March 10, 2008

Men’s Hockey Pushes Past Solid Green Goalie

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The Red’s power play seemed to falter at first Friday night at Lynah Rink. But with the game tied at 2-2 and mere minutes left in regulation. It finally pulled through on senior co-captain Raymond Sawada’s third period game-winner. The goal gave the men’s hockey team a 3-2 win over Dartmouth in the opening game of its first-round best-of-three playoff series.
“The game was very similar to last year’s playoff game [against Quinnipiac],” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Last year, we didn’t get that power play goal, and this year we did. That’s kind of the difference in years. … I talked to our guys [and said that] it’s a 120-minute series. We’re just through the first 60.”
There were things to celebrate, however, in the first game of the series. Sophomore goaltender Ben Scrivens got a victory in his first collegiate playoff start, and Schafer passed a Cornell men’s hockey milestone, although he didn’t even know it. In his 13th season as head coach, Friday night’s nail-biter gave Schafer his 250th career victory.
“I didn’t even know until [assistant coach] Brent [Brekke] said, ‘Oh, it was a big win tonight.’ I said, ‘Yeah, it was a real big win’ [meaning a big playoff win],” Schafer said. “And I said to Brent and [assistant coach] Scott [Garrow] afterwards [that] a lot of players have come through here and they’re responsible for it.” [img_assist|nid=28675|title=Race to the finish|desc=Junior forward Evan Barlow (20) skates for the puck. The Red needed a late goal from senior co-captain Raymond Sawada to get past the Green.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The players made Schafer’s 250th win an exciting one. After an uneventful first period reminiscent of Cornell’s visit to Hanover, N.H., in the fall, the second period saw a flurry of activity on both sides.
“I think we were happy with our first period,” said junior forward Evan Barlow. “Last week, obviously, it wasn’t as much at stake for Dartmouth. Now, they pushed the pace in the first period, and we had to feel each other out a bit before we could set the tone in the second.”
Barely a minute into the second, sophomore alternate-captain Colin Greening popped in a rebound after freshman Riley Nash’s shot was saved. The Green tied it up two minutes later on a power-play tally that capitalized on a Cornell turnover, and Dartmouth then took the lead at the 13-minute mark with an unassisted shot from the point, after which Scrivens looked extremely surprised.
“The power play goal that we gave up was kind of a transition goal, and we had a big response in our home rink,” Schafer said.
The Red mounted a quick comeback when Sawada took a pass from sophomore Brendon Nash to knot the score at 2-2 only 25 seconds after Dartmouth took the lead. Though Schafer thought that his team came out a little slow in the opening two or three minutes of the game, the Red picked up its in the third period after the high-intensity second.
“Obviously, we don’t want to get into a run-and-gun game. That’s not our style of play,” said senior co-alternate captain Doug Krantz. “Especially once we were at 3-2, I thought we did a great job of just shutting guys down and not giving them any opportunities.”
The Cornell penalty kill effectively shut down Dartmouth, but power play was the Red’s greatest weakness and greatest strength of the night.
“We made some adjustments after the first [power play],” Schafer said. “[Dartmouth goaltender Mike] Devine made a big save on Evan Barlow in the second. Mike Kennedy missed an opportunity. Topher Scott walked right in in the first period. So the power play created its chances, [but] it took us right to the very end in order to capitalize.”
After scoring the first three goals on the power play in last Friday’s game against the Green, the Red struggled at first with the man advantage. In seven opportunities, Cornell had only one goal, though it turned out to be the most important goal of the night.
“They’ve definitely done their homework and seen what we do on our power play,” Sawada said. “They were right on the guys who usually control the puck on the power play … especially in [my line], taking away Topher and Michael Kennedy, which is where the puck is most of the time on the power play.”
On the Red’s fifth power play of the night, however, the home team got back some of the magic. Notching his first two-goal game of the year, Sawada tipped in a slap shot from the blue line by freshman Mike Devin.
“It just happened so fast,” Sawada said. “That play must have happened 100 times in practice. I think it’s just instinct, trying to tip the puck in. You don’t really know where it’s going to go. You just need to try to get a stick on it, just to throw the goalie off a little bit.”
The Green’s goalie had been one of the biggest problems for the Red all night. Devine had 31 saves on the night, demonstrating the type of clutch performance that the Red has come to expect from him. Though the crowd called for backup goalie Joe Grossman, the only change the spectators ever saw was 56 seconds of empty net in the final minutes.
“He’s a good goaltender,” Barlow said. “He really seems to challenge a lot. He steps out far. One of the keys is getting the puck around him. Anytime you can move across ice, you’re going to have a good look at the net. Traffic, obviously, is key, and picking up rebounds [is key].”
With less than five minutes left in the game, Dartmouth wasn’t giving up. The Green got its own opportunity on the man advantage, but the Red penalty kill, however, was intent on holding onto the win, no matter the risk of bodily injury.
“[Killing that late penalty was] huge,” Krantz said. “You know, [sophomore forward Joe] Scali taking that shot right off the chin or wherever it got him in the face there [in order to block a shot]. It’s something that you need to do. It’s playoff hockey. You see it all the time, guys run down taking shots, taking big hits.”
In an unexpected move, Schafer had started the checking line of Scali, Mugford and senior center Chris Fontas, and the coach went back to those three often throughout the game.
“I thought those guys did a real good job of not just being on the ice and checking, but I thought they created a few scoring chances for themselves and did a good job in the offensive zone,” Schafer said. “They played very, very strong and physical. Every shift when they were out there on the ice, they took care of their job.”