February 9, 2004

Icers Rebound, Beat Dartmouth and Vermont

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HANOVER.N.H. — After being swept by Colgate in a home-and-home series last weekend, the men’ s hockey team looked like a squad that would have to limp towards the finish line, literally. With injuries to senior captain Ryan Vesce, junior defenseman Charlie Cook, and sophomore forward Cam Abbott among others, Cornell had fallen to sixth place in the conference standings. Abbott and Cook, along with recently suspended freshmen Byron Bitz and Ryan O’ Byrne, returned to the lineup on Saturday, however, as the Red looked very much like the defending ECAC champion, beating Dartmouth, 4-2. In doing so, the Red also snapped a three-game winless streak and notched its first victory at Thompson Arena since the 1997-98 season.

The game began inauspiciously for Cornell, as the Green took the lead less than three minutes into the game on Grant Lewis’s power play goal. Dartmouth’ s sophomore sensation Hugh Jessiman won the puck along the boards before feeding it to Lee Stempniak, who found Lewis open at the right point. The defenseman then skated in and put a wrister over freshman David McKee’s glove at 2:25 of the first period.

Cornell would catch a break later in the period, though, as Max Guimond was assessed a five minute major and a game misconduct for hitting sophomore Shane Hynes from behind. The Red would cash in on this golden opportunity, scoring twice to take a 2-1 lead heading into the second period. Sophomore forward Chris Abbott tied the score at 1-1, at 14:40, beating Dartmouth goalie Dan Yacey from a sharp angle. Twin brother Cam would then give the Red the lead three minutes later, deflecting a Ben Wallace slapper past Yacey. Assists on the goal went to the assistant captain and Bitz.

“I think getting one of the [goals] was obviously critical to make it a 1-1 game,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ‘ 86 said. “Five minute power plays can often go by the wayside because you don’ t get any momentum going, and guys start to get tired at the end of the power play.”

“The good thing with five minutes is that it allows us to continually be on the power play, and gives more than each unit a chance,” junior forward Mike Knoepfli said.

The Green would not go quietly, however, knotting the score at 2-2 midway through the second period on Mike Ouelette’ s 10th goal of the year. Standing on the goal line, Ouelette flipped the puck toward the net while another Dartmouth player crashed the crease area. The puck somehow found its way through the maze of bodies in front and past McKee.

The two teams looked like they would enter the second intermission tied, but that all changed when Knoepfli made a tremendous individual effort to put the Red up 3-2 with just 48.9 seconds left in the period. Knoepfli, in on the forecheck, stole the puck off a Dartmouth player’ s stick before decking Yacey and putting the puck between the goaltender’ s pads.

“I was just trying to get up on the forecheck, and I knew I had a

second,” Knoepfli said. “I just tried to get up on him, and slip it through his legs.”

Cornell would extend the lead to a two-goal advantage when sophomore Matt Moulson duplicated Knoepfli’ s feat. Moulson intercepted a Dartmouth breakout pass at the left point and skated in alone against Yacey. The goalie dove to try to cover the puck, but Moulson lifted a backhand over the prone netminder to seal the game.

“I kind of just came down and poked it off him,” Moulson said. “I got a lucky bounce and tried the same move as Knoepfli and it worked.”

“They did a good job of knowing where Dartmouth wanted to go with the puck, and coming across ice. They got their sticks down on the ice in the passing lane, and picked it off when their kids tried to force it,” Schafer said of Knoepfli and Moulson. “What I liked even better was the kind of composure and poise they showed around the net.”

There were scary moments for the Red during the game, as the already battered team saw Cook, freshman Dan Glover, and McKee each receive medical treatment on the ice for various injuries. While Cook was able to return, Glover left late in the second period and McKee sat out the last 10 minutes of the contest, with senior Todd Marr taking his place in net.

“I’ ve got a lot of confidence in Todd. He’ s got great composure. For him to come in with 10 minutes to go in the game, he did a great job of smothering rebounds and not giving up chances,” Schafer said.

The win gave the Red, which had just one victory in its last seven games, something that it could build upon during the stretch run.

“It was a big win for a lot of reasons. It was obviously a big character builder for us, being down 1-0 on the road against a very good hockey team,” Schafer said. “Overall, we’ re starting to play the kind of hockey where we need to be successful. I thought we did a good job on the puck as the game wore on, and gained some confidence.”

Archived article by Alex Ip