BURLINGTON, VT. — The McRae family scored a hat trick as junior Matt McRae notched two, and twin brother Mark added another as Cornell beat Vermont 5-2 Saturday night. With the win the Red (18-6-1, 14-3-1 ECAC) finally clinched home ice for the first round of the ECAC playoffs and retained a seven-point conference lead over second-place Dartmouth.
Rebounding off a tough 1-0 overtime loss and perhaps surrendering the Ivy Title to the Green the night before, Cornell let out its frustrations on the maligned Catamounts (3-22-2, 3-14-1), staging a shooting clinic through the first 40 minutes.
In the first period alone, Cornell scored more goals (three) than Vermont had shots (two). Starting goalie Tim Peters, who had replaced Shawn Conschafter in the previous night’s game (a 5-3 loss to Colgate) let in three of 13 shots.
“[Dartmouth] held us back last night, they weren’t going to hold us back tonight,” Matt McRae said. “We have the offense, we have pretty good depth, we have four strong lines and we play together.”
Matt McRae got the Red on the board first on a rare goal from the power play’s second unit. With Greg Zemple’s penalty counting down, McRae faked a shot to Peters’s left, drawing the netminder out of position in time to poke a backhander into the open net four minutes into the game.
“I got the puck wide open and I looked up and there was nothing there, so I faked a shot pulled to the far side, and the goalie, I don’t exactly where he thought I was going, but he left the net so it was nice to have a wide-open cage,” McRae explained.
The Red followed with two equally spaced tallies. Senior assistant captain David Kozier scored at 9:37 when Peters was unable to corral the rebound from junior assistant captain Doug Murray’s shot. Classmate Krzysztof Wieckowski put Cornell up 3-0 when, on a break, he rifled a wrister behind Peter’s right shoulder. Mark McRae and freshman Paul Varteressian, playing in his first game in 2002, assisted on the play.
“I thought the difference in the game last night and tonight was our finish around the net early in the game,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “Matt McRae showed the poise and scored the first one. And David Kozier showed great poise and scored the second one.”
The second period opened much like the first with an early goal from Matt McRae, when freshman Charlie Cook found him on his way to the crease.
But it was his twin brother Mark McRae who got the final Cornell goal midway though the game on the first unit power play. Peters once again couldn’t control the rebound off a Murray slapshot, and the puck found McRae waiting alone in the left faceoff circle. The goal chased Peters out of net as UVM coach Mike Gilligan subbed in Conschafer. Peters stopped 15 of 20 shots.
The Red was unable to give freshman goalie David LeNeveu his third shutout of the season however as Vermont gained momentum behind Conschafer’s competent goaltending. Then Ryan Cox struck with three minutes left in the second, when he took a chance from the slot through a screen.
Sitting on a four-goal lead, Cornell came into the third period more lackadaisical than it had in the first two, as Vermont almost matched the Red’s shots on goal, 10-9.
However, after two obstruction hooking penalties on Matt McRae and Wieckowski gave UVM a five on three advantage with 9 minutes left in the game, the Red broke once more 16 seconds later. The goals, and Vermont’s reinvigoration proved to be too-little-too-late though.
“We gave up a five on three goal which I wasn’t pleased about. But we haven’t had to kill a five on three — we had to kill two of them tonight,” Schafer complained.
As the game came to a close, Schafer began to double-shift Matt McRae, who was in search of his first collegiate hat trick. The last Cornell hat trick came from Kozier against Harvard during his freshman year.
“He had a few opportunities in the course of the game to get it. It would be nice for him to get a hat trick, but I know he’s pretty pleased with the fact that we’re walking out of here with two points tonight,” Schafer commented.
“I had the chance, but it just didn’t happen tonight,” McRae rationalized, adding, “I was feeling good out there and hopefully I’ll get a chance to do it before the season’s over.”
LeNeveu, who didn’t see much action at his end of the rink, stopped 16 of 18 shots.
“I thought [LeNeveu] played solid, I mean he went long stretches without any shots,” Schafer said.
With the loss, UVM moves dangerously close to ECAC playoff elimination. If the Catamounts do not sweep its next two weekends, or Princeton or Yale ties or wins a single game, Vermont will miss extra-season play.
Cornell has accomplished its first hurdle of the season guaranteeing itself home ice for the playoffs.
“Home ice, when it’s Lynah Rink its the sixth player, seventh player, eighth player, ninth player, 10th player. It’s huge, it’s absolutely huge playing at home because teams come in there and they are absolutely intimidated,” McRae stated.
The Red can clinch first-place in the ECAC next weekend with a single win, but the team is concerned with more than a No. 1 seed.
“We’ve got four more games to go and we want to win all four of them and finish off the season very strong,” Schafer said.
Cornell comes home to Lynah next weekend when it hosts St. Lawrence on Friday and Clarkson on Saturday.
Archived article by Amanda Angel