Over their last seven outings, the St. Lawrence Saints have averaged 4.86 goals scored per game, including a 7-3 rout of Union on Jan. 22. Yet, when lined up against one of the stingiest defensive units in the nation on Saturday night, the Saints’ sharpshooters appeared to be without a prayer.
In one of the most thrilling contests of the men’s hockey team’s season, the No. 8 Red outlasted St. Lawrence for a 1-0 victory at Lynah Rink. Junior winger Matt Moulson scored the lone goal in a contest that remained scoreless for the first 54 minutes and vaunted Cornell (15-4-2, 11-2-1 ECACHL) past Colgate into first place in the league.
“It was a long night,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “We really had to tough it out and grind out a victory.”
The game also showcased a stellar clash between two of the league’s hottest goaltenders in St. Lawrence’s Mike McKenna and Cornell’s David McKee. McKee stopped 19 shots en route to his fourth shutout of the season while McKenna was barraged by 41 Red shots — including 19 in the first period. The defensive showdown also featured a total of 32 blocked shots.
“It would have been a nice [game] to steal,” said St. Lawrence head coach Joe Marsh. “But I am very pleased with how we battled. It is the type of game when I am really proud of our kids.”
The Red controlled the game’s momentum in the first period, primarily as a result of its two power-play opportunities. St. Lawrence defenseman Drew Bagnall was called on both occasions, and Cornell peppered McKenna with a steady onslaught of shots throughout the first frame. Cornell was inches away from beating McKenna on a number of occasions — including a point-blank chance for senior Mike Iggulden with 7:45 left — but the Red was unable to exploit any of McKenna’s weaknesses.
“McKenna is one of the best goalies we have seen this year in college hockey,” Schafer said. “When you play a guy that is that good of a goaltender, it makes [scoring] difficult.”
The squads traded penalties and scoring opportunities throughout the second period, yet both teams still failed to solve their opponent’s netminder. St. Lawrence had arguably the best chance of the frame when senior Stace Page hit the post off a cross-ice pass with the Saints on a power play. Overall, the Red finished 0-for-5 with the man advantage and St. Lawrence failed to convert on three opportunities.
Just as the Lynah Faithful were preparing for a scoreless overtime, Moulson broke the stalemate at even strength with his 15th goal of the season at 14:08 of the third period.
Sophomore center Byron Bitz dug the puck out of a scrum deep in the St. Lawrence zone and found Moulson at the left hashmark, who waltzed toward McKenna untouched and roofed a shot into the upper left corner of the net. Moulson’s perfect shot gave him a team-leading 23 points on the season, with assists being credited to Bitz and junior Shane Hynes.
“It felt like I had all day to shoot,” Moulson said. “We felt like we just had to keep shooting — eventually one had to go in.”
The Saints pulled McKenna for the extra attacker with just over a minute remaining in the game, but they were unable to break through Cornell’s defensive front for the equalizer.
“Cornell came out and played a very strong game tonight,” McKenna said. “They put a lot of shots on goal. It is just disappointing the outcome of the game.”
The victory sets the stage for the Red’s showdown with No. 9 Colgate (19-7-0, 11-3-0 ECACHL) this weekend, a squad Cornell will face in a home-and-home series. The Red leapfrogged the second-place Raiders in the league standings over the weekend and looks to take the momentum of its six-game winning streak into Hamilton on Friday.
“Clarkson and St. Lawrence play us very tough every time we play them,” Moulson said. “These are the kinds of wins we need to get.”
Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor