The men’s ice hockey team (12-10-5, 10-7-3 ECAC) seems to have acquired a masochistic affinity for digging itself into an early hole. Catch-up mode has become a necessity for Cornell during the last few games. But unlike last weekend against Vermont, this Saturday night, the team’s early 1-0 deficit quickly became a quicksand trap. And try as it might, Cornell could never pull itself out, sinking instead deeper and deeper into the Clarkson quagmire, finally succumbing 2-0 to the Golden Knights, in Potsdam, N.Y., and missing a golden opportunity to make a move further up the ECAC ladder.
Just 57 seconds into the contest, Clarkson’s Matt Poapst set himself up just to the left of Cornell junior netminder Matt Underhill’s goal. Taking a feed from Rob McFeeters, he one-timed a score, sending the Cheel Arena crowd into a frenzy. And with that score, not only did Poapst put the Red at a 1-0 disadvantage, but he also set a dominant tone for the Knights that would maintain its presence throughout the rest of the contest.
While Clarkson added an insurance goal by McFeeters at 17:38 of the third, it was apparent that Cornell just wasn’t ready to threaten the number two team in the conference.
After a Friday night that had seen the Red muster 35-plus shots in a loss to St. Lawrence, the squad — plagued by sloppy, inconsistent play — had just 18 chances against Clarkson goaltender Mike Walsh.
“They played very well defensively,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. They did a good job of limiting our offensive chances.
“We didn’t have the same the same zip and energy level [as we did against St. Lawrence].”
Be it a lack of intensity or untimely technical lapses, Cornell’s offense never looked sharp during the game, most likely because Clarkson never allowed the Red to develop any sort of offensive rhythm. In the middle period particularly, the team was forced to kill of three consecutive penalties, leaving it little opportunity to build momentum offensively. On the other end of the spectrum, a very disciplined Clarkson squad was called for only one penalty, choking the power-play success that has driven the Red offense.
Nonetheless, Cornell remained in striking distance of the Knights for nearly the entire game. Much of that credit goes to the Clarkson forwards, who nulled two possible goals due to crease violations.
The Knights finally nailed down the victory late in the third period just as Cornell, clearly sensing the urgency, began to pepper Walsh’s goal with shots. But McFeeters abruptly brushed past two defenders in the Cornell zone at 17:38, and snuck a puck past Underhill.
If this weekend’s slate against the top two teams in the conference was a test of the Red’s playing mettle, it now becomes Cornell’s choice whether dive into late season spiral or to learn from it.
“It’s obviously pretty disheartening to come in and lose two games in our position,” said senior captain Danny Powell. “But you can think of it in a positive way and that’s what we’re all trying to do. It’s a lesson we have to learn going into the playoffs. Good teams will beat you if you don’t put a 100 percent effort in.”
“It’s good to play good teams at the end of the year. They challenge you,” said Schafer.
Because of losses by Dartmouth and Harvard, the Red remains in third place despite the zero-point weekend. Now looms a home series against RPI and Union this weekend, which will decide whether Cornell can solidify its position and avoid the need to participate in a possible play-in game at the Final Five Tournament.
“We want to enter the playoffs with a couple of wins at Lynah,” Powell said.
Added Underhill, “We’re still a damn good hockey team.”
Archived article by Shiva Nagaraj