With 9.2 seconds left in Cornell’s opening playoff game against Yale, an Eli icer lobbed the puck over the Red defense and toward net. However, the trick shot did not fool senior goaltender Matt Underhill who simply gloved the airborne shot and gave the Red a 1-0 lead in its best-of-three quarterfinal series.
“[Senior defenseman] Brian [McMeekin] yelled ‘Up Undy Up.’ And I don’t know how it got there, but I did a Willie Mays play there,” Underhill said.
Underhill, coming back from a weekend where he was pulled due to injury, was practically flawless for the final 57:16, and assistant captain Doug Murray scored the game winner shorthanded, as the Red came back from an early 1-0 deficit to defeat Yale 2-1.
Yale (10-18-2) had given the Red (22-6-2) trouble in their two previous matchups, a 1-1 tie at Ingalls Rink and a 3-2 Cornell win at Lynah. Hence the team had predicted that Friday would be a closely fought battle with the Red emerging victorious. And that is exactly what it got in Game One.
However, Cornell came out to a slow start as it has done frequently this season. Yale dominated play, especially in the first period as the Red had trouble clearing the puck out of the zone.
“I really don’t think that we got into a groove in the first period at all in the sense that our guys were really anxious,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “We weren’t thinking, we weren’t executing.
“They really want to get to Lake Placid badly. The regular season was great, but they wanted it so bad in the first period that there was a lot of energy, but not much thinking. We picked it up as the game wore on,”
Star winger and the Ivy League’s new Rookie of the Year Chris Higgins burnt the Red early in the game. Higgins skated the puck over the blueline, followed closely by junior defenseman Travis Bell, and took a wrister from the right circle. The shot skirted Bell and slipped past Underhill’s stick side for the first goal and Yale’s only score of the game.
“He got a shot off at a good angle and I think it just handcuffed Matt,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of the goal.
“Yeah I saw it. It’s just a goal, you know. It’s no big deal. But our guys responded well,” Underhill said.
Yale managed eight more shots on goal, the best coming on a Mike Klema breakaway with seconds left until the first intermission. Underhill was able to block it with his pads with a most impressive save, to send the teams into their locker rooms with the Bulldogs leading 1-0.
Yale sent Cornell on its power play twice in the second period, which helped the Red restore its rhythm, but failed to produce any goals. As the period and the Elis wore down the Red offense perked up.
Junior center Matt McRae netted the tying goal after a scramble in front of the net. He picked up what appeared to be his own rebound and caught Lombard off guard at 14:52 in the second. Classmate Sam Paolini and freshman Mike Iggulden assisted on the play.
“The puck was bouncing, it seem to bouncing a lot in the first period and a half and was going the wrong way,” McRae said, describing his score. “And their guy jumped figuring it was going to go their way and it ended up on my stick so I had the open shot.”
“You could just sense the relief in the rink,” Schafer said on the tying goal.
But it was Murray who provided the biggest spark to the Red offense. With junior Mark McRae serving a two-minute penalty for cross-checking, Murray stole a pass from Chris Higgins just a few seconds into the penalty kill and raced down the right boards. His wrister from the faceoff circle beat Lombard on his glove side to give Cornell its first lead of the game at 17:51.
“I knew that they were going to try to get the puck to Higgins, and I broke up the play and skated down the right side,” Murray said.
“There was no way that puck was getting by Dougie, that was all will and determination right there and just power,” Underhill said. “When he makes a big play right there, especially shorthanded it really lifts our team.”
Each team had its chances towards the end of the game, but neither goalie proved fallible as the game came to a close. Both teams remained disciplined with only six total special teams opportunities.
Yale pulled Lombard with 1:16 left but couldn’t produce with the extra skater.
“We kept the pressure coming, in the third period. It’s been a while since the pressure has been on us,” Schafer said.
With the win, Cornell came one game closer to claiming the first seed at Lake Placid.
Archived article by Amanda Angel