Even after the last fans had filed out of Harvard’s Bright Hockey Center on Friday night, after the last post-game interviews were recorded, after the Zamboni had made its last rounds, the clock on the scoreboard was still stuck at 3:46. It was that moment of the overtime session last Friday night that will remain vivid in the minds of the Cornell faithful for many years to come.
If ever anything could be done to intensify the heated rivalry between the two programs, Crimson centerman Brett Nowak might have found it. Just over a minute into the overtime period, the junior slipped the puck past senior netminder Matt Underhill to send the Crimson to an improbable 4-3 victory. It was the first time Cornell (4-1-0, 2-1-0, ECAC) had fell victim to Harvard (2-2-1, 2-2-1, ECAC) in Cambridge under head coach Mike Schafer ’86, who assumed the reigns of the program in 1995.
Cornell entered the weekend series riding a streak of 36 straight successful penalty kills. The penalty kill unit, anchored by senior David Francis and sophomore Shane Palahicky, remained solid on the first two tries but was permeated on the next opportunity as winger Tim Petit found the back of the net to allow the Crimson to draw first blood. Harvard would maintain the 1-0 lead as the horn sounded ending the first period. The inability to score has troubled Cornell in the first period all season, with only four of its 20 goals coming in the opening stanza.
“I thought we had a lot of good scoring opportunities in the first period,” Schafer said. “We just couldn’t find the back of the net. We got things going a little bit in the second period.”
Cornell appeared rejuvenated following the intermission and it was not long before the visitors got on the scoreboard. Just over two minutes into the period, freshman Mike Iggulden collected the puck and sent it up the right boards to junior linemate Sam Paolini. Paolini skated in and just below the face-off circle he connected on a well-placed pass to senior Krzysztof Wieckowski. Wieckowski completed the series by riffling a shot past Harvard’s freshman goalkeeper Dov Grumet-Morris to even the score. The rookie started in place of Will Crothers, who was confined to the bench nursing an illness. Grumet-Morris would ultimately represent the difference in the game, as he showcased a stellar effort, turning aside 23 Cornell shots on the night.
Crother’s absence, coupled with the loss of second-leading scorer Dominic Moore, appeared to anoint the Crimson as underdogs, but late game heroics and Grumet-Morris’ outstanding performance would help lead to Cornell’s demise. However, for most of the second and third periods, the game’s ultimate outcome seemed unlikely.
Following the Wieckowski goal, Harvard’s Blair Barlow was whistled for tripping, and although the Red was unable to score on the resultant man advantage, it did appear to shift the momentum in Cornell’s direction. The visitors garnered a multitude of solid scoring chances in the next few minutes and tightened their play at the other end of the ice, limiting Harvard to just seven shots.
The third period saw the Red uncharacteristically surrender two leads. Cornell began the period on the power play, a unit that has been its staple this season. Entering the game, the Red had made good on nine of its 22 man-up opportunities, but the team had fanned on its first three chances Friday evening. Twelve seconds into the final frame, junior captain Stephen B