PROVIDENCE, R.I. — Sophomore forward Mike Knoepfli had two goals and an assist, and freshman forward Shane Hynes added a pair of tallies, as the No. 1 men’s hockey team (29-4-1, 19-2-1 ECAC) moved one step closer to the Frozen Four by defeating MSU-Mankato (20-11-10), 5-2. The Red, boasting the top defensive unit in the country, stifled the offensive-minded Mavericks for a majority of the game, in setting up an NCAA Tournament quarterfinal matchup with B.C.
Cornell found the back of the net less than two minutes into the game when Knoepfli scored off of a rebound from a Doug Murray wrister. Knoepfli passed it to the senior captain, who fired on MSU-Mankato goalie Jon Volp. Volp made the save on the initial shot, but gave up a huge rebound to Knoepfli.
The Red made it 2-0 just seven minutes later, as Hynes scored on the power play. With MSU-Mankato’s Christian Toll in the box for charging, Knoepfli dished the puck to freshman Matt Moulson, who found Hynes crashing the net. The goal came at 10:53 of the first.
“We’ve been really working on it in practice,” Hynes said of the second power play unit. “Getting it to the net is key for our power play. The first one, it was just kind of a 3-on-2.”
The Mavericks regrouped, however, and cut the lead in half just a minute later. Using their superior speed, forwards Grant Stevenson and Dana Sorensen broke out on a 2-on-1. Stevenson skated down the left wing before passing to a streaking Sorensen, who beat sophomore goalie David LeNeveu top shelf.
“We watched the game tape on them, they’re a very skilled team,” Knoepfli said. “We knew that if we gave them any chances, that they could capitalize on them.”
To the dismay of the heavily pro-Cornell crowd, MSU-Mankato evened the scored four minutes just 3:26 into the second period with a power play goal. MSU-Mankato’s Peter Runkel slid the puck to Jeff Marler, who found Brock Becker in the corner. Becker made a move through the crease before sliding the puck past LeNeveu and inside the far right post.
“We knew that if they got down, that the game wasn’t going to be over. We made two mistakes. We didn’t make many, but the ones we did, they capitalized on them,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said.
It was after this second Mavericks’ goal that Cornell took over the game. The Red dominated the period, peppering the MSU-Mankato net with 18 shots in the period while allowing just three. Cornell also began to win the physical battles along the boards against the much smaller Mavericks.
That hard work finally paid off with 6:04 left in the second. After Toll was called for obstruction-tripping, Hynes tallied his second power play goal of the afternoon off of a deflection from a Moulson shot. Sophomore Charlie Cook also earned an assist on the goal.
“We worked it around a bit, got it hard to the net, I stood in front, big screen there, and I tipped it home,” Hynes described.
Despite the fact that Cornell maintained just a one-goal edge going into the third period, it became obvious that the bigger Red squad was slowly wearing down the speedier Mavericks.
“Maybe not the first 10 minutes of the game, we might not wear them down, but throughout the game, towards the third period, that’s when we start picking it up and our conditioning kicks in,” Knoepfli said.
“We definitely won the battles, we won the battles down low. We kept it out of our zone,” Hynes added. “I think we won the second period and that’s why we came out really strong in the third with a lot of confidence.”
As it did in the second, Cornell dominated the third period. Knoepfli gave Cornell a two-goal cushion a little over six minutes into the third. Cook wristed a shot from the blue line towards the net, which was deflected between the face-off circles. Knoepfli settled puck there before firing a wicked shot over Volp’s right shoulder.
Senior Sam Paolini put the finishing touches on the game, as he notched the Red’s fifth goal at 10:34. Senior captain Stephen B