For the third time in four years, the Cornell men’s hockey team is the regular season ECACHL champion.
The No. 2/3 Red clinched the title Friday night with a 3-2 overtime win at St. Lawrence’s Appelton Arena. Senior captain Mike Knoepfli scored the game winner 2:31 into the overtime period to help Cornell (22-4-3, 18-2-2 ECACHL) extend its nation-best unbeaten streak to 13 games. Saturday, sophomore goaltender David McKee saved 22 shots in recording his school record-tying 13th career shutout in a 3-0 victory at Clarkson.
The Red also won its fourth consecutive Ivy League title, as Dartmouth beat Harvard, 2-1, on Friday night.
“It was really nice, obviously as time goes along you want to get that,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We had no idea what was going on, so we wanted to do it ourselves, and it was particularly nice to get the first-place banner and get the Ivy League championship all at once.”
Friday night against St. Lawrence (14-17-2, 8-12-1 ECACHL), the Red drew first blood, scoring just 16 seconds into the game. However, it soon found itself down, as the Saints controlled play for the first 50 minutes of the game. St. Lawrence scored twice in the second period — Jim Hakewill netted his third of the season at 3:29 before T.J. Trevelyan scored his league-leading 22nd at 5:32.
However, utilizing a strong penalty kill midway through the third, Cornell reversed its fortunes.
“Our team really hasn’t faced much adversity at all this year, especially in the second half. And I think when you’re not playing very well as a team, I think the guys responded pretty well and were able to create scoring chances,” Schafer said. “They kept at it in a tough rink to play in, and we got the tying goal and we were able to end up winning the game.”
Though unable to score on the penalty kill, Knoepfli scored his first of two goals on the night at 15:22 in the third. Sophomore Dan Glover and junior Daniel Pegoraro assisted on the play.
With under two minutes remaining, the Red made a bid to take the the lead for good, as senior defenseman Jeremy Downs ripped a shot from the left point that bounced past St. Lawrence goalie Mike McKenna. Originally called as a goal, it was ultimately disallowed after referee Scott Hansen ruled that sophomore Byron Bitz had kicked it in with his skate.
“He had his back towards the net, it’s pretty tough to kick it with your back towards the net,” Schafer said. “I don’t think [Hansen] made the call, I think he originally called it a goal and the linesman made the call, but things worked out eventually in the end.”
Knoepfli sent the Red away victorious with the game-winner midway through the overtime period.
Saturday night, Cornell ended its regular season in style behind a stellar performance by McKee. The sophomore from Irving, Tex., moved into a first-place tie with Ken Dryden ’69 with 13 career shutouts with the 3-0 victory over Clarkson (11-20-3, 7-13-2 ECACHL).
“Friday he had a couple of goals that he probably wishes he could have back,” Schafer said. “It’s a measure of how he’s matured as a goaltender. He kept playing well and kept up his performance on Saturday night. He did an excellent job of not giving up rebounds and had a pretty good night for himself.
“I think it’s a great honor for him to be able to do that in two seasons, [it] shows the quality of the teams he’s played for and also the quality of the defense. It’s a combination of both of those, to be able to break those records or tie those records, you have to have a pretty good team around you — which Dryden did, and Dryden obviously is a legendary goaltender — so it’s great for David to be able to break that record.”
The Red scored all three of its goals in the first period. Senior assistant captain Mike Iggulden, junior assistant captain Matt Moulson and Knoepfli scored for the Red.
“Both nights we scored early, but I thought Friday night we didn’t come ready to compete and work as hard as we needed to work — it’s a whole different approach to the game,” Schafer said.
Cornell will have next weekend off as it awaits its opponent for the second round of the ECACHL playoffs, which will be a best-of-three series, held at Lynah Rink from March 11-13.
Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Sports Editor