March 15, 2004

Sunday Knight Meltdown

Print More

For the second night in a row, Clarkson jumped out to an early lead and never looked back, defeating the men’s hockey team, 5-1, in the third and decisive game of the ECAC quarterfinal series. The Golden Knights will move on to the next round and will face top-seeded Colgate next Friday at the ECAC semifinals at the Pepsi Center in Albany, N.Y. Meanwhile, the Red saw its season end with the series loss, falling short of the ECAC championship game for the first time in four seasons.

Much as it had done the previous night, Clarkson struck early, as Chris Blight put the Knights up 1-0 at 5:20 with a power play marker. With a 4-on-3 advantage, the Knights worked the puck around the perimeter before Blight snapped a hard slapper from the left faceoff dot past Cornell freshman goaltender David McKee.

“Against a team like Cornell, it’s just so important to get the lead and that’s not what happened Friday,” said Clarkson head coach George Roll. “They got ahead of us and we never regrouped. The next two nights, we kept the lead and never gave them the lead. I think that’s the most important thing when you play Cornell — try to get ahead of them, let them play catch-up and that takes them out of their system a little bit, and I think that’s why we had so much success Saturday and Sunday.”

Cornell had its own chances, but was turned aside time and again by Clarkson netminder Dustin Traylen, who finished the game with 26 saves. Traylen stopped all 10 shots sent in his direction in the first period and made six more saves in the second.

The Red’s power play, which struggled throughout the series, failed to produce once again last evening, converting on just one of its six opportunities after going 1-for-11 on Saturday. What was more damaging, however, was the shorthanded goal the team allowed in the final minute of the second period. With the score still 1-0, Clarkson’s Mac Faulkner made a great individual effort, directing a backhander past McKee to give the Knights a two-goal edge heading into the final period.

“They executed on special teams, and we didn’t,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We gave up a 4-on-3 early in the game and then give up a shorthanded on the power play, and that’s basically all she wrote.”

Jamie McKinven padded the Clarkson lead to 3-0 when he scored on a 2-on-1 rush at 6:44 of the third period.

Down by three goals, sophomore Cam Abbott finally gave the Lynah Faithful reason to cheer, tallying a power play goal off a feed from brother Chris with 10:27 remaining. Circling behind the net, Chris Abbott fed the puck to Cam Abbott, who was parked at the top of the crease.

Just 36 seconds later, however, a fluky bounce of the puck ended any chance of a Cornell comeback. Clarkson’s Trevor Edwards, pinned against the boards by a Cornell defenseman, threw a blind centering pass towards the Red net. McKee lost sight of the puck, as it trickled between his legs and just past the goal line to restore a 4-1 Knights’ cushion.

“Obviously we opened the door for them on Saturday when we didn’t come out with the same intensity. We just didn’t come out and close it out. Once we let them get going, they played great. They did a good job and they’ve got to be commended for coming into this rink and doing the job over the last two games,” Schafer said of the series.

After Cornell dominated game one of the series, few would have predicted a Clarkson win. However, the Knights controlled the play the last two nights, taking the series.

“It’s a tough lesson to really learn in that when you have a team down, you can’t let up. Clarkson came out ready to play at a high level on Saturday night, and we didn’t match that level,” Schafer said. “Hockey’s a momentum game, and once that got away from us, and couldn’t score on the power play, things just snowballed from there on in.”

Cornell’s premature exit from the ECAC tournament was its earliest since the Red lost in the ECAC semifinals in the 1999-2000 season. The defending ECAC champions had reached the conference’s championship game in each of the last three seasons, and had reached the NCAA tournament the past two.

Last night’s game was also the end of the line for four Cornell seniors — captain Ryan Vesce, assistant captain Ben Wallace, Greg Hornby, and Todd Marr. Vesce’s presence, or lack thereof in the two losses, was especially noticeable, as Cornell struggled in its mad-advantage opportunities without its injured power play quarterback, who suffered a concussion in Friday’s win.

“[Ryan’s] devastated as a player and as a person to end his great four-year career. The seniors have known nothing but the championship game — that’s the only way they’ve ever gone out, to either lose in the championship or win in the championship,” Schafer said. “So this is a bitter pill to swallow to lose on home ice and even more so for Ryan. We never recovered from it. He stepped out of the lineup and we never recovered.”

For Cornell’s other seniors, there was a sense of disbelief.

“We’re all still in shock, can’t believe it happened,” Wallace said. We felt pretty confident coming into the games, we’ve been on a roll playing as a team.”

“It’s just a shock. I didn’t expect to end my career at Cornell this way,” Hornby said. “We were really confident going into the playoffs. Obviously it’s disappointing but there’s not much you can do about it now.”

Archived article by Alex Ip