Playing in front of the Lynah Faithful for the first time in over two months, the men’s hockey team (15-3-0, 10-1-0 ECAC) defeated Clarkson (8-13-1, 5-5-1) 3-0 in a physical, defensive slugfest. The game lived up to its advanced billing, as the two teams, both sporting top-10 defenses in the nation, limited the opposition’s scoring chances.
The No. 4 Red struggled early despite playing in front of a rowdy home crowd. Cornell had an opportunity to take an early advantage, as freshman Dan Pegoraro hit the post on a breakaway effort just four minutes into the game. For the remainder of the period, however, Clarkson’s defense frustrated the Red, blocking numerous shots from the point and controlling the puck along the boards. In the period, the Golden Knights limited the Red to just four shots on net.
“The biggest problem is that we were too excited to get back with everybody running around, trying to hit people in front of the home crowd,” senior captain Doug Murray said. “We didn’t really focus on our game in the first period.”
“I think maybe we were a little too excited, too anxious, and we really didn’t settle into our system until the second period,” sophomore Mike Knoepfli said. “In the second period, we got things going and on track.”
After a scoreless, lackluster first period, the Red regained its focus. Knoepfli and the second power play unit gave the Red the lead on a two-man advantage with his fourth goal of the season 6:52 into the second. With Clarkson defenseman Randy Jones in the box for tripping, and another Clarkson player serving a bench minor for too many men on the ice, sophomore defenseman Charlie Cook wristed a shot off the chest of Golden Knights’ goalie Mike Walsh. Freshman Shane Hynes’ rebound effort was also stopped by a sprawling Walsh before the puck found its way to Knoepfli, who slid it in along the left post.
“We have a great role model in the first power play,” freshman Matt Moulson said of the second unit. “We’ve been practicing a lot. We’re moving the puck quicker as a unit and we’re knowing each other better. That helps a lot, just knowing where each other is going to be.”
Although Cornell kept Clarkson on its heels with 17 shots in the period, the Golden Knights seemingly tied the game with a little over four minutes left in the second. After a face-off win in the Red zone, Dave Reed’s wrister beat Cornell sophomore goalie David LeNeveu but hit the crossbar. The puck then fell to the ice behind LeNeveu and looked like it crossed the goal line. The referee, however, quickly called off the goal.
“The guy shot it, I think it might have been tipped and it just hit the very corner of the crossbar where it meets the post, and it hit me on the side of my head on the way back, and it landed right on the line,” LeNeveu explained. “I just put on glove on the puck right before it crossed the line. It was close but it was a good call by the ref.”
Walsh, who made 27 saves on the night for Clarkson, kept the game close with a number of jaw-dropping saves, including one on Pegoraro five minutes into the third period. With a two-on-one, senior Shane Palahicky streaked down the right wing and centered the puck to an onrushing Pegoraro, who redirected the puck towards the back post. Walsh, however, slid across the crease and denied the Red a two-goal edge.
“I thought Mike Walsh was unbelievable. Seventeen shots in the second period and some great chances — I think he played an awesome game,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
Cornell, however, would not be denied, as Moulson deflected junior Ben Wallace’s shot into the net for an insurance goal 7:53 into the third period. Junior Ryan Vesce and Wallace picked up assists on Moulson’s sixth of the season.
Cook finished the scoring with 1:38 remaining with a hard wrist shot over Walsh’s blocker. Murray and Vesce were credited with helpers on the play.
Clarkson, which came into the game as one of the most penalized teams in the country, lived up to its reputation, committing 18 penalties in the game. For the most part, the Red was able to maintain its composure.
“We knew that it’d be a scrappy game with Clarkson coming in; they have the most penalty minutes in the ECAC,” Murray said. “We expected it and we were ready to be disciplined, and I think our guys did a pretty good job.”
“It was pretty evident they were trying to get the game into a four-on-four to try to open the ice a little bit,” Schafer said of Clarkson’s instigation tactics. “It didn’t really work for them.”
In blanking the Golden Knights, LeNeveu made 16 saves to earn his nation-leading fifth shutout of the season. The sophomore goaltender also leads the country in goals against average.
“My guys played really well in front of me, and kept the shots to the outside,” LeNeveu said. “I controlled my rebounds well tonight and that minimizes all my shots and makes my job a lot easier.”
“We didn’t give a whole lot of chances, and again David was back on his game tonight. He didn’t give a lot of rebounds, and our guys again just played solidly from the second period on,” Schafer said. “I was pretty happy with the last 40 minutes.”
Archived article by Alex Ip