February 11, 2008

Red Loses Battle of Top-2 ECAC Teams

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The saying goes that those who do not know history are doomed to repeat it. Going into its matchup with Clarkson on Friday, the men’s hockey team was aware of its recent history of defeat against the No. 1 team in the conference. Cornell successfully avoided the biggest mistakes of its last meeting, but was still doomed to repeat the final result in a 4-1 road loss to the No. 13-ranked team in the nation.
Cornell outshot Clarkson, 33-25, and sophomore assistant captain Colin Greening scored early for the Red. That tally, however, turned out to be the visiting team’s only goal of the night. Bringing their record at Cheel Arena against the Red (11-9-3, 9-6-1 ECAC Hockey) to a perfect 8-0, the Golden Knights (16-9-3, 11-3-2) got the win over the weekend on the strength of their vaunted offense and the solid glovework of senior goaltender David Leggio.
“A lot of guys had different opportunities and just couldn’t capitalize, couldn’t get it past Leggio,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “He was very, very solid, and obviously all the second chances we got around the net he was up to the task. … We went into the night not worried about line matchups, just play it straight up on the road.”
With a stacked offensive roster, Clarkson had scoring representation from three of its four lines, and Leggio was a wall in goal for the Golden Knights. The senior finished with 32 saves on the night to Red sophomore netminder Ben Scrivens’ 21.
The weekend’s meeting between the top-2 teams in the ECAC was a rematch of their Jan. 20 game at Lynah Rink. In Ithaca, the Golden Knights had scored three goals in seven minutes in the first period on the way to a 4-2 win over the Red.
Determined to erase the memory of that lapse at home, Cornell came out firing and outshot the Golden Knights 6-0 in the opening four minutes.
That mentality soon paid off, as the Red capitalized on its power play to get the first score of the night. Greening’s finish, Cornell’s eighth shot on goal, came with 7:50 remaining in the opening period. Sophomore Brendon Nash’s slapshot, on a pass from freshman Riley Nash, was redirected past Leggio by Greening, who has recorded four goals and two assists the last four games.
“I thought we came out [and] really took it to them in the first period,” Greening said. “When we were up 1-0, I thought we really had them on their heels. And then [we had] kind of a bad break … and it’s 1-1 so anyone’s game. But we came here and obviously remembered that 3-0 first period at home, so to score that first goal was pretty big.”
For the next 3:24, Cornell had a glimpse of victory over its conference rival, but then things started to go wrong for the Red.
Clarkson’s offense had a burst of energy late in the first and got a score of its own at the 15:43 mark. Shea Guthrie brought the puck behind Scrivens and into a mass of players in front of the net. Clarkson freshman Scott Freeman took a pass and cut through the confusion to put the puck past Scrivens into left corner of net.
The Golden Knights’ tally, however, was contested after the play. During a long stoppage before play resumed, the officials talked with players and the Cornell bench about the goal, with the Red contingent arguing that the goal was illegal because Freeman kicked the puck into the goal.
“I thought we did a good job in the first period,” Schafer said. “The first goal that went in was a little bit of a heartbreaker. It went off of their guy’s foot and into the back of the net. I thought up here [at Clarkson] you could [use] instant replay, but obviously I was wrong. You could only cover whether the puck was in the net or not [with instant replay].”
Seconds after the face-off, Scrivens was called for interference after a run-in with a Clarkson player as the netminder tried to handle the puck around the goal line to his right. The penalty — Scrivens’ first since his collegiate debut last year against Wayne St. — also resulted in some discussion between the Red and the officials and was eventually served by Riley Nash.
The teams went into the first intermission tied at 1, with Cornell having a 13-7 shot advantage. Clarkson’s performance on offense, not Cornell’s, would highlight the remainder of the game, scoring three goals and cutting the Red’s shot lead to 10-9 for each period.
The Red’s bad luck continued into the second period. Scrivens had lost his stick in a scuffle and was playing with the stick of one of his defenseman with Clarkson on the power play. The sophomore netminder saved a shot from senior David Cayer, but classmate Nick Dodge was there to get the rebound into the right corner 3:41 into the stanza.
“It’s an age-old argument,” Schafer said. “Do you [have] the defenseman give a stick up to give to the goaltender or do you let the goaltender play without a stick? And in that situation it hurt us. [Scrivens] didn’t have his regular stick to fend the puck off … and we didn’t have the [defenseman] right there. So I like no goalie, no stick and keep the stick in our [defenseman’s] hands after tonight.”
The Golden Knights, for one, leaned on their goalie’s reflexes and ice awareness — which became more and more machine-like as the game progressed.
“[Leggio] saw the puck well,” Greening said. “The rebounds he gave up, the defensemen played really well for him. I know I had a few shots that I thought I could sneak by him, but he came up big for them.”
After the home team’s slow start, one Clarkson fan in the stands said during the second intermission, “We’re damn lucky to be ahead.”
That fan’s reference to the bad breaks for Cornell held true in the third, as well. Sophomore Matt Beca scored a shorthanded goal at the 6:02 mark to give the Golden Knights a 3-1 lead.
As time winded down, Schafer then pulled Scrivens for the extra man to spark the offense, but Grant Clitsome’s long shot made it to the unprotected goal with 1:19 remaining. The empty-netter brought the score to its final resting place.
The last time the Red allowed four goals in those four types of goals — even manned, power play, shorthanded and empty-net — was Mar. 14, 2004. Though that contest was at Lynah, it also pitted Cornell against Clarkson. The final buzzer on Friday brought both frustration and pride to the Red, as the team looks forward to the final weeks of ECAC play.
“I’m pretty proud of our guys,” Schafer said. “You have a young group that continues to learn lessons, but I don’t fault our guys a whole lot. We had a lot of scoring chances. We were in the game. It’s one of those things [that] happens in hockey certain nights. … They’re a good hockey team, and we hope to improve the way we’ve been improving, and hopefully we’re playing our best hockey in another two, three, four weeks.”
[img_assist|nid=27614|title=No goal|desc=With the Red trailing in the third period Friday night, junior forward Tyler Mugford (21) was blocked by Clarkson’s senior goaltender David Leggio, who had 32 saves.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]