Only one thing was certain heading into Saturday night’s men’s hockey game against Clarkson (13-16-5, 8-12-2 ECAC), and that was that Princeton would finish last in the ECAC standings. By the end of the night, however, several questions and playoff scenarios were cleared up.
Cornell (15-8-6, 13-6-3) used two power play goals to upend Clarkson, 2-1, and finish at second place in the ECAC. Along with the ranking, the Red gained a first-round playoff bye and a home-ice, quarterfinal series.
“It’s huge, there, and it’s going to be plenty of help,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of the bye week. “We won’t take too many days off, but we’ve got some guys who will have to take a good week off to get healthy, so we’ll be at 100-percent … for the following Friday.”
“We know whoever we play, it’s going to be a great team, but it’s a nice feeling, knowing that they’ll have to come here and play in front of our fans at Lynah,” senior assistant captain Ben Wallace added.
The Red appeared charged from the first whistle, winning the opening face off and immediately dumping the puck into the Clarkson end. From there, Cornell utilized its forecheck, punishing the Knights along the boards, grabbing rebounds, and cycling the puck.
“We talked about it before the weekend started,” Schafer explained of the team’s focus and intensity. “For us, the playoffs have started already. Our guys worked hard from start to finish tonight … there weren’t any weak links in our gamC
Cornell finally broke through Clarkson’s defense on an extra-man opportunity, created when sophomore forward Shane Hynes was bringing the puck into the Knights’ end. Hynes, however, never made it to the net, being tied up by Clarkson’s Rob McFeeters. Both hit the ice, but it was McFeeters who went to the penalty box.
Sophomore forward Matt Moulson fired a wrister from the top of the slot to beat Clarkson goaltender Dustin Traylen at 16:18 in the first period. Moulson’s shot was created when junior Mike Knoepfli fed classmate Charlie Cook at the blue line. Cook waited, drawing Clarkson’s defenders and opening a space for Moulson.
“I think we worked well on the perimeter,” Moulson said of his first goal. “We moved it well tonight and got some shots.”
Clarkson found itself on the penalty kill again at the start of the second, after defenseman Michael Grenzy was sent to the penalty box for tripping. The Knights managed to kill the penalty, but struggled to gain momentum. The team caught a break, however, with 8:22 left to play when Cornell’s Jeremy Downs was called for obstruction-hooking.
Spreading out Cornell’s penalty kill, Clarkson was able to create several quality scoring chances. At 12:52, the Knights broke through on a blueline blast from defenseman Nathan Beausoleil.
With 5:20 left in the second, Cornell earned a power play and chance to pull ahead, only to see the opportunity squandered as Clarkson physically dominated the neutral zone, and held the puck in the Red’s end.
The back and forth play continued into the third, with each team generating several scoring opportunities. At 10:59, Cornell received a power play when Moulson was pulled down by Clarkson’s Jeff Genovy. Genovy received two minutes for holding, while Moulson received his revenge.
It took Cornell’s top power play line just 44 seconds to knock in the game winning goal. Again, Knoepfli passed to Cook, who sent the puck to Moulson. This time, however, Moulson was forced to abort a slap shot and drive the puck around a sprawled defender. The sophomore faked another Clarkson defender before lofting a wrist shot past Treylan.
“One guy dived in front of me, and I looked up again and Hynes was all over the goalie,” Moulson said. “With no one in the net, I just floated it in there.”
The team’s four seniors — Greg Hornby, Todd Marr, Ryan Vesce, and Wallace — were honored in a post-game ceremony. Joined by friends and family members, all four skated around the rink to the loud cheering of fans.
“It’s just nice to look back on the four years, and acknowledge the fans who have been such a big part of the program,” Hornby said of the post-game ceremony.
“It’s a great feeling,” Vesce agreed. “It was unbelievable — I’m at a loss for words because these fans are just the best. You can ask anyone who moves on to pro hockey, and these fans are still the best.”
Archived article by Matt Janiga