This post has been updated.
As successful a season as Cornell men’s hockey has been enjoying, and as unsatisfactory one Princeton has endured, the Red entered Friday’s matchup again wary that it could not overlook any opponent — even one it has won six straight games against.
“We’ve got to approach them like they’re the best teams in the country,” was how the team’s leading scorer, senior Trevor Yates, described the mentality needed entering a weekend against Princeton and Quinnipiac — teams that have thus far fallen short of preseason expectations.
Especially since the Tigers entered the weekend fresh off a pair of ties against No. 1 St. Cloud State, a humble approach was as necessary as ever for Cornell on Friday night. But the Red showed an ailing Princeton team why it’s a top-ranked offense and defensive squad, dominating the Tigers, 7-1, to make it 11 Cornell wins out of the past 12 matchups between the two schools, including playoffs.
“I thought we out-played them. They were getting frustrated because we were on top of them and took away their transition game,” said junior forward Anthony Angello, who had two goals on the night. “Ultimately, we got the job done. We buried on our chances and gave up very few.”
In addition to making Cornell 12-2 on the year, the win over Princeton is Cornell’s sixth in ECAC play and came in the team’s first action in the league since a 4-0 loss to Clarkson seven weeks ago.
“That left a really bitter taste in our mouths,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of the Clarkson defeat. “We evaluate ourselves on our effort. … And I can honestly say I don’t think we’ve had a team outwork us since then.”
Dating back to the 2013 playoffs, where Cornell swept the Tigers in the first round of postseason action, Princeton has won just a single contest in 12 contests against the Red. Seemingly always a high-scoring affair, only three of the past 12 tilts were decided by a single goal — Princeton’s lone win in 2014 and two Cornell victories, including one earlier this season.
Since the 2013 playoff series, Cornell has scored at least four goals against the Tigers in all but two matchups. That trend continued Friday night with seven different goals from six different skaters — Cornell’s highest goal total since February of 2008.
“Every guy knows in [our] locker room that they don’t have to shoulder the burden,” Schafer said, pointing to his team’s depth with the multitude of goal-scorers. “Guys are going to work hard every night and whoever scores, scores. There are no egos in there.”
Junior forward Anthony Angello’s fourth tally of the season kicked off the scoring and highlighted what was a quick pace of play to start the night. Cornell tallied six shots on net alone before the halfway point of the opening period, two of which came from Angello in the goal sequence as the junior collected his own rebound to put his team on the board 4:58 into the game.
The Red added another 10 shots before the period’s end, but Princeton netminder Ryan Ferland was able to navigate the onslaught and kept the home team’s lead to just one.
Cornell was the first to score in the middle frame — a period that eventually turned into a goal palooza — but it was the Tigers who dominated play in the first half of the second period. After Cornell sophomore defenseman Yanni Kaldis’ unassisted power play tally, Princeton drew two penalties on a single shift for two minutes of 5-on-3 play. David Hallisey was the final recipient of a tic-tac-toe sequence for Princeton’s first and only goal on the night.
Cornell responded to the Princeton flurry with confidence, adding three more goals in the period and essentially shutting out any glimpse of a Tiger opportunity. First in getting Cornell back on the board was senior captain and forward Alex Rauter, who took a smack at a puck as he was falling to his knees past the left shoulder of Ferland for a highlight reel tally 11:36 into the frame.
Freshman Cam Donaldson notched his first collegiate goal on a breakaway, then Angello’s second rebound goal of the night made it 5-1 to end Ferland’s night. Not long after, junior captain and forward Mitch Vanderlaan welcomed replacement goalie Ben Halford to the game by tipping a point shot from classmate Brendan Smith past the new goalie 4:20 into the third period. Sophomore forward Jeff Malott then sent home a nifty deflection from freshman linemate Kyle Betts to make it a 7-1 final score in favor of Cornell.
Princeton only mustered nine shots after two periods but added 13 in the final frame. Senior goalie Hayden Stewart, starting in his third-straight game, turned aside all but Hallisey’s 5-on-3 shot and has stopped 74 of the past 77 shots he has faced in four appearances.
“Honestly, I thought Hayden was average tonight,” Schafer admitted. “We evaluate everybody not on the score and not on the save percentage. We evaluate them on their composure and I thought he was solid, I don’t think he was great.”
But when the score was already 7-1, Stewart sprawled out to deny Eric Robinson a look at an open net that would have been an otherwise meaningless goal with just a touch over four minutes left to play.
“You can the see love the guys have for him when he laid out to make that save,” Schafer said. “That’s the closeness of our hockey team. Our guys don’t care what the score was, they were just happy he battled back to make that save. Even though he played average, you can still see the pride he had in never giving up on that play. That kind of represents our team.”
The regular season sweep of Princeton gives Cornell — a top-five goals per game team in the country (3.857) — 13 goals in its past two games and 17 in its last three dating back to the win over Miami (OH) before the holiday break. Along with last weekend’s 6-2 rout of Canisius, it’s the first time in 14 years that Cornell has lit the lamp 13 times in a two-game span.
Still owners of the top win percentage in the nation (.857), Cornell returns to action Saturday night at 7 p.m. when it looks to make it a season sweep over Quinnipiac as well.
“Guys are going to come out tomorrow fired up,” Angello said of starting the first of 16 ECAC games to close out the regular season with a win. “We have really great things ahead of us.”