February 11, 2002

Murray sets up Paolini for game winner with 15.6 seconds

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The confidence and swagger surrounding the men’s hockey team is contagious and one needs look no further than the box office.

After the Red extended its season-long win streak to eight games Saturday with a thrilling 3-2 victory over Yale, athletic ticket manager Gene Nighman was preparing for playoff ticket sales.

Great teams find a way to win regardless of the circumstances, and Cornell (17-5-1, 12-2-1, ECAC) now entrenched in the top spot in the ECAC, did just that this weekend. One night after overcoming a lackluster performance to trump Princeton, 5-1, the Red refused to lose, shocking the Elis (6-15-2, 5-9-2) with a game winning goal with 15.7 seconds to play.

“At 2-2, a tie just wasn’t enough for us tonight,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.

For a team that has described itself as invincible, the conclusion came with little surprise.

“We’re a really confident team, and we know we can win every single game,” junior Sam Paolini explained. “We were upbeat on the bench the whole game.”

Unlike the previous evening against the Tigers, the Red emerged strong from the gate, dominating the play in the opening stanza.

Cornell fired off 29 shots, 11 on target, compared to the Eli’s five shots, of which four were on net.

The Red played solidly in the neutral zone, thwarting any attempt by the visitors to establish an offense.

Despite the scoreless tie at the end of the first 20 minutes, Schafer was pleased with his team’s effort.

“I thought we played a great first period,” he said. “I thought all aspects were good, including getting through the neutra VALne. I thought what carried us was that we got our hands to the puck, and we made real good plays. We created an awful lot of chances. To come out of the first at 0-0 was a little bit frustrating from our standpoint.”

Cornell established its momentum in the first period by killing off the Eli’s first power play opportunity. Senior David Francis even garnered a pair of shorthanded backhand-shots that bounced off Yale netminder Dan Lombard.

The visitor’s trademark quickness came to bear in the middle period, evening the pace of the game.

“They have a lot of great team speed. They are able to move the puck well,” freshman goalie David LeNeveu said.

Nonethless, Yale was unable to solve the rookie netminder, and the stingy Cornell defensive corps remained adequate in the middle frame.

“I didn’t think we gave them anything offensively in the second,” Schafer said. “We had a 1-0 game well in hand. We didn’t capitalize on our power plays in the second period, so it was a tight game. In tight games like that, we are pretty comfortable playing.”

The Red drew first blood when junior Mark McRae collected a rebound that came off the stick of sophomore Ryan Vesce and hammered it past Lombard.

Cornell had opportunities to extend its lead. Freshman Mike Iggulden set up senior captain Stephen B