A recent trend for the men’s hockey team has been to give up a few too many goals in highly-anticipated non-conference contests over Thanksgiving break, as the Red fell to Boston University in Madison Square Garden last year, 6-3. At unranked North Dakota this break, No. 12 Cornell suffered another Thanksgiving rout on Friday, 7-3, but came back to win the next day, 2-1.
“It was very similar to [Boston University], even in the score,” said senior forward Evan Barlow. “Madison Square Garden … seemed to go by really fast, and it was the same with Game 1 [at North Dakota]. We had a chance to settle in in Game 2, and it would probably have been the same if we played Boston University [a second time].”'
The adjustment, however, came after the Red (5-1-2, 4-0-2 ECAC Hockey) took its first loss of the year in Game 1, which was broadcast nationally on the NHL Network. Though the squads exchanged leads and were knotted at 2 going into the second period, North Dakota (5-8-1, 4-5-1 WCHA) scored four third-period goals, including two from Matt Frattin, who netted a hat trick in the contest.
“It was a battle all the way through,” said North Dakota head coach Dave Hakstol in the postgame press conference. “We got a couple late ones that stretched the lead a little bit, but it was anybody’s game through 50 minutes.”
Cornell looked to be pressuring early, in fact, as freshman Sioux goaltender Brad Eidsness was forced to stop two consecutive shots two and a half minutes in from senior co-alternate captain Jared Seminoff and senior co-captain Michael Kennedy. On the Red’s next trip to the Sioux zone, freshman forward Locke Jillson opened scoring with a lofted shot over Eidsness’ shoulder at the 2:43 mark.
The Red also got goals from junior co-captain Colin Greening and sophomore forward Riley Nash, but the Sioux went into the third with a 3-2 lead and then took control, outshooting the Red 15-5 in the final period.
The Red’s penalty kill — which went into the game ranked first in the nation — surrendered three goals on seven attempts, one in each of the three periods, while the Cornell power play went 0-for-4.
“We weren’t pressuring hard enough,” said Seminoff, a defenseman, of the Red’s penalty kill struggles on Friday. “They’re a skill team, so [when you let them] they’ll keep coming.”
After Frattin beat Scrivens 1-on-1 for the fifth Sioux tally of the night, the Red pulled the junior netminder with 12:43 to go in favor of freshman Mike Garman. In his first collegiate action in the net, Garman allowed the final two goals and tallied eight saves. Scrivens and Sioux starting netminder Brad Eidsness each finished with 21 saves in the contest.
“It was nice to see us finally get a few things that bounced our way,” Hakstol said after Game 1. “We haven’t had a whole lot of that, especially on the offensive side of the game. Maybe that’ll loosen us up a little bit.”
That momentum was not enough to carry North Dakota to victory the next day, however, as things did not bounce the host team’s way and a low-scoring Game 2 ended in the Red’s favor.
“We didn’t have the same jump in our legs [as on Friday],” Hakstol said. “Tonight we have a disallowed goal that goes against us and the game-winner bounces off one of their forwards, and those are things that you have to deal with.”
Senior Sioux captain Ryan Duncan’s first-period goal was disallowed by the officials for goaltender interference — from video replay, it was determined that North Dakota’s Chris Vande Velde ran into Scrivens before Duncan’s shot.
Red co-captain Kennedy opened the scoring for real with a tally late in the second. North Dakota evened it up 14:37 into the third.
With three seconds remaining on a North Dakota power play, the Sioux were trying frantically to put the puck away — in the confusion, North Dakota’s Brad Miller collected a rebound and found freshman forward Brett Hextall waiting at the back post and the Cornell goal wide open.
Though Hextall tied it up at 1, the Sioux momentum would be short-lived. The Red capitalized on its own man advantage two minutes later.
Junior Brendon Nash set up Barlow, whose one-timer from the right faceoff circle bounced off Greening’s arm into the goal with just over three minutes to play. Barlow was originally credited with the goal, but a video replay revealed that Greening’s arm deflected the puck past Eidsness.
“Anyway it goes in, I’ll take it,” Barlow said.
The senior also assisted on Greening’s goal the night before.
“I think we were all feeling pretty confident after that goal,” Hextall said. “Everyone believed we were going to do it after that and finally get our first sweep [of the year]. Unfortunately, that’s how hockey is. You get called for penalties, [there is] bad timing and [Cornell] got a bounce. … We knew we had to be careful after the two penalties, they’d be gunning for us, and they got us.”
The Sioux thought that the Red dictated the style of play on Saturday. The Red penalty-killing unit had much better luck, for example, killing off 8-of-9 Sioux power plays. Scrivens was also back in form on Saturday, making 22 saves and allowing just the single goal.
Cornell didn’t follow its systems on Friday, according Seminoff, and the improvement from game to game was clear to the other team the next day.
“They’re a good defensive team,” Hextall said after Saturday’s game. “A bunch of goals [on Friday] were rebounds right around the crease area, and we didn’t get any of those tonight.”
“[Scrivens] is a great goaltender,” added Duncan, who scored on a North Dakota 5-on-3 in Friday’s game, “but we felt like he was fighting the puck a little bit this weekend and he was leaving some rebounds there. But their d-men and their forwards did a great job collapsing down to the net [on Saturday].”
With each game in North Dakota’s Ralph Engelstad Arena drawing over 11,000 spectators, the non-conference matchup offered similar challenges to last year’s Thanksgiving meeting at Madison Square Garden.
“It was similar [Madison Square Garden] in that there were a lot of distractions,” Seminoff said. “That was an amazing rink, a million-dollar rink … and we were more used to it the next day.”