February 14, 2005

Clinches first-round bye in ECACHL tournament

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Following its methodical, 5-2 victory over Yale on Saturday night, the Cornell men’s hockey team was finally allowed to breathe a slight sigh of relief. With the victory, the No. 5 Red (18-4-3, 14-2-2 ECACHL) extended its unbeaten streak to 10 consecutive games — currently the longest streak in the nation — and clinched a first-round bye in the ECACHL playoffs forthcoming in March. Senior Mike Iggulden’s third shorthanded goal of the season late in the first period proved to be the difference maker in a Cornell triumph that sent the Bulldogs (4-19-2, 3-14-1 ECACHL) to their fourth loss in six games.

“I thought everyone really came ready to play,” Iggulden said. “Our power play came up big once again and we were lucky enough to get one on their power play.”

After falling behind initially in the first period, the Red quickly responded with five unanswered goals before a crowd of 3,486 at Yale’s Ingalls Rink. In addition to Iggulden’s short-hander, Cornell received power play goals from freshman Topher Scott and senior captain Mike Knoepfli — the Red’s 32nd and 33rd power play conversions of the season. Junior Dan Pegoraro and sophomore Byron Bitz rounded out the scoring for the Red and sophomore goaltender David McKee, playing in his school-record 57th consecutive start, stopped 23 of Yale’s 25 shots on goal for his 18th victory of the year.

The Bulldogs jumped to an early lead behind the efforts of rookie forward Jean-Francois Boucher, who beat McKee off a one-timer pass from junior Zach Mayer at the 8:07 mark of the first period. Cornell had been called for a too-many-men bench minor penalty, setting the stage for Yale’s 20th power play goal of the season.

However, the Bulldog’s lead evaporated quickly as Bitz knotted the score at one apiece only 22 seconds later. Bitz received a pass from junior Matt Moulson on the left side of Yale netminder Matt Modelski and fired a quick shot past Modelski’s sprawling body. Junior Shane Hynes was credited with his team-leading 17th assist of the season on the play.

“They got a quick power play goal and we responded really well,” Moulson said. “We played really solid throughout the game.”

Pegoraro vanquished any remaining Bulldog momentum with his seventh goal of the season at 13:25 of the first. Sophomore Kevin McLeod found Pegoraro — draped by a Yale defender — in the slot for his first career assist.

Iggulden scored the eventual game-winner just over a minute later off a miscommunication by the Yale power play unit. Cornell sophomore Evan Salmela had been dismissed to the penalty box for holding, yet the Bulldogs were unable to establish cohesiveness early with the man advantage. Senior defenseman Charlie Cook poked a loose puck out of the Cornell zone onto the waiting stick of Knoepfli, who immediately launched a pass to an untouched Iggulden streaking towards the Bulldog goal. Iggulden’s perfectly timed deke — a mirror image of the move he used against Princeton the night before — barely squeezed past Modelski and gave the Red its sixth shorthanded goal of the season.

“Cook made a nice clear out to the red line,” Iggulden said. “Knoepfli just slid me the puck and I was able to walk in on a breakaway. I did the same move two nights in a row.”

Scott and Knoepfli added their 15th and 16th points of the season, respectively, with goals in the third period. Yale junior Nate Jackson sealed the score sheet with a power play goal with 48 seconds remaining in the game.

The four-point weekend assured Cornell a first-round bye in the ECACHL playoffs as well as home ice for the quarterfinals, key advantages the players refused to downplay.

“It’s something you work for all year – getting an advantage in the playoffs,” Moulson said. The wins also guarantee the seniors on the squad another opportunity to perform in the electrifying atmosphere of Lynah Rink.

“As a senior, it’s that much nicer to have those playoff games at home,” Iggulden said. “I think we are all pretty pumped up to play in front of the Lynah fans in the playoffs.” Cornell hosts RPI and Union this weekend in its final regular-season home stand.

Archived article by Kyle Sheahen
Sun Assistant Sports Editor