Friday night at Lynah Rink featured a rare goaltender match-up in college hockey — two Texas goaltenders. In the end, sophomore David McKee, from Irving, Texas, bested Rensselaer’s Andrew Martin, from Plano, Texas, as No. 4 Cornell (19-4-3, 15-2-2 ECACHL) beat the Engineers (13-18-2, 5-13-1 ECACHL), 3-0.
“I played with [Martin] growing up,” McKee said. “He went to college and played at Fairfield before I did, so he was playing in college way before I was. I was hoping for the opportunity and he’s a good friend of mine actually, so it was a fun game to play.”
McKee had a relatively easier night than his fellow Texan, as the Red peppered Martin with 34 shots on the night. Cornell was balanced offensively, with three different players scoring for the Red.
“I just thought we did a good job being patient throughout the whole course of the game,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was a good first period, and I thought both teams played solid, feeling each other out.”
While Cornell controlled possession throughout the first period, it had some of its best scoring chances in the last five minutes before the intermission. With 5:25 remaining, sophomore Byron Bitz stole the puck from behind the RPI net, and fed it to classmate Evan Salmela. Salmela then fired a shot from the right point which was blocked by the defense. Bitz recovered the puck in the low slot and wristed another shot, which Martin grabbed with a quick glove.
The Cornell power play unit saw its first action of the night after RPI’s Vic Pereira drew a boarding penalty at 15:59. Quickly setting up in the Rensselaer zone, the first unit worked the puck around for nearly the entire two minutes.
“I was a little concerned, because you get out there that long, and all you can see in your mind is the guy coming out of the penalty box fresh,” Schafer said. “All he has to do is get his hands on it and the other nine guys are done.”
After RPI knocked the puck out to the neutral zone, senior assistant captain Charlie Cook brought it back in with time winding down on the man advantage. Freshman Topher Scott worked the puck around to junior assistant captain Matt Moulson, who fed it to an open Cook in the high slot. Cook’s ensuing shot wobbled toward the goal, beating Martin just as Pereira stepped out of the box.
“We were moving the puck around quite a bit, I think we took seven or eight shots,” Cook said. “Topher passed the puck out, I got a piece of it, didn’t get too much on it, and it somehow found its way to the net. I think it just went up and down and went off the tip of [Martin’s] glove.”
The Red put the pressure on RPI at the start of the second period, as junior Jon Gleed took the puck in on net after senior Paul Varteressian’s shot was blocked at the top of the right circle. While Cornell again held possession in the Rensselaer end, the Red’s second goal came in transition.
Junior Daniel Pegoraro brought the puck up through the neutral zone, and beat the RPI defense as he crossed the blue line. Skating down to the right circle, Pegoraro dropped the puck back to a tailing Shane Hynes, who wristed it over Martin’s right shoulder at 14:34.
The game got physical as the second period continued. RPI’s Matt McNeely hit Moulson along the right boards in the Cornell zone, and was called for interference. The resulting scrum led to a charging penalty on Hynes, and the next six minutes saw little five-on-five play.
“[Rensselaer has] a good, solid, physical team, and there were a lot of big hits out there both ways,” Schafer said. “It was the kind of game that our team relishes playing in — a strong, physical, tough hockey game, and we’re built for that type of event.”
The Red power play saw some more ice time after Blake Pickett was called for holding at 11:15. After the man-advantage ended without a goal for Cornell, Scott Romfo was sent to the box for hitting from behind just 13 seconds after the end of the previous power play.
Cornell went to work again on the man advantage, and this time it was able to capitalize. Scott found senior captain Mike Knoepfli at the right point, and Knoepfli fired a shot that banged off the crossbar and in at 15:01.
“The credit’s got to go to [Hynes] and [freshman] Ray [Sawada],” said Knoepfli. “All night on the power play, the goalie didn’t see any of the shots that Moulson or I were shooting. They did a great job getting in his way, and I saw the top corner open and just shot it there.”
The third period was relatively quiet, as neither team had many scoring chances. Pereira and Bitz were each called for two penalties in a row, resulting in four minutes of four-on-four play midway through the period.
McKee finished with 20 saves for his seventh shutout of the season, taking sole possession of second place in program history with 12. He is one shutout away from tying the all-time mark set by Ken Dryden ’69.
Archived article by Jonathan Auerbach
Sun Staff Writer