March 24, 2008

Harvard halts Cornell’s run for the ECAC title

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ALBANY, N.Y. — A team spends the entire season focusing solely on hockey. From early-season practices to end-of-year playoff contests, from studying game tape to battling on the boards, a team tries to keep that focus on the ultimate prize — a league championship and a berth in the NCAA tournament. And in a mere 60 minutes, that dream can quickly come crashing down.
Such was the case Friday night in Albany, N.Y., as the men’s hockey team fell to Harvard, 3-1, in the ECAC Hockey semifinals. The loss ostensibly means that Cornell will not play in the NCAA tournament.
“It hurts,” said senior co-captain Topher Scott. “It’s kind of tough to put feelings together right now. You have so much going through your head. You put everything you have into the team for four years. It is not going to be easy to say goodbye, especially to the guys. You are with them seven or eight hours a day, and some guys you live with, you are with even more. Some of these guys are your best friends.”
[img_assist|nid=29009|title=Skate, skate, pass|desc=Junior Michael Kennedy (18) assisted on the Red’s only goal against Harvard.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
In the other semifinal played earlier Friday, Princeton topped Colgate, 3-0, setting up a league final between the Crimson and the Tigers, with an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament on the line.
“To tell the truth, it hasn’t really hit me yet,” said senior co-captain Raymond Sawada. “Obviously we are really disappointed, but I think come next week, I’m going to realize we are not going to play hockey, and that is when it is going to hit me.”
“We have a lot of respect for Cornell,” said Harvard head coach Ted Donato. “They have been very successful. In the most respectful way, I can say I am happy to see Topher Scott, Sawada, a couple of these guys graduate, because they are excellent players.”
The story on Friday night was special teams. Cornell’s normally stingy penalty kill allowed Harvard to score three power-play goals, including two by senior Jon Pelle.
On Pelle’s first goal, the senior had the puck to the right of Red sophomore netminder Ben Scrivens and fired it top shelf. The puck went between Scrivens and the near post to give the Crimson a 2-1 lead.
Pelle’s second score was a tip on a shot from the point by sophomore Alex Biega to give Harvard a 3-1 advantage. Senior Dave Watters scored the Crimson’s first goal of the night.
“I think not a lot of us would have guessed that the game would have come down to just special teams, but I thought we were able to get ourselves on the power play with our speed,” Donato said. “They were able to take a few penalties trying to contain us, and I thought our power play stepped up. The first couple, I thought they gave us a lot of problems, and we were able to find a way to get some pucks through and Scrivens was excellent in there. But we were fortunate to get a couple by him.”
Cornell’s lone goal was also on the power play. In the second period and down, 2-0, junior Michael Kennedy found Sawada to the right of Harvard sophomore goalie Kyle Richter. Sawada held the puck, and Richter went out to challenge him, but the senior found Scott, who had positioned himself right in front of the goal, and Scott put it home for the tally.
Aside from that goal, Richter made 31 saves for Harvard, one day after finding out that he won the Ken Dryden award, which is given annually to the best goaltender in ECAC Hockey.
In one of Richter’s highlights in the third period on Friday, freshman Patrick Kennedy got a shot off from his knees in the slot, but Richter made a glove save while falling down to keep the game at 2-1.
“Our power play generated some great chances right down to the very end,” said head coach Mike Schafer ‘86. “Give Kyle Richter credit. He did a tremendous job of coming up with big save after big save.”
“We got our chances,” Sawada said. “We had a number of chances right in the slot, and we didn’t capitalize.”
Scrivens made 31 saves for Cornell in the losing effort. The Crimson outshot the Red, 33-32.