October 27, 2008

Kennedy, Nash Lead Hockey Over Visiting W. Ontario

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After the visiting University of Western Ontario Mustangs scored an equalizing goal with just 28 seconds remaining in the third period, it seemed as though the Red was headed for its second straight 3-3 exhibition tie. However, the Red mounted a final attack in the closing moments, and junior Brendon Nash broke the tie, scoring his second goal of the night with just 6.3 seconds remaining to earn a 4-3 Cornell victory.
Red co-captain Michael Kennedy scored the other two Cornell goals on the evening while junior goaltender Ben Scrivens made 17 saves. However, the Red’s lack of discipline and a couple of defensive breakdowns almost proved to be fatal, as the team coughed up a 3-1 third-period lead.
“I said to the guys right after the game that there was very little that I liked about our hockey team tonight,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Right from the get-go, [I didn’t like] our approach, the way we executed, the lack of poise we had, our enthusiasm for the game and lack of discipline. We will take the win for what it’s worth, but this was supposed to be a game to get tuned up, and obviously it was just a special-teams fiasco.”[img_assist|nid=33029|title=Late heroics|desc=Junior Brendon Nash (24) scored his second goal of the night with 6.3 seconds left in the game to push the Red past Western Ontario.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The “special-teams fiasco” to which Schafer was referring occurred as a result of a total of 26 penalties being issued against the two teams. The power play and penalty kill units were put under the spotlight, as five of the game’s seven goals came when one team had a man-advantage.
Forward Riley Nash took a tripping penalty at 14:05 of the first period and Western Ontario got on the board 44 seconds into the ensuing power-play when Mustang senior winger and captain Luc Martin collected a rebound in front of the net and banged it home past a sprawling Scrivens, putting Western up 1-0.
The first period alone was marked by a total of 31 penalty minutes being dispensed on 10 infractions, five by each team.
“That is what you’re going to see,” explained Red co-captain Michael Kennedy. “That is the new crackdown on obstruction. That’s how they’re calling it these days, so you have to be very careful with your stick and with your hands because with the two referee system out there, things that went unnoticed in past years aren’t going to go unnoticed this year.”
Cornell opened up the second period down a man, but was able to control the play off of the opening face-off. Winger Evan Barlow brought the puck down the left side through the neutral zone and sent a cross-ice pass to Michael Kennedy in the right circle. The Red captain took his time to tee-up a slap-shot that beat Western goalie Brad Topping low on the short-side, tying the game at 1-1 just 55 seconds into the second frame.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had [a shorthanded goal] before,” Kennedy said. “[Barlow] made some great plays in the neutral zone. … Fortunately, I was able to find a hole and he got it to me and I just one-timed it on net. We were kind of pressing after they went up one, so it was nice to get the crowd back into it with the score.”
Near the end of the second stanza, with the man-advantage and in the Mustangs’ zone, Kennedy took a feed from his co-captain Colin Greening, then skated along the boards and found Brendon Nash up top at the point. Nash fired a knee-high slap-shot that made it through both the traffic in front of the net and Topping’s five-hole, hitting the back of the net and giving the Red a 2-1 lead with just 46 ticks remaining on the second period clock.
The hard-nosed physical play continued into the final period, but the scoring also opened up. At the halfway point of the third, Greening took a shot that sailed wide off the glass. Brendon Nash collected the errant shot at the point and slyly faked a shot on goal. Nash then slid the puck over to the right hash marks where Kennedy unloaded on a shot that beat Topping at 10:35 of the third.
However, the Mustangs responded just over a minute later when defenseman Chris Petrow came out of the penalty box and broke free past the Red defense. After a few slow-motion dekes to Scrivens’ left, Petrow flicked a backhand to the top-shelf to cut the Red lead down to 3-2.
“The Petrow goal was just a lack of awareness of two juniors standing on the ice knowing that the penalty was up and they have the whole bench yelling at them, but they’re not paying attention to what’s going on,” said Schafer. “That in itself was a perfect example of our lack of paying attention and our awareness in tonight’s game. Obviously, it is frustrating to get scored on in that manner. That awareness thing has to come quickly. You don’t go out and practice for when a guy comes out of the penalty box during your first four days of practice. You would assume that guys would have that game-sense or that game-feel.”
Western pulled Topping with 47 seconds remaining in the game in exchange for an extra attacker and then called a timeout on the next stoppage of play in hopes of organizing a last-minute strike.
After the face-off, Western set up its offense in the Cornell zone and started cycling the puck. Mustangs’ defenseman Jason Swit took a slap-shot from the point that redirected off of a player in front of the net and beat Scrivens to level the game at 3-3 with 27 seconds remaining, erasing what was once a commanding 3-1 lead.
With seconds clicking away and a tie seeming inevitable as Western looked to run down the clock, the Red fore-check knocked the puck loose down low, enabling Riley Nash to send a pass to his brother Brendon Nash in the slot. Brendon then wired a snap-shot through the legs of Topping to put the Red back up 4-3 with just 6.3 seconds left in the game.
“We knew that there were 27 seconds left when we lined up at center,” Brendon Nash said. “We got the puck deep, and our forwards starting passing it around the corner. I just went down low because I knew it was under 10 seconds, so I was just trying to get to the front of the net. Riley [Nash] made a nice backhand pass; it was right on my stick. I shot it at the net and beat the goalie across.”
While the Red players are happy to come out of this dramatic game with a victory, they were disappointed in their inability to protect the 3-1 lead and they know that they have a lot of work to do before they kick-off their regular season against Princeton on Nov. 7.
“You have to take each game, win or lose, with a grain of salt in the preseason,” Kennedy said. “We weren’t extremely happy with our effort tonight. We are going to look at the video of it and make improvements. We have two weeks here to work out whatever kinks we have left in our game and get ready for Princeton.”