BUFFALO, N.Y. — The men’s hockey team had spent all of nine seconds this season trailing by three or more goals. So when New Hampshire scored 7:10 into the second period of the national semifinal to go ahead 3-0, Cornell had its work cut out for it.
The Red (30-5-1, 19-2-1 ECAC) never was able to catch the Wildcats (28-7-6, 15-5-4 Hockey East), but it came as close as it could, scoring two goals and ringing a possible game-tying shot off UNH goalie Mike Ayers’ mask with under a minute left. Ayers’ strong play in net and a momentum swing after a disallowed first period goal ended up as deciding factors in the 3-2 New Hampshire win.
“I have no complaints,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86 after the failed comeback attempt. “We had our opportunities, we went for it and that’s the definition of success. We laid it all on the line, we weren’t tentative. When our players look back, they can’t doubt their work ethic or their performance tonight.”
Cornell came out strong in the first period, keeping the puck in the New Hampshire zone for much of the first half of the frame. The Wildcats were unable to manage even a shot on sophomore goalie David LeNeveu for the first seven minutes of the period.
It appeared as though the Red struck first, as senior Shane Palahicky deflected a Jeremy Downs shot under the left arm of UNH goalie Mike Ayers 12:06 into the period. Upon reviewing the replay, though, the officials determined that Palahicky’s stick was higher than four feet off the ice when it touched the puck. Referee Don Adam waved off the goal, ruling it a high-stick infraction.
New Hampshire seized the momentum after the disallowed goal, and began putting pressure on LeNeveu. With 5:39 remaining in the first period, the Wildcats’ fourth line became the first unit to find the back of the net. Tyler Scott picked up the puck behind the Cornell goal and sent a pass to linemate Tim Horst in the high slot. Horst then blasted a quick one-timer past LeNeveu to give the Wildcats the first goal.
Although UNH only led by one at the first intermission, it had all the energy in the second half of the period following the overturned goal. The Red was outshot 10-0 in the first period after at point.
“That was the part when we needed a momentum shift,” said New Hampshire’s Patrick Foley of the disallowed goal. “We weren’t playing the game we needed to; that was a momentum swing.”
The Wildcats stormed out again in the second period, capitalizing on some nifty passing. Sean Collins left a drop pass for Nathan Martz, who sent a precise pass across to Steve Saviano. Saviano redirected the puck from the right hashmark into the net, putting UNH up by two. Saviano wasn’t finished, either, scoring again less than six minutes later. He threaded a shot on the power play between LeNeveu’s left shoulder and the post, beating the goalie to the short side. However, Cornell dominated most of the action in the period, as the two New Hampshire goals came on just three shots.
The Red finally scratched its way onto the scoreboard midway through the period, when it took advantage of a power play. With 58 seconds left in the minor penalty, Schafer called a timeout to allow his top power play unit to catch a breather. The move paid off, as senior co-captain Stephen B