After Friday night’s game against Princeton, members of the Cornell men’s hockey team (16-5-1, 11-2-1 ECAC) shuffled into the after-game press conference expressionless and indifferent. They looked nothing like players that had just beaten Princeton (7-15-0, 6-9-0) 5-1, but ones who were disappointed in themselves.
“I didn’t think we played very well tonight. I think it was the sloppiest game we played in a while. We weren’t sharp, and we played a little too wide open to my liking,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
Lack of physicality and poor play in the transition game had Cornell on its heels during much of the beginning of the game. The Tigers, who had only accrued 17 shots on goal in the previous meeting between the two teams — a 4-0 Cornell win – had 10 by the end of the first period, and 28 overall. The Red, which rarely allows its opponents room near the net, did not show up for most of the first, and faded in and out all night long.
“[The defense was] sub par compared to how we normally play,” senior defenseman Brian McMeekin admitted. “Being a defensive person, I wasn’t happy with all the chances we gave up. They played well. They were moving their feet down low.”
Sophomore Greg Hornby commented on the lack of physical intensity: “It wasn’t the most physical game, especially in the first period. We didn’t have too many hits.”
Senior goaltender Matt Underhill noted other problems: “We turned it over a lot at the blueline; we got the puck out of the zone, but they were taking away the middle.”
“We weren’t putting shifts together back to back,” McMeekin added.
Were it not for the stellar play of Underhill, who made saves from point-blank range more than once, Princeton could have easily jumped out to a commanding lead.
“Matt stood on his head tonight and made a lot of big stops,” McMeekin said.
However it was Cornell that got on the board first. Freshman Mike Iggulden, coming back from a head injury during the Harvard game, brought the puck over the blueline and straight towards the goal, pulling Princeton goalie Dave Stathos out of position. He fed McMeekin, who was waiting outside the crease and had an open net to shoot at. It was McMeekin’s first goal of the year and third of his career.
“I thought it was a great play by Mike Iggulden, just a fantastic play there to score the first goal,” Schafer said.
“Its’ nice to get [a goal] when I can and contribute a goal to our team,” McMeekin said, adding, “Whenever you get an early goal, it always helps to get the game going and get us fired up.”
The goal, although important, didn’t fire up the Red for the duration of the first period. Aside from two successful penalty kills, Cornell continued its lackluster play against the pressuring Tigers.
The pace picked up in the second period, as Cornell was able to distance itself from the upstart Tigers.
“In the second, we came out and started to play physical, and we got turnovers. We carried the play in the second period, but we definitely didn’t do that in the first period,” Schafer said.
“We came out slow in the first period. We came out in the second period, got some goals and were rollin’ from there,” Underhill agreed.
Only 1:20 into the second, junior Doug Murray found classmate Matt McRae on a break. McRae took the puck to the top right corner to make the score 2-0.
Four minutes later, senior David Kozier was the next Cornellian to score. Freshman Jeremy Downs assisted on the goal.
The defensive play improved, but Underhill proved fallible, giving up Princeton’s lone tally.
Brad Parsons collected the puck behind the Red net and started up the boards when he found teammate Josh Roberts making his way to the Cornell crease. Parsons rifled the puck to Roberts who beat Underhill at 12:32 of the second period.
Cornell rebounded quickly on a David Francis goal less than two minutes later, which also ended the scoring in the second, 4-1 in favor of Cornell.
The Red entered the third period on a power play chance but was unable to capitalize. Cornell’s unit was 0 for 4 on the night.
“We didn’t move the puck very well today. The puck movement always makes the power play really clickin’,” Schafer said.
Both teams had chances, but Cornell still dominated, putting 16 shots on goal and scoring once more. With just over two minutes left in the game, Palahicky found Hornby on a rush and placed the puck over Stathos’ right shoulder.
“It’s nice to spread the offense around and get guys who don’t score too often. I don’t get too many goals so it’s nice to get one,” Hornby said.
In fact, 12 different Cornellians were awarded points, and Palahicky was the only skater to accumulate more than one.
“It’s an advantage for our team because we don’t need one person every night to try to lead the team in scoring. We get contributions from everybody, and that takes pressure off of one guy, or one line,” McMeekin said.
“The strength of our hockey team is being well balanced,” Schafer said. “Guys have played very well tonight that carried our hockey team, and the other guys who weren’t very sharp were very fortunate that those guys did play well tonight, but the bottom line is wins.”
The Red came away from the game with the mentality that they were fortunate to win. The victory gave the team a seven-game winning streak, the longest since the ’84-’85 season.
Archived article by Amanda Angel