CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — It was a game so important and carrying so many ramifications that the drama began the previous night. With Cornell tying Brown, 2-2, and Harvard routing Colgate, 7-0, a single point separated the two teams in the standings, so the winner of Saturday night’s game would have the claim on first place in the ECAC. The Red prevailed 4-3 in the marquee matchup in front of a raucous crowd at Bright Hockey Center.
Junior Ryan Vesce had two goals — the first and the eventual gamewinner — and senior Sam Paolini added a goal and two assists, as the Red (20-4-1, 15-2-1 ECAC) outlasted the Crimson (16-8-1, 14-4-0) to take a three point conference lead heading into the final two weekends of the regular season.
“Best feeling in the world coming into Harvard and winning,” Vesce said following the game.
“We knew what was on the line — it was first place and it was a great contested game,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
The sense of importance carried over into the cheering into the stands as what seemed to be an equal number of Cornell and Harvard fans verbally emulated the physical battle on the ice.
“It’s always great playing in this rink,” Paolini said. “It had to be the greatest game to watch. It was a great game to play in; I can’t imagine how it felt to watch it from the stands, and the fans must have reacted. It’s so nice having our fans here.”
Coming off a disappointing tie against the Bears, Cornell was ready to rebound against Harvard. The Crimson helped, spotting the Red a power play almost immediately when Noah Welch was called for high sticking. It only took the first unit 11 seconds for Vesce to grab a rebound from senior captain Doug Murray’s slap shot and put it past Dov Grumet-Morris 31 seconds into the game.
“The first one was a slapshot from Dougie, Sammy had a big tip on it, and it was just laying there. I was kind of at the right place at the right time. There was nothing fancy about that one,” said Vesce.
Three minutes later, Peter Hafner was called for boarding freshman Chris Abbott, sending the power play on to the ice once again. It took the unit a little longer this time, but Paolini tipped senior captain Stephen B