SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — It could not have been the sight head coach Mike Schafer ’86 had envisioned for Cornell’s opening league contest during a year that his team had been cited as possible ECAC champions.
The scoreboard was flashing the final tally of Union 2, Cornell 0. Between the Red’s net, freshman defenseman Ben Wallace had just skated up to console a visibly disappointed junior goalie Matt Underhill. At center ice, Greg Hornby was flat on his back, being pounded by an opponent while the rest of the Cornell squad was entangled in a bench-clearing brawl with the exuberant Skating Dutchmen.
But unfortunately, Schafer had no other option.
Continuing its pattern of futility on the power play, the Red (0-2, 0-1 ECAC) went 0-for-5 on the man-advantage in a 2-0 defeat at the Achilles Rink.
The Skating Dutchmen on the other hand capitalized when they had to. With just 5:17 left in the game, Doug Christiansen scooped up a loose puck just in front of the Cornell and fired it past Underhill’s glove to give Union all the scoring it would need.
“He beat me,” said a tight-lipped Underhill. “That’s it. [It was] just me and him.”
“Their guy was in the right place at the right time,” Schafer elaborated.
Jeff Wilson scored an empty net goal at 19:42 to only add salt to the Red’s wounds.
“We just couldn’t score,” sophomore forward Matt McRae summed up. “We just didn’t produce on the power play, but I don’t know what to say.”
A week after a disheartening 5-3 loss to Sacred Heart, the Red once again had problems finding the back of the net. Going up against one of the ECAC’s most staunch goalies in Brandon Snee, Cornell — despite outshooting Union 31 to 27 — couldn’t steer the puck past him, particularly on the power-play.
Just after Union registered its first goal, the Dutchmen’s Jeff Hutchins took a cross-checking penalty, giving Cornell a perfect opportunity to level the game and escaped the Rink with a point.
After taking a timeout, the Red only managed two shots from the blue-line.
“I thought we created some chances and we got the puck to the net,” Schafer explained. “It’s just a matter of time before it clicks.”
Were it not for Underhill and his defense, the Red might have been defeated by a larger margin.
Even after he allowed the game-winning goal, Underhill stayed alert on his toes, stacking his pads with just over four minutes remaining and denying Jason Ralph.
“Matt played really well,” Schafer said. “He did a real solid job. He just gave us an opportunity to win the game and that’s what you need out of a goaltender.”
After falling 5-3 last week to Sacred Heart, this loss left Cornell clearly frustrated, and the game-ending raucous only proved that point.
With the rink exploding into cheer, the Red collectively dropped its gloves.
“There was no need for that, Underhill commented. “We lost the game fair and square. It wasn’t a chippy game at all, so I don’t think there was any reason for that.”
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj