February 16, 2004

Four-Point Weekend

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With chants of “Princeton’s in New Jersey,” Cornell hockey fans gave the Tigers a rowdy geography lesson during Friday night’s game. Cornell’s top line just showed Princeton the back of the net.

Four Red icers netted six goals — including freshman defenseman Evan Salmela’s first collegiate goal and senior captain Ryan Vesce’s first since missing three games with an injury — as Cornell (11-7-6, 9-5-3 ECAC) pounded Princeton (5-18-1, 5-11-1), 6-1.

Cornell’s first goal came early, with 18:01 left in the first period. Freshman forward Byron Bitz moved the puck up to sophomore Shane Hynes, who then sent a cross-ice pass to classmate Matt Moulson. The forward connected with the puck at center ice and sped off toward the net. Just as he crossed the line, Moulson fired a slapshot that beat Princeton’s Eric LeRoux five hole.

“I just came down the wing and tried to get in on net, I didn’t know it went in until the crowd started cheering,” Moulson said. “I just got a lucky bounce through the five hole.”

Despite being just six minutes into the game, tensions began to run high. With 14:12 left in the first, Princeton’s Brian Westgarth was called for tripping. Cornell, already deep in the Princeton zone, kept the puck moving to delay the penalty. The whistle was finally blown when Hynes and Princeton’s Darrell Powe began mixing it up along the boards.

The Red’s second goal came on the ensuing power play. Princeton managed to clear the puck after several Cornell scoring chances were turned aside by LeRoux, and sent the puck careening towards Red goaltender David McKee. Junior Mike Knopfli brought the puck forward for Cornell, and caught Vesce as he was about to cross into Tiger territory. Vesce caught Princeton’s defense off guard, taking it right to the crease and beating LeRoux, top shelf.

“The d-man flatfooted a little bit, and the goalie went down early, so I just put it up over his shoulder,” said Vesce.

“That second goal is the kind of thing that he can bring to our team,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “For him to score that goal right at the end of a power play was a big lift for us, to go up 2-0.”

For Vesce, the goal punctuated his return from a frustrating injury.

“It was great to get out there,” said Vesce of his return. “When you sit there watching games for three games in a row, it gets a little frustrating sitting in the crowd.”

The Red slowed down slightly to open the second, as Princeton held Cornell’s power play unit scoreless to open the period. Still the Red’s top line of Bitz, Hynes and Moulson added to the lead halfway through. Hynes scored both goals, receiving assists from sophomore Cam Abbott and Bitz on the first, and Moulson and Bitz on the second. The period marked the end of a scoring drought for the top line.

“They are starting to play well,” Schafer said. “I said before they are a big strong group, and hard to handle defensively. All three of them can fend people off, and they have a real good chemistry in the offensive zone.”

“You put them down low with anyone and they’re going to come up with the puck,” Moulson said of Bitz and Hynes. “Those are two big skilled guys