April 17, 2006

M. Lax Beats Green

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With the game in the balance against Syracuse on Tuesday, senior co-captain Joe Boulukos couldn’t deliver for the Red. He wasn’t going to let that happen again.

Boulukos’ three goals and three assists sparked No. 4 Cornell (8-2, 3-1 Ivy) to its second-largest offensive outburst in eight years, as the team scored six goals in the both opening and closing quarters of an 18-9 victory over Dartmouth (4-6, 0-2).

“If I had one word to describe him, it would be ‘Warrior,'” Tambroni said. “He spills his guts to this team and lets them know how he feels both good and bad, and our guys really respond to that. … I think he got our guys awful excited to compete and win today, and I’m not sure where we’d be without a guy like that.”

The Red’s attack – junior Eric Pittard, senior Derek Haswell and junior David Mitchell – torched the Green’s defense for 11 goals and nine assists. Haswell’s career-high four goals and three assists and Mitchell’s five goals and two assists earned the pair seven points each. Pittard added three points on two goals and an assist. Freshman Max Seibald also finished with two goals and two assists in the win.

Junior goaltender Matt McMonagle made 10 saves in just over 54 minutes of action. Senior Kyle Miller took a turn in net late in the game, notching two saves in his season debut.

Tim Daniels and Brad Heritage paced Dartmouth with a pair of goals each. Daniels also added an assist and nine ground balls, and went 14-of-26 in the face-off circle. Pat Marshall took the loss in net for the Green, making six saves on the afternoon.

The game started inauspiciously when the Red – which converted on 58.1 percent of its shots in the contest – could not capitalize on a man advantage in the opening seconds. At 12:19, senior co-captain Cam Marchant fed junior Eric Pittard for the game’s opening goal. Dartmouth’s Daniels would atone for his early penalty less than 30 seconds later by tying the score at one and then assisting on Alex Hufnagel’s goal at 11:09.

It would be the Green’s only lead of the game, however, as the Red would pull together to score five unanswered goals in the opening frame. Mitchell scored four goals and Haswell grabbed another over that 10-minute span, giving Cornell an early 6-2 advantage.

“[Cornell] did a nice job on offense [and] on defense between the lines,” Dartmouth head coach Bill Wilson said. “In the clearing game, we struggled a little bit early to give them back probably two or three possessions, and our offense was unable to handle the pressure that they gave us. … They kept us in a position where we had to play catch-up the rest of the game.”

The Cornell players credited the offensive outburst to a shift in strategy on the field.

“It was both a coaching decision and our decision too, just to become more involved in [the game],” Mitchell said. “We just had to kind of get shaken up a little bit just to try and get us moving. We do a lot of practice just to emphasize moving off-ball and communicating with each other just playing as a group of six as opposed to a group of three middies and three attackers.”

“We had kind of gotten in a rut sometimes,” Boulukos said. “When the attack was dodging, we’d try to move [but] we weren’t moving really with a purpose and trying to free them up from slides and all that. I think coach put in a new set for us, a pattern for us to go through, and it really helped out.”

Defensively, the story was much different. Starting with a Dartmouth goal with three seconds left in the first quarter by Brian Koch, the Green matched the Red goal-for-goal in the third quarter.

Despite making a number of spectacular, point-blank saves in the second and third quarters, McMonagle didn’t have his best performance as the Red rear-guard tied a season-high by allowing 37 shots.

“I think Mattie McMonagle didn’t have his best day today, but I thought we were giving up some shots that we don’t normally give up based on the way we play defense,” Tambroni said. “Today, we decided that we were going to take a different approach defensively. We rushed out a little bit and chased. Again, I thought Dartmouth took advantage of those opportunities, and they created some easier looks on Mattie McMongale. But at the same time, I thought we knocked the ball to the ground more than we ever had, and it also created some transitions and easier looks for our offense.”

The Red had planned on implementing more of a transition game when it could and was successful in doing so throughout the match.

“It’s great having guys bring the ball down and make the right decisions. I think it’s our decision making that’s come along the most to help us out this game more than anything, with both the attack and the midfield coming down,” Haswell said.

Boulukos started the second quarter by scoring a solo goal before assisting on Seibald’s first goal of the game. After staking a 9-5 halftime lead, Boulukos made sure Cornell came out of the break playing out of its shoes – literally. Off the faceoff, he streaked down the field, losing a shoe in the process, and passed the ball to Pittard for the attacker’s second goal of the game. Mitchell scored his fifth goal on only six shots at 12:50 in the third quarter.

Two minutes later the Red defense lapsed, and Dartmouth made a comeback attempt when Heritage scored his second goal. Nick Bonnaci then scored his only goal of the game at 8:25 by running through four Cornell defenders and drawing a penalty, which Jamie Coffin would capitalize on to cut the lead to 11-8.

“At 11-8, we were disappointed because we thought we were taking quick offensive possessions, getting some goals, but we didn’t have the ball up there much and I don’t think we were doing a good job defensively in the second half,” Tambroni said.

But as he did throughout the game, Boulukos guided Cornell in a key moment. The co-captain scored with 5:24 remaining the period, prompting a string of five straight Cornell goals – including a 7-1 run to finish the game.

A key to the late offensive eruption was the play of freshman Tommy Schmicker in the face-off circle. Despite only winning 14-of-31 face-offs as a team, Schmicker picked up a team-high seven ground balls, a number of which came immediately off the face-off.

“We were extremely pleased with his performance. Even though he was 7-of-16, we felt like he gave us the reps that we needed at the ‘X,'” Tambroni said. “That takes a lot of pressure off of Joey. When you’re squatting down like that 16 times, you tend to wear down and then you loose the productivity in the offensive end.”

Archived article by Josh Perlin
Sun Assistant Sports Editor