ALBANY, N.Y. — Defense wins championships, or so the saying goes. The men’s hockey team took that aphorism to heart on Friday night, shutting Brown (16-12-5, 10-8-4 ECAC) down with a stifling forecheck and penalty kill en route to a 2-0 win, advancing the Red (27-4-1, 19-2-1) to the ECAC championship game.
It was just another typical chapter in the book of the nation’s top-ranked defense — no goals allowed on only 11 shots.
Keeping the puck away from its own net enabled the Red to survive through the first two periods, during which it struggled to solve Bears goaltender Yann Danis. The second-team All-ECAC goalie turned away shot after shot in his own end to keep his squad in the contest, but ultimately, the lopsided 29-11 shot count proved to be too much for Brown.
“Yann Danis, I thought, just played a superb hockey game,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He was tremendous in the net all night for them, and give our guys a lot of credit, we just kept coming, kept putting the pressure on them.”
“He gives us an opportunity to win every time we play, and he did that again tonight,” added Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “As few opportunities as we had, if we could have just potted one at some point, it’s a 1-1 game and maybe things loosen up a little bit and we can get after it.”
Junior Greg Hornby notched the gamewinner with 2:06 remaining in the second period, when freshman Chris Abbott worked the puck along the right boards to his twin brother Cam. Cam Abbott drew the defenseman toward him and backhanded a pass to Hornby on his left. Hornby then fired a shot past Danis, who was moving toward Abbott. It was the second game-winning goal in the last three games for Hornby and his third this season.
Senior Travis Bell picked up the other marker for Cornell, ripping a slap shot through a screen that beat Danis low to his glove side. The goal, which came at 11:03 of the third period, was Bell’s first of the season.
“Our depth has been our most important factor all season long, again tonight with Greg and Travis scoring,” said Schafer of his two unlikely goal scorers. “It doesn’t surprise our team that they end up getting the goals, because we’ve been getting contributions like that all year.”
“I think it’s really important, for our team especially, we roll four lines over. It’s important to get everybody involved,” agreed Hornby. “We’re not really a team with one or two big guys who come up big every night. Everybody contributes game in, game out.”
Grillo pulled Danis with 58 seconds remaining in the game, but the Red defense held fast again, as the Bears were unable to get a shot on sophomore goalie David LeNeveu with the extra attacker.
Both teams struggled mightily on the power play throughout the game. In the first period, both teams had the man advantage for 5:09, but neither could capitalize. The Bears couldn’t even muster a shot, although the Red did pick up a shorthanded shot.
Those woes continued into the second period, as Brown had three more fruitless power plays, finally recording a shot on goal on the last one. Cornell had four wasted opportunities, including nearly two minutes of five-on-three time. The Red also missed a chance on the power play in the third period. All told, the teams combined to go 0-for-14 with the extra man.
“I was very pleased with the way the penalty kill played today, and I thought they did a great job of getting the puck out of the zone when they had the opportunities. I thought they did a nice job of forcing Cornell to dump and not enter the zone under control,” said Grillo. “Obviously I’m a little disappointed with our power play that we didn’t generate enough offense off of that, but again, I give a lot of credit to Cornell.”
The constant onslaught of penalties throughout the first two periods also took away the opportunity for the two teams to consistently rotate through their four lines, as the special teams units received the bulk of the ice time.
“There was a lot of tactical play, and really wasn’t much flow of it until probably 10 minutes left in the third,” said Schafer.
LeNeveu recorded his ninth shutout of the season, building on the school record that he set earlier this season. The Hobey Baker finalist is also one shutout short of Michigan State goalie Ryan Miller’s NCAA record of 10, set in 2000-01.
The 11 shots on goal allowed by the Red is the lowest total this season, surpassing the 12 surrendered in a 5-0 regular season shutout of Rensselaer. Cornell also tied an ECAC tournament record in the first period by only permitting one Brown shot.
Archived article by Alex Fineman