ALBANY — Cornell and Harvard have met in the ECACHL championship game in three of the last four years. In the first two meetings between the long-time rivals, it took overtime to determine a champion.
March 19 was a different story.
Senior assistant captain Charlie Cook scored two power-play goals, and sophomore goaltender David McKee saved 17, as the No. 3 Red defeated the No. 8 Crimson, 3-1, at the Pepsi Arena to win its 11th Whitelaw Cup.
Cornell (25-4-3) extended its unbeaten streak to 18 games (17-0-1), and earned a two seed in the NCAA championships’ West Regional.
The Crimson (20-9-3), which reached its fourth consecutive final after beating Colgate in a double-overtime thriller the previous night, may have been affected a bit by fatigue.
“To be perfectly honest, it was a factor,” said first-year Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “How could it not be a factor?”
However, Harvard did draw first blood late in the first period. With Cornell freshman defenseman Sasha Pokulok serving a cross-checking penalty, the Crimson’s Dylan Reese scored from the left of Cornell goaltender David McKee at 18:23 in the period. The goal broke McKee’s shutout streak at 139:01. Winger Tom Cavanagh set up the goal for Reese, taking a hard slap shot on goal through a screen.
“The first period went the way we wanted, we frustrated them a little bit, we got a big goal,” Donato said. “I thought even though we got outshot a little bit we did the things we wanted to do.”
Though it didn’t score first, the Red remained in control of play as the pivotal second period began. Cornell kept the puck in Harvard’s defensive zone for much of the period, putting several strong shots on goal.
“Getting down one nothing our team never lost focus they stayed very focused on what they were trying to do tonight,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Everybody makes a big deal about us scoring the first goal … if we score first it doesn’t really make that much of a difference rather than, how are we going to play for the whole 60 minutes.”
Near the mid-way mark of the period, the Red broke through. Junior forward Daniel Pegoraro intercepted a puck in the Crimson defensive zone, just as he stepped out of the box after serving a two-minute minor for holding. Pegoraro commenced an odd-man rush with senior forward Paul Varteressian. As he skated in on net, Pegoraro passed to Varteressian to the right of Harvard goalie Dov Grumet-Morris. Grumet-Morris made a save on Varteressian’s shot, but was unable to freeze the puck, which trickled in under his leg at 9:35 in the period.
“I was fortunate enough to get to [Pegoraro’s] shot,” Varteressian said. “I was out of gas but you don’t get many opportunities to take a 2-on-1, so I jumped in there and I just went as hard as I could to the net.”
Fifty-five seconds later, the Red took its first lead of the game. With the Crimson’s Tyler Magura in the penalty box for hooking, the vaunted Cornell power play cycled the puck in the Harvard defensive zone. Excellent rotation by the first power play unit of Cook, freshman Topher Scott, sophomore Byron Bitz and juniors Matt Moulson and Shane Hynes allowed Cook an opening from the high point. Cook took advantage, firing a rocket that Grumet-Morris had absolutely no chance on. Moulson and Scott were credited with assists.
Cook gave the Red breathing room at 6:35 in the third period, when he scored his second power play goal of the game. As Cornell’s power play unit cycled the puck around the Harvard goal, Moulson passed to Cook on the edge of the right faceoff circle. Cook blasted the puck on net, beating Grumet-Morris again. Senior captain Mike Knoepfli also assisted on the play.
“I didn’t [see the shots]. They’re a very good power play … they did an excellent job of executing at the top of their umbrella,” Grumet-Morris said. “Cook put two good shots on net that found the back [of the net].”
It was Cook’s second career two-goal game. His first came during his freshman season, on March 15, 2002 in an ECAC tournament semifinal game against Rensselaer that the Red won, 3-0.
“It kind of goes to show what kind of team we have,” Cook said. “All year we’ve had different guys step up at different times. If you look at the stats, Moulson obviously has the most goals. Tonight I think the key was they respected Moulson and the first power play they shut us down, we stood still, but once Topher Scott and Matt Moulson were able to move around, it opened up seams and I had a clear lane into the net.”
As the clock wound down, Harvard had several excellent scoring chances, all of which were turned away by McKee. With about seven minutes remaining in the game and Harvard on a power play, the Crimson peppered McKee with several shots from just outside the crease. At one point, McKee appeared to be drawn away from the net, allowing Harvard’s Dan Murphy an open shot on goal. However, McKee was able to cover the puck with his body.
“Mitch Carefoot did a great job of holding the guy’s stick,” McKee said. “I think he was getting slashed, unless it would have been a great rebound for [Murphy.]”
Through the ECAC tournament, McKee allowed a record-tying three goals. He matched the mark set by St. Lawrence’s Paul Cohen in 1989.
Cook was named the ECAC tournament’s most outstanding player, and was joined on the all-tournament team by Moulson, Pegoraro and McKee.
Archived article by Owen Bochner
Sun Senior Writer