November 22, 2004

M.Hockey Ties, Loses

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Few fully understand the meaning and significance of the term “home-ice advantage.” For the men’s hockey team, that understanding is becoming abundantly clear.

After opening the season with four comfortable victories at Lynah Rink, the Red (4-2-2, 2-1-1 ECACHL) is experiencing diminished success when forced to hit the road, having failed to record a victory in four straight away contests. On Friday night, No. 9 Cornell relinquished a two-goal advantage in the third period at Vermont and settled for a 2-2 tie against the Catamounts (6-4-3, 4-0-2 ECACHL) at a sold-out Gutterson Fieldhouse in Burlington, Vt. The following evening resulted in another disappointment, as the Red fell to Dartmouth (4-4-0, 3-3-0 ECACHL), 2-1, in a heartbreaking overtime battle.

“On the whole weekend, we had opportunities to put away both Vermont and Dartmouth but we didn’t capitalize on our scoring chances,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was tough to come away with only one point.”

The Red encountered Lynah-esque crowd conditions at Vermont, which was one of many factors — including the unpredictable officiating by head referee Matt Smith — that may have contributed to Cornell’s third-period collapse. After building a two-goal lead in the second period with goals by senior defenseman Charlie Cook and junior winger Matt Moulson, the Red found itself a man down for over half of the third — accumulating 21 total penalty minutes in the final stanza.

The backbreaking call came against Moulson just over a minute into the period, when he received a game misconduct and a five-minute major for hitting from behind.

“On Friday night, I thought our guys played a great road game until the third period,” Schafer said. “We didn’t read the officials very well. [Smith] called some penalties that made you wonder where they came from.”

Not only did the misconduct force Moulson out of the lineup for Saturday’s game at Dartmouth, it swung the momentum in Vermont’s favor. With 16:02 remaining in the third, Catamount assistant captain Tim Plant redirected a pass from sophomore Ryan Gunderson past Cornell goaltender David McKee to cut the Red’s lead to a single goal.

“The five-minute major was the turning point of the whole game,” Schafer said. “We can’t put ourselves in that kind of position on the road.”

Off a Catamount power play, Plant tallied his second point of the night when he found senior Chris Smart open in the slot at 7:03 left in the third. Smart snapped a shot cleanly past McKee to complete the Vermont comeback.

Vermont out-shot the Red, 24-22, and extended a seven-game unbeaten streak with the tie. After beating Colgate on Saturday night, the Catamounts stand in first place in the ECACHL. It was the Red that came from behind against Dartmouth on Saturday, but ultimately, the Green was able to pull off the victory in a closely fought contest at Thompson Arena.

Although Cornell was nailed for only three penalties throughout the entire game (a far cry from the nine it received at Vermont), Dartmouth capitalized on a power-play opportunity late in the first period. Green senior Lee Stempniak took a give-and-go pass from junior Mike Ouellete at 16:47 of the first and whipped a shot past McKee to put Dartmouth up, 1-0.

In the second period, after a shot by Red sophomore Mark McCutcheon, Cornell center Chris Abbott evened the score by beating Green goaltender Dan Yacey off the rebound.

The Red dominated much of the third period, besting Dartmouth in the shot category, 9-3. However, overtime belonged to Dartmouth junior Eric Przepiorka, who tallied the game winner with roughly two minutes remaining in the first overtime period. Przepiorka deftly snatched a turnover at the Cornell blue line, sending a shot off the post before scooping up his own rebound and beating McKee. It was the Green’s first overtime win since Nov. 26, 2002.

For Cornell, the absence of key playmakers was a factor in the loss.

“Against Dartmouth, it was not an easy thing playing without [Moulson] and [Gleed],” Schafer said. “Still, I thought our guys played very well for the most part.”

The Red’s penalty-killing unit has taken a negative turn recently, giving up four power play goals in the last four games. In Cornell’s first four contests, the squad only allowed one goal while playing a man down.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor