ALBANY — Despite the fact that the men’s hockey team’s 3-0 victory in the ECACHL semifinals over Vermont on March 18 was at the Pepsi Arena, one could have easily mistaken it for a typical night at Lynah Rink. The crowd was predominantly Cornell supporters, freshman Topher Scott netted a game-winning goal, and sophomore goalie David McKee earned a shutout. Junior Matt Moulson also netted a power-play goal and classmate Chris Abbott iced the game with an empty-netter late in the third period.
“[It was] similar to a lot of games we won this year,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
Scott’s game-winner was his second in as many games, while Moulson’s tally was his 12th goal on the power play this season, which is tied for the league lead. McKee’s shutout broke both the Cornell and the ECACHL record for shutouts in a season, as he posted his 10th on the year.
“I think tonight was one of those nights where a lot of people would say that Cornell’s system makes goaltenders look good,” said Vermont head coach Kevin Sneddon. “But I think tonight we had some great scoring opportunities and [McKee] came up big. Tonight’s one of those nights where you say he does deserve to be a Hobey Baker finalist.”
Both teams had scoring opportunities in a penalty free first period that saw the puck travel end-to-end at a frantic pace.
The Red’s first quality chance came just over five minutes into the game and eventually led to Vermont’s best scoring opportunity of the period, as senior captain Mike Knoepfli fired a wrist shot on net that was deflected away and started a Catamount attack. Yet, McKee was up to task, as he first made to his right and then sprawled back to his left just in time to snag the rebound.
The Red’s next opportunity came with just over 10 minutes remaining in the period as junior Cam Abbott was all alone on a breakaway, but was stuffed by Vermont netminder Joe Fallon. Just over 30 seconds later, Catamount defender Kenny Macauley hit the post on a rocket from the just inside the blue line.
“They’re a good team and they got some good shots,” McKee said. “The goal post is the goalie’s best friend so, no complaints there.”
Fallon, a freshman, was peppered with 22 shots on the evening, saving 19. One of the ones that got past him came with 6:38 remaining in the first period, as junior Daniel Pegoraro passed the puck to Abbott, who came around to the front of the net and put a shot which Fallon stopped, but the rebound was left out in front for Scott who backhanded the puck over Fallon’s glove and into the net. Both Pegoraro and Abbott were given assists on the play.
“[Abbott] and [Pegoraro] did a really good job in the corner, working it around and Cam just shoved it in front of the net and I happened to be there at the right place at the right time,” Scott said. “I didn’t really get all of it on the shot, but it went in, so it was a pretty big goal for us.”
Scott said it was such a big goal because it gave the Red confidence from that point forward in the game.
“We’re a pretty confident team when we get up,” Scott said. “So with the way we play defense and the way we try to wear teams down — after we get the first goal, it’s pretty big.”
In the second period, the Red’s special teams were on display. On its first power-play chance, Cornell failed to score but did not allow Vermont to clear the puck for the entire two minutes. Then, after Cornell senior Paul Varteressian was whistled for a contact to the head with an elbow penalty, the nation’s top-ranked penalty killing unit held the Catamount offense without a shot on goal. For the game, Vermont was 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Red extended its penalty-killing streak to 28.
But, the third penalty of the game — on Catamount defender Jamie Sifers for holding — was the moneymaker. Just 12 seconds into the power play, Moulson fired a shot from just inside the blue line that found the back of the net. The goal — which was assisted by senior Charlie Cook — was Moulson’s team-leading 22nd of the season.
“[The power play is] something we work on everyday, day in and day out in practice,” Moulson said. “And we seem to have that chemistry with the five guys on the unit.”
For the rest of the game, the Red put the game in the hands of the defense and McKee, which combined to hold Vermont to just three shots on four power-play chances in the game. Both units succeeded in halting any scoring opportunities in the last period and a half.
The Red’s last tally came at 1:18 left in the game, when Chris Abbott tallied an empty-netter to give the Red a three-goal lead.
The win over Vermont gave the Red a spot in the ECACHL finals against Harvard, who were 4-3 victors over Colgate in the second semifinal. It also ran Cornell’s winning streak to nine and unbeaten streak to an NCAA-best 17 games, giving the Red its third appearance the league final in the past four years.
Harvard 4, Colgate 3, 2 O.T.
Harvard’s Kevin Du netted a breakaway goal 16:01 into the second overtime to give the Crimson a thrilling 4-3 victory over the Raiders in the second semifinal of the ECACHL playoffs at the Pepsi Arena.
Harvard’s goalkeeper and Hobey Baker finalist Dov Grumet-Morris finished with 46 saves on the night.
Archived article by hris Mascaro
Sun Sports Editor