Fourteen seconds into Friday night’s season-opening game against Western Michigan, the No. 11 men’s hockey team found itself a man down, when senior captain Ryan Vesce was banished for a slashing penalty. One minute and 38 seconds into Friday night’s game, Cornell found itself a goal down, when the Broncos’ Mike Jarmuth capitalized on the power play chance, firing a shot past freshman goaltender David McKee from the high point.
Such was the theme for the Red (0-0-1), as it battled from behind all night to salvage a 5-5 tie at Lynah Rink.
Cornell did not play its characteristically defensively sound game, which nearly spelled a loss. The Red allowed Western Michigan (2-3-2, 2-3-1 CCHA) 47 shots in the game, 28 of which were on goal. More than that, Cornell showed a pronounced tendency towards the offensive, at times neglecting defensive responsibilities.
“I was really disappointed in how we approached the game. They approached everything from the offensive side of the puck. Nothing frustrates me more than cheating on the offensive side of it. It’s not the kind of hockey we have to play to be successful,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “I couldn’t believe our team would go in cheating on offense and [not] doing all the things that’s been a staple of our program and that’s defense first.”
The turning point for the Red was the second period. Entering the period with the game tied at 2-2, Cornell took its first lead of the game at 5:04 in the second, when freshman forward Byron Bitz fired a shot from the left circle on net, beating Broncos goalie Scott Foster. Linemates Vesce and sophomore Matt Moulson assisted on the goal.
However, the wheels soon came off for the Red. Just over four minutes later, Western Michigan tied the game again, when Ryan Mahrle scored off an assist by Jeremy Cheyne at 9:37. The Broncos then took a two-goal lead on a pair of goals by Brent Walton that came within two minutes of each other.
The Red was unwilling to relent, however. At 14:12 in the third period, Moulson stole the puck from a Western Michigan defender in front of the net. He then fed to Bitz, who went top shelf over Foster’s right shoulder to pull Cornell within a goal, a 5-4. It was the third Cornell goal of the game produced by the line of Bitz, Moulson, and Vesce.
“Bitz has a great touch around the net. If I get him the puck or if I get Vesce the puck, they’re going to capitalize,” Moulson said. “We seem to work very well with each other in the offensive zone.”
Though the score remained unchanged for most of the remainder of the period, the Red’s attitude on the ice clearly had changed in the game’s final stanza.
“We knew we had to come back,” Vesce said. “We needed to be more consistent on our forecheck and get some chances and keep the puck when we got it, not throw it to the front of the net, and try to take them physically, one-on-one. That was kind of that mentality.”
With 27 seconds remaining in the game, Moulson scored the equalizer, as the Red played with a sixth attacker. The sophomore collected a puck tipped by freshman Mitch Carefoot and snuck it past Foster on the left just before the net was knocked off its moorings.
“Mitch Carefoot just put it in front of the net, and I was just swinging away, trying to knock something, but I got a piece of it and I guess it went over his glove,” said Moulson.
For the game, McKee totaled 23 saves on 28 shots on goal in his first collegiate start. McKee got the starting nod over senior Todd Marr, who was prevented from practicing for most of the last week due to a muscle strain.
“It was an unbelievable experience, as expected. Kind of a back and forth game but the character of this team is unbelievable,” said McKee.
Archived article by Owen Bochner