This post has been updated.
For a Cornell men’s hockey team that entered Saturday’s tilt dominating a majority of the teams it came across thus far, the Red was never able to find its groove against Clarkson — the only other remaining undefeated team in conference play — which was visiting Ithaca for the first time since last season’s ECAC quarterfinals series at Lynah.
Saturday’s top-10 matchup between Cornell (7-1, 5-1 ECAC) and Clarkson (10-3-1, 6-0) would determine who sat alone atop of the conference. And in the pivotal early-season bout, the Golden Knights scored twice in each of the first two periods, manhandling Cornell for the 4-0 win to end the Red’s undefeated start to the year.
“Give Clarkson all the credit in the world, I thought they played a great game,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said following his team’s first loss. “They played a lot grittier. They took it to us in all facets of the game.”
As a program full of talented freshmen facing their first loss of the season, Schafer put a majority of the blame on the upperclassmen, saying that they did not show the typical leadership qualities they portray to come away on top.
“The old guys tonight need a kick in the ass from how they played,” he said. “They’re the ones that [have to] lead the young guys to show how upset they are with regards to losing that kind of game on our home ice.”
Things got off to an uncharacteristically rocky start for the Red. Within the first minute of the game, sophomore defenseman Yanni Kaldis was sent to the penalty box for tripping, sending out the nation’s best penalty kill team, which had a 94.3 percent success rate entering Saturday’s matchup.
It seemed as though the penalty killing unit would once again bail their team out. That is, until the final three seconds of the Clarkson man-advantage, when Golden Knights freshman defenseman Jere Astren tried a one-timer from the point, ripping it past freshman goalie Matthew Galajda’s glove to give Clarkson the early 1-0 lead just 2:53 into the game.
Things would not get any easier for the Red in the opening period, as Clarkson kept up the relentless offensive pressure. Freshman Jack Jacome took the puck from Cornell sophomore forward Jeff Malott and raced down to the Red’s goal, sliding the puck past Galajda to give the Golden Knights another tally at the 14:39 mark of the opening frame.
“The second game goal … we had guys that were upperclassmen standing in the crease, watching their guys take a whack at [the puck],” Schafer said. “That goal was a killer, but that goes back to mental preparation. It wasn’t just on [Galajda], it was on all of us.”
Cornell seemed to generate some chances for itself in the second period but was unable to get anything past Clarkson netminder Jake Kielly.
“Definitely we didn’t create as [many chances] as we would have liked to,” said junior captain and forward Mitch Vanderlaan. “I don’t think we were as good as we could have been on entries, either, but we’ll all get together and go over the power plays and sort that out in the coming days.”
Senior forward Jared Fiegl later had a pass sent to him through the air, catching the Clarkson defender off guard. Fiegl only had Kielly left to beat.
After the opportunity in on Kielly, Fiegl began to celebrate and Lynah erupted, as it seemed like the Red cut the deficit to one. But the puck hit the post and bounced out, and with no-call by the referees, play continued on and left Cornell scoreless.
After another one-on-one chance with Kielly, this time when junior forward Anthony Angello’s shot on goal was deflected wide, Clarkson got the save and came back with the counterattack. On the Red side of the ice, Clarkson’s Devin Brosseau gathered the puck and sent the pass to his teammate Sheldon Rempal, who took two touches to send the Knights to a 3-0 lead.
Cornell freshman defenseman Alex Green was then sent to the penalty box after being called for a hold to give Clarkson yet another power play. Just 28 seconds into the man-advantage, Rempal recorded another point as he sent the puck to Terrance Amorosa, who ripped it near the blue line into the upper-right corner of the Cornell net. It gave Clarkson the 4-0 lead, which ended up being the final scoreline of the game for the Golden Knights’ fourth shutout of the season.
“It’s not so much what they did right. It’s what we failed to do,” Kaldis said. “Today came down to a few missed blocked shots, just things like that, they found their way to the back of the net, that stuff happens.”
All game long Cornell looked like a shell of the squad that started its season 7-0. A team that only gave up nine goals all season entering Saturday gave up four in the first two periods alone, and was successful in only 67 percent of its penalty kills, compared to just over 94 percent heading into Saturday. It never found its groove on offense either, being outshot by Clarkson, 23-15 and going 0-6 on power plays.
Cornell, now 7-1 on the year, will look to rebound when it hosts Niagara Tuesday night.
“We should definitely have confidence moving forward,” Kaldis added. “It’s our first loss of the year. It’s not the end of the world [but] we have to have our best game of year on Tuesday.”