January 30, 2006
Unlike the content fans who excitedly poured out of Lynah Rink after the men’s hockey team earned a 4-3 overtime victory against Brown, Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 sat at Friday night’s press conference visibly displeased with his team’s performance.
“I’m not really happy with the way we played and I wasn’t happy in how we prepared right from our morning skate,” Schafer said. “I’m not happy about the way we played in overtime. It’s such a short year, guys have to come out focused.”
With the Red (14-4-2, 9-3-1 ECACHL) facing a 3-1 deficit in the second period after its mostly uninspired play up to that point, Cornell was forced to fight tooth and nail against the ECACHL’s last-place team to get back into the game.
Goals by sophomore Sasha Pokulok and junior Mitch Carefoot helped send the encounter into overtime before senior Chris Abbott tallied the game-winner.
However, Abbott’s goal came after a spectacular performance by Cornell junior goaltender David McKee, highlighted by a post-to-post stop on Brown’s Jeff Prough in the extra period.
“I think getting down a couple of goals actually shows the character of our players and our team, just the fact that we were able to show a lot of grit and determination to win the game in overtime,” McKee said.
After Red senior Matt Moulson and Brown’s Pete LeCain exchanged power play goals in the opening frame, the Bears took the lead 1:06 into the second period. In an odd sequence of events on a 2-on-1 opportunity, Eric Slais rifled a shot, which was saved by McKee. However, the rebound went off of unsuspecting Cornell senior defender Jon Gleed, who was located just above the crease, and into the net.
Later in the period, Brown (3-12-5, 2-8-3) doubled its lead on a controversial goal. As Brown took it into Cornell’s zone, it appeared that McKee was hit by an opposing player and he fell on his back. With the goaltender out of position, Slais dished a pass off to Prough, who found the back of the net, notching his ninth goal of the year.
But, Brown’s third tally seemed to ignite the Red. After being more aggressive on the boards and in going forward, the Red earned a well-deserved goal. As Brown’s Sean Hurley left the penalty box after serving out his two-minute penalty for interference, junior Byron Bitz passed the puck off to Pokulok, who smacked a one-timer from the point that was deflected off a player’s back and found its way past D’Alba.
“It was one of those screen shots where you go down, make yourself big and cover low,” D’Alba said. “I had no idea what happened to it, all I saw was it going upper corner, glove side, and I didn’t know what to do because I didn’t really see it.”
As the Red continued to gain momentum, it tied the game up after Prough was handed two minutes in the box for tripping. Attacking the ECACHL’s statistically-worst penalty kill, Pokulok cycled the puck down low to senior Daniel Pegoraro. Rather than shooting, Pegoraro zipped a pass across the face of D’Alba’s net to a wide-open Carefoot, who slotted it home from close range.
“As soon as the score went 3-1, we decided, ‘Okay, now it’s time to kick it into gear and get going here,’ and that [was] the first time our intensity took off throughout the course of the game,” Schafer said.
Brown and Cornell each had a power play opportunity in the third period, but solid goaltending by McKee and D’Alba set the stage for the second overtime encounter between the two teams this season.
Although Cornell would come out of the extra period victorious, as it did in Providence on Nov. 5, it would first need a dose of McKee’s heroics.
As the Bears had it in Cornell’s zone, Prough found space from close range and shot. However, McKee made the post-to-post save, setting up the eventual game-winner.
“I came through a couple of defensemen and I just one-timed it as hard as I could,” Prough said. “He’s a great goalie, I don’t know how he got over to it in time.”
“The game could have been totally different if it wasn’t for David McKee,” Schafer added. “We did two things in overtime that we addressed right on the bench not to do, and we got away with it, thanks to David.”
On the next line change, Cornell came down the ice as Abbott received the puck from freshman Tyler Mugford and went in on goal, slotting it past D’Alba. McKee also earned his first career point, as he was credited with an assist on the play.
“I was going to take it wide on the defenseman, he opened up and I just came across and was able to get a backhand off,” Abbott said. “I think it fooled D’Alba a little bit.”
Friday’s victory marked the Red’s 10th win in 12 games, but it left a sour taste in Schafer’s mouth, as he called it the team’s “worst game in a while.”
“We’re not happy with the way we played tonight. Obviously, the two points is good for us, but ultimately, we didn’t come to play and we weren’t consistent,” Abbott said. “We can say we dodged a bullet. To come out like that and not play the way we should, we’re not going to get up on any teams in this league.”
Archived article by Brian TsaoSun Assistant Sports Editor
January 30, 2006
NEW YORK – Wearing sophomore guard Khaliq Gant’s No. 21 embroidered over their hearts, the Cornell men’s basketball team handed Columbia an 81-59 defeat Saturday afternoon at Levien Gymnasium in New York City, dominating the perimeter while neutralizing the Lion’s inside game.
The game was the first contest for the Red after an emotional week in which Gant suffered a serious neck injury during practice last Tuesday and was airlifted to the Arnot Ogden Medical Center in Elmira, N.Y. The win avenged a heartbreaking, 58-57, loss to the Lions in the final seconds of last Saturday’s game at Newman Arena.
“We were able to go down and see Khaliq and talk to him and see how he was doing. He talked to us and said he wanted us to play and I don’t think there’s anything more that he wanted to hear today than a Cornell win,” said junior guard Graham Dow. “We just wanted to go out and play as hard as we possibly could in his honor, and that’s what the number is there for – you know, close to our hearts.”
Cornell got career-high scoring performances in the victory from its duo of guards, junior Graham Dow and freshman Adam Gore. Gore had a career-high 28 points on the night, going 5-of-8 from behind the arc while committing only one turnover in 36 minutes of play. Dow had 19 points on the night, and recorded a game-leading five assists and four steals.Cornell also got ten points from senior captains Lenny Collins and Ryan Rourke.
John Bauman led the Lions in scoring with 16 points, while Brett Loscalzo had 11 points and Ben Nwachukwu scored 10.
Erasing any memories of last week’s defeat, Cornell opened the game with a 10-0 run, holding Columbia scoreless for the first four minutes of the contest.
Dow put the Red on the board with a strong drive to the basket followed by a 3-pointer on the ensuing possession. Dow had a career-high 19 points on the game along with five assists and a game-leading four steals.
Regaining their footing, the Lions roared back in the last seven minutes of the first half. Led by the strong post play of Baumann and center Ben Nwachukwu, Columbia tied the game at 31-31 with 3:37 left in the half.
A layup less than a minute later by forward Jason Miller put the Lions ahead, 33-31, and a pair of clutch free throws from Nwachukwu gave Columbia a 37-34 lead after 20 minutes of play.
“We kind of neutralized them towards the end of the half,” said Columbia head coach Joe Jones. “We got seven stops in a row, but I thought overall they outplayed us in the first half as well.”
“I thought at half time it was a good basketball game,” said Cornell head coach Steve Donahue. “I thought [Columbia was] really coming down looking for transition stuff, and if they didn’t get it, they really executed and made us guard.”
Although shooting a solid 56.5 percent from the floor in the first half, Cornell shot only 43 percent from the charity stripe in the first half, well below its season average of 69.6 percent. The Lions, on the other hand, converted 9-of-11 free throws in the first half.
Cornell quickly brought the game back to a tie at 37-37, as Gore sank a long trey two minutes into the second half.
On the following play Dow made a steal from Columbia’s Mack Montgomery and converted the fast break into an easy layup to put the Red back ahead.
With the Lions staying consistently within four points of the Red and Columbia’s raucous fans pleading with the Red to: “Pass it to the bellhop – No, the other bellhop!” Gore decided to take things into his own hands.
After sinking two consecutive 3s to put the Red up, 52-44, Gore took a hard charge from the surprised Bauman to give Cornell back the ball. On the ensuing possession, the Lions’ Brett Loscalzo fouled Gore on a 3-point attempt. Gore gave the Red a comfortable 10-point lead after converting all three free throws, an advantage it would push to 22 by the end of the game.
“We did a poor job with Gore, but he was terrific,” Jones said. “I thought he also made some tough shots. There were shots that he made that not too many people in our league are going to be able to make on a consistent basis.”
“Obviously Adam is a special player for us,” Donahue said. “Adam knows what his role is on this team. He’s got to go out and look for his shot and be aggressive on this team and I think he did that throughout the whole game this time.”
Cornell limited Columbia to only 22 points in the second half. Making only 8-of-24 from the floor, the Lions were 0-for-8 from behind the 3-point line in the second half.
The cagers were also successful in shutting down Columbia’s inside game, holding Nwachukwu, who had 10 points in the first half, scoreless in the final 20 minutes.
Cornell forced 16 turnovers from Columbia while committing only 11 of its own and recording 15 assists on the game. Both teams grabbed 31 total rebounds on the day.
“If you look at the first eight minutes and the last 20 minutes of the game