior Dwyer Tschantz on the fourth line.
Lalor had only one game under his belt this season, and just three more over his career due to injuries sustained the preseason leading up to his freshman season. Despite the lack of experience, the head coach liked what he saw from Lalor in the team’s biggest game of the season.
“He made a couple plays tonight, he was good defensively and did a good job on the backcheck,” Schafer said of the Alberta-native. “We were looking for that, and he did a good job.”
That type of spark was needed, because unlike in game one, the Red came out faster and like a team with something to play for on Saturday. Even though the team failed to keep plenty of action out of its own zone, senior defenseman Patrick McCarron took on the role of a forward with less than eight minutes to play in the opening frame, going coast to coast only to be denied by Clarkson goalie Jake Kielly.
Seconds later, senior forward Eric Freschi found McCarron back towards his natural point spot, and the alternate captain blasted a one-timer that deflected off a Clarkson player and in. IThe Red entered the first intermission with the most important stat of them all: its first lead of the series.
“We had all the guys going, one line going after another,” said sophomore forward Anthony Angello, who also praised his team’s depth and ability to seamlessly sub in a player like Lalor.
Angello would tack on the eventual game-winner 8:50 into the third when he called his own number driving into the offensive zone with senior linemate Jeff Kubiak. Later, with under two to play, Clarkson’s Juho Jokiharju cut the deficit to one with the game in its waning minutes. Just minutes earlier, Jokiharju sent a shot on senior goalie Mitch Gillam, who never saw the puck that hit iron.
In those crucial, final minutes following Jokiharju’s tally, Gillam continued to stand on his head, and the team from Ithaca was allowed to perform its postgame salute to the Lynah Faithful knowing there was more hockey to be played.
While it was unclear what the root of Friday night’s blowout may be, a mixture of rust, jitters and a solid opponent seemed the be a general consensus as to contributing factors. But Angello noticed a cooling down Saturday night, and getting back to the team’s systems lead to the season-salvaging victory.
“[Friday] we were overthinking it,” he said. “[Saturday] we just stuck to the basics and stuck to the process and to the things that made us successful throughout the whole year.”
The team now looks to game three, which comes in the form of a 4 p.m. start time on Sunday — early enough without considering the culmination with daylight savings this time of year. But due to what seemed like a pretty safe bet that this series would go three games, Schafer says he and his coaching staff instilled a simulation over the bye week in anticipation of a Sunday afternoon tilt.
“I loved our energy that we played with last Friday after having such tough practices Wednesday and Thursday,” he said. “So the energy will be there and the effort will be there [on Sunday].”
And with four games between the two squads already, Schafer is not expecting any surprises in the series finale.
“When you play teams in back to back games like this the secrets get less and less. You get more and more familiar with players on the other team,” he said. “It’s not about adjustments, its about execution. And that’s what both teams will be trying to do tomorrow night.”