October 31, 2005

Men's Hockey Splits Opening Series With Spartans

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After the fire alarm went off between the second and third periods in Lynah Rink on Saturday night, the men’s hockey team did its best firefighter impression in an attempt to contain its red-hot opponent, No. 10 Michigan State, as No. 2 Cornell scored two third-period goals. However, it was not enough, as the Red fell to the Spartans, 4-3, after Michigan State (3-1-1, 0-0-1 CCHA) tallied four goals in the second period to earn a split of the weekend series. The loss dropped the Red to 1-1-0 after its opening weekend.

While the fire alarm was not actually set off by the Spartans’ play, they were certainly on fire during the second period, as a pair of goals by left winger Tyler Howells were sandwiched in between tallies by center Tim Crowder and right winger Brandon Warner.

“We didn’t play well in the second period and it killed us,” said senior Matt Moulson. “When you [only] play two good periods, you’re not going to win against a team like that … we battled back from a 4-1 deficit, but ultimately we played a pretty crappy second period.”

Left winger Bryan Lerg assisted on all four goals, while his cousin, Jeff, was between the pipes for Michigan State, making his first appearance in a Spartans jersey. The goalie ended the night with 22 saves en route to his first collegiate victory.

Despite the fact that he gave up two goals in the third period as the Red tried frantically to get back into the game, Michigan State head coach Rick Comley was impressed with Lerg’s poise in a hostile environment.

“He doesn’t get rattled, [going] back-and-forth through this atmosphere that’s here, a lot of freshmen couldn’t deal with it, and he had a couple of big saves after [Cornell’s late rally],” Comley said.

Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 was equally impressed.

“I thought he did a great job,” he said.

Despite his efforts, Lerg was the first goalie to give up a goal in the contest, as Moulson put back his own rebound after executing a pretty give-and-go with sophomore Topher Scott at 11:03 in the first period. Junior Byron Bitz also notched an assist on the play.

The score was on a power play, which stemmed from Warner getting caught for a hit-from-behind penalty and a too-many-players-on-the-ice call against the Spartans, leaving Cornell with a 5-on-3 opportunity.

The only other excitement for the Lynah crowd in the first period came with just under two minutes remaining in the period, as a small scrum broke out in front of the Cornell goal, resulting in five penalties – two on the Red, three on Michigan State. For Cornell, freshmen Tyler Mugford and Michael Kennedy were nailed for roughing, while for the Spartans, Colton Fretter was put in the box for goaltender interference and Jared Nightingale was tagged for roughing and charging.

Comley noted that some of the chippiness was a direct result of Cornell’s physical play.

“Like I said, they couldn’t play in our league,” he said. “[The referees] wouldn’t allow it. They’re just too physical. They’re big, strong, and they run 100 miles an hour to hit you.”

Schafer declined to comment on the physicality of the game, except to say, “it was a physical game.”

While the Red might have been hitting the Spartans’ bodies, in the second period, Michigan State hit Cornell where it really hurt – the scoreboard.

After senior Cam Abbott was called for holding, Crowder snuck through the center of the Red’s zone and backhanded the puck over junior David McKee’s outstretched leg to make the score 1-1. Crowder was assisted on the play by Lerg and Howells.

The next penalty in the game was on Spartan center Justin Abdelkader for contact-to-the-head roughing. Yet the penalty did not stop Michigan State from staying on attack mode, as Lerg sent a pass ahead to Howells for a shorthanded breakaway attempt on McKee, which he converted over McKee’s right shoulder, giving the Spartans their first lead of the weekend.

The barrage continued at the 15:10 mark in the second period, as McKee was peppered with shots in heavy traffic until Howells was able to put the puck home for his second goal of the game. Assists on the play went to Lerg and Spartan captain Drew Miller. The power-play tally gave Michigan State a two-goal advantage, but the next Spartan score was the all-important game-winner.

With just 21 seconds remaining in the period, Lerg knocked the puck to Warner off a faceoff, who ripped a shot by McKee’s right side.

The Red regrouped in the third period, as it outshot the Spartans 13-1 in the final 20 minutes and notched two goals in the first 6:20 of the frame, but it was not enough, as Michigan State kept Cornell at bay for the last 13:40 of the game to earn the win. Despite his team’s comeback efforts, Schafer was still upset about its play in the second period.

The Red’s third goal was scored just under three minutes into the period, as senior Jon Gleed passed the puck to freshman Evan Barlow, who found senior Chris Abbott in the center of the Michigan State zone. Abbott promptly fired the puck past the goaltender to bring Cornell within two.

The Red had another opportunity to score just minutes later, when senior Daniel Pegoraro went on a shorthanded break, but the attack failed and as the center chased after the puck, he was knocked down from behind by Abdelkader, who was whistled for a five-minute major contact-to-the-head roughing penalty and was disqualified from the game.

Cornell did get on the board soon after, as Moulson ripped a shot from the top of the Michigan State zone, which was deflected in by sophomore Raymond Sawada.

The Red had its last solid chances during the final 1:20 of the game, when Schafer pulled McKee for an extra skater, but Cornell could not tally the equalizer, and Michigan State emerged with a hard-fought win.

“I told our guys, ‘the valiant effort in the third is inconsequential, because the valient effort should have come after they scored their first goal,'” he said.

After the game, the chippiness continued, as Nightingale shushed and taunted the Lynah Faithful, prompting some words from Schafer.

Archived article by Chris Mascaro
Sun Sports Editor