WORCESTER, Mass. — At 3:30 into the first period of Cornell’s first-round NCAA tournament game, Quinnipiac pulled freshman goalie Jamie Holden, who had just allowed two goals on three shots. The change in netminders couldn’t cause any turnaround in momentum though, as the Red cruised to a 6-1 win Saturday afternoon.
The victory sent the fourth-seeded men’s hockey team (25-7-2) to a quarterfinal matchup with University of New Hampshire. Quinnipiac’s (20-13-5) surprising run to the NCAAs, which included beating MAAC juggernaut Mercyhurst, ended in disappointment.
“Obviously getting off to a great start really dictated the game,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of his club. “We’re such a strong defensive team, we’ve shown throughout the course of the season that once we get a lead we’re tough to beat.”
And Cornell got the lead almost immediately. Freshman Mike Knoepfli bounced the puck off the boards and right behind Holden, who lost it. Senior Krzysztof Wieckowski didn’t lose it though, as he tapped it in 1:29 into the game.
Holden made a second costly mistake two minutes later when he left his net and fanned on a clearing attempt, which landed right onto the stick of junior Sam Paolini. Paolini got the empty netter, which ended up being the game-winning goal.
“We had a couple of lucky breaks in the game, and we’re a really confident team when we get up a couple of goals,” junior assistant captain Doug Murray said.
Senior goalie Matt Underhill echoed Murray’s sentiments:
“We don’t jump out that early too often, but we had a couple of lucky breaks. The key was we didn’t miss a beat,” he said.
Murray added the next goal a mere six seconds into Cornell’s first power play at 8:57 in the first. Sophomore Kelly Hughes, who was inserted into the lineup after senior David Francis was sidelined due to injury, closed out the scoring in the opening 20 minutes with a one-timer from the point. Junior Mark McRae assisted on the play.
Cornell entered the first intermission with the 4-0 lead. At that point, the Red started rolling over all of its four lines in an attempt to rest the squad for the likely game against the Wildcats the following afternoon. UNH, the top seed in the East, had a first round bye.
“We knew we had a game tomorrow that we had to play, and we wanted to make sure that we didn’t overextend ourselves,” Schafer said.
The play slowed down into the second period. However, Quinnipiac got itself into penalty trouble frequently. The first unit power play struck again with Brian Herbert in the box for slashing at 7:20. Sophomore Ryan Vesce buried the fifth Cornell goal from crease, where he had free reign. Quinnipiac had two minors and a five minute major plus a game misconduct during the stanza.
The Red peppered the second Quinnipiac goaltender, Justin Eddy, with 14 shots in the period — the same amount that Quinnipiac could manage in the game — but couldn’t widen its lead.
Junior captain Stephen B