What does not kill you, apparently, only makes you stronger.
Or so proved the men’s hockey team on Friday night, climbing out of a two-goal deficit in the third period to shock Princeton 3-2 in overtime on a goal by junior David Kozier at Lynah Rink.
Coming in the first game of the ECAC quarterfinals, the victory put the Red just one step away from clinching a spot in the conference Final Five Tournament in Lake Placid next weekend.
But just minutes into the third period, earning a ticket to Lake Placid looked as if it was nothing more than a pipe dream. The Tigers had just scored a pair of goals in the first 1:24 of the period, digging a monstrous hole for the Red to fall into.
“Things were looking pretty bleak there,” admitted head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was not the way we wanted to start the third period.”
Only 26 seconds into the third, Princeton’s David Schneider backhanded a shot into the left side of the net. After 40 minutes of watching Cornell have the best scoring opportunities, the Lynah crowd was stunned by the Tigers’ goal.
And it took another blow at 1:24 when Princeton’s Shane Campbell put his team ahead 2-0 with a solo effort. In the process, he barreled into the Cornell net, knocking junior goaltender Matt Underhill out of his crease. Underhill, with his helmet thrown aside, looked shocked, and an entire season’s hope for the Red were rapidly evaporating.
What could have been a knock-out punch, however, instead appeared to fortify Cornell’s will to win.
“We bounced back pretty quickly. We kept skating hard and kept playing as we been the whole game,” Kozier said.
The Red’s first goal came by way of a little fortuitous luck. Two minutes after Princeton’s second goal, freshman Ryan Vesce attempted a centering pass across the Tigers crease that inadvertently ricocheted off a defenseman’s skate through Princeton goalie Dave Stathos’ five-hole.
The score was on the power play.
“I was trying to pass to Sammy [Paolini] across the crease,” Vesce explained. “It had a great bounce and went off the defenseman’s leg.”
But even if it was Lady Luck’s benevolent hand that put Cornell on the board, the team then used that momentum to mount its comeback.
“Once [Vesce] got that first goal, you kinda sensed that everyone lifted back up to where we were right at the start of the game,” Underhill said.
Vesce found his way onto the scoresheet again, at 11:21 of the third, this time fully by his own merit. A minute prior, Princeton’s Kirk Lamb found himself relegated to the penalty box for a double-minor. After drawing a holding penalty, Lamb slammed into Underhill