February 4, 2002

Downs tallies first collegiate marker as Red shuts out Bears, takes first in ECAC

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This time there would be no pre-game festivities. No fish, here. No acrimonious rivalry. Fans kept filing in through the middle of the first period. Normalcy returned to Lynah Rink on Saturday evening, one day after Cornell destroyed the hated Crimson of Harvard, 6-3. But despite the lesser amount of fanfare, the Red (15-5-1, 11-2-1, ECAC) played well enough to defeat visiting Brown (8-11-2, 4-8-2, ECAC), 2-0. The victory extends Cornell’s win streak to six, its longest since the 1987-88 season. The win, coupled with a Harvard to leaves the Red atop the ECAC; five points in front of its nearest competition.

After a battle with the hated Crimson the previous evening, it was natural that the Red did not enter the match with Brown with equal intensity. Yet, despite having nothing to show for it on the scoreboard, the Red dominated the first period, out-shooting the Bears, 13-2.

“It was not quite the start we had last night, but I was pleased coming out of the first period that we responded the way we did,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.

“Everyone in town was talking about the game last night. It was such a great sporting event. It was difficult for everyone to focus on the task at hand, but we outshoot them 13-2. We didn’t give them very many scoring chances, if any,” he continued.

Cornell controlled the play early on and garnered a few chances in the middle of the first stanza. Sophomore Ryan Vesce had a beautiful feed from the net for classmate Scott Krahn, who fanned on a shot from just outside the left side of the crease. The Red used strong play along the boards to generate most of its 25 shots. Particularly in the opening period, Brown appeared to keep the middle open allowing the Red to set up several shots in the slot.

“I think we moved our feet a lot better in the offensive zone than in the past. We forced the other team to move their feet defensively. We forced them to make decisions,” Schafer said when asked to comment on his team’s offensive breakout.

The second period proved to be the decisive one though.

“We knew we dominated the first period. We wanted to get the first goal and be more thorough around the net, and we did that,” junior forward Sam Paolini said, explaining the team’s mindset going into the middle frame.

It didn’t take long for the Red to accomplish that mission. Just over five minutes in, senior Denis Ladouceur eluded a defender behind the net and slid the puck in front to a wide-open Matt McRae who lifted it past Brown net minder Yann Danis for the 1-0 lead.

At the other end of the ice, Cornell freshman goalie David LeNeveu continued his stellar play. Brown was unable to score, despite having three power plays in the period, largely due to the efforts of the rookie sensation. He might have posted one of the best-looking saves of the season at the 9:21 mark, when he was able to get his blocker up on a blistering wide-angle shot off the stick of Bear’s defenseman Paul Esdale.

“The key to the game was that David played well in the second period and that we capitalized on a few of our opportunities. He was very solid throughout the course of the night,” Schafer said.

Paolini agreed, adding, “[LeNeveu] played super. That’s all you can really ask out of a freshman. He’s on fire.”

A modest LeNeveu accorded most of the credit for his outstanding effort to his teammates.

“It feels great,” he said after posting his second shutout of the season. “Guys are playing very well and that helps in keeping my shots down. Any shots I do get, the rebounds are cleared fairly easily. The guys are playing great in front of me.”

The Red was able to afford itself a little breathing room when freshman defenseman Jeremy Downs tallied his first collegiate goal at the 16:10 mark. Centerman senior Krzysztof Wieckowski sent the puck toward the net where it deflected off the skate of the rookie. Initially the tally was scored as Wieckowski, but the senior informed the scorer that Downs should be credited with the goal.

“Makes you more comfortable on defense in a close game. It puts a damper on Brown’s play,” the freshman said of his marker.

The circumstances might have been less than ideal for the milestone, but Downs, who was presented with the goal-scoring puck by Wieckowski was no less satisfied.

“I pictured it me beating five guys down the ice and making some sick move and putting it in the top corner. I’ll take it, it’s my first one so I’ll take anything,” Downs said.

Brown, who has developed a reputation lately as a Goliath slayer, having defeated No. 9 UMass-Lowell and then No. 2 St. Cloud. Play broke down a bit as the third period wore on. The Bears, not usually regarded as a scrappy club appeared frustrated but despite five chances, the home side was unable to convert on the power play which went a less than stellar one-for-nine on the weekend. The unit has struggled all season with consistency

Wieckowski expressed optimism with the No. 5 power play unit also.

“Teams are starting to camp out on some of our players [on the power play], but we adjust to that. There are five guys out there who can score goals and there are only four guys on their team so there is not much luck on their side,” he reasoned.

On the other side of the puck, the Cornell penalty kill was in fine form, stymieing five Brown power plays, including two crucial ones in the final period. The unit has surrendered just seven man-advantage goals on the season is best in the ECAC.

“The penalty kill was great tonight. It’s fortunate that it was. Brown has a good power play. They move the puck around pretty well,” Schafer said.

Overall, Cornell’s defense was equally sweltering. The Red was outstanding the neutral zone, thwarting nearly every chance Brown had to set up.

Having won six in a row, the icers are playing with an unmistakable swagger.

Said Paolini: “We’re riding high right now. We really feel invincible. We feel like we can beat any team in the nation. It’s a great feeling knowing that guys are going to step up. We’re just going to keep adding to the fire.”

Archived article by Gary Schueller