On a day set aside to honor Cornell’s seniors, it was a freshman who stood out. Red goaltender Matt McMonagle made four crucial second-half saves as he and the team held on for a 10-9 victory over Brown. The win earned Cornell the league’s automatic NCAA tournament bid, and at least a share of the Ivy title.
“[McMonagle] did a great job. At the end, I thought they were taking some tough shots on them,” said head coach Jeff Tambroni. “He made some huge saves down the stretch, one on a extra man when he made a foot save, and he did enough to give us a win. Hopefully that’s going to give him the confidence he needs for the rest of the year and hopefully for the rest of his career.”
“I couldn’t be happier to get this win for the seniors,” McMonagle said. “I’m feeling pretty good, I feel I’m starting to get on a role. I have a lot of high expectations for myself, and at times I haven’t felt like I’ve given myself a chance to get there.”
Cornell quickly got off to a torrid pace, earning the first goal of the game at 0:52 when senior Tim DeBlois fed junior Sean Greenhalgh to catch Brown off guard while transitioning to defense. Sophomore Joe Boulokos made it 2-0 a few minutes later as Cornell continued to cycle the ball in Brown’s end. The Bears evened things up with a late first- and early second-period goal, but then Cornell began to pull away.
Five different players combined for a two-period, seven goal run that put Cornell ahead 9-2 by the early third quarter. Brown, however, was not ready to concede defeat. The Bears quickly began chipping away at Cornell’s lead.
“I thought we took good shots. [Brown goalie Mike] Levin made some nice saves early, and then I just asked them to stay the course,” Tambroni said. “We didn’t want to get away from what we’re doing. The key with Brown is if you take five-to-seven-yard shots, you’ll have success. If you take anything more than that, Levin is too good of a goalie to give him that long to see the ball because he’ll make saves. At the end, he made some tight saves, and we were taking some three- or four-yard shots.”
Senior Andrew Collins scored on an assist from classmate Dave Pittard, but the lone fourth-quarter goal was not enough to swing the momentum back to Cornell. Brown senior Chazz Woodson later scored two goals in three minutes to make the score 10-8, yet with 3:13 left to play Cornell remained confident.
“Our last four games have ended the same way,” DeBlois said. “I think we’ve just shown the kind of courage and tenacity that our team has shown throughout the year. It’s no coincidence that we bounced back after something so traumatic like that. When we get in those situations, I look around and there’s no panic. We’ve been there before.”
Brown tallied a final goal with 12 seconds left to make the score 10-9, but Cornell smothered the ball, and any chances of Brown forcing overtime, as the clock wound down.
“I think it was great that we put ourselves in a position to be able to still pull out a victory after that comeback they made,” Collins said. “They happen to be a very good team and good teams are going to go on runs like that. I thought that we handled ourselves well, and the defense was able to get a good stop and we pulled out a win.”
While Cornell has secured the league’s NCAA tournament bid, it’s hopes for an outright Ivy League title rest with the Bears. Brown plays Princeton next weekend, and a Tiger loss would give Cornell it’s first outright Ivy championship in 17 years. The team will focus on preparing for Hobart on Friday. A win over the Statesmen would greatly improve the Red’s chances of hosting a first-round NCAA tournament game in two weeks. The team will then await the result of the Brown-Princeton matchup on Saturday and the identity of its eventual opponent in the first round of the national tournament.
“The 2002 year gave this group an opportunity to be in the position to be successful. They never were in that game before, in that situation to understand how to prepare to be successful,” Tambroni said. “This team has had that great fortune. I think that might be a big part of why we won today, we’ve been there before and they dug in and got a stop when they needed it, and the rest is history.”
Archived article by Matt Janiga
Sun Senior Editor