February 23, 2009

Quick Start Helps Cornell Down Rensselaer, 4-1

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On Friday night, the Red came flying out of the gates with three even-strength first period goals that immediately established the tone of the game. Junior forward Blake Gallagher added to the Cornell lead with a power-play goal in the second frame, and junior goaltender Ben Scrivens made 24 saves on 25 shots to seal the 4-1 victory over the Engineers and snap the Red’s three-game losing streak.
Senior co-captain Mike Kennedy, who returned to action after missing four games with injury, was very happy with the Red’s well-rounded offensive attack and thought the team did a great job of creating quality scoring opportunities throughout the night.
“That is definitely something we are looking for is to get more even-strength chances and to score more even-strength goals,” Kennedy said. “When you can score even-strength it takes a bit of pressure off of the power-play- you are not relying on it as much to score. You need that balance between even-strength goals and power-play goals in order to be successful so hopefully we can keep that going.”
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Cornell opened the scoring less than five minutes into the game. Senior defenseman Jared Seminoff collected the puck in the neutral zone along the right boards and crossed it to Kennedy, who came skating up the middle. Kennedy relayed the puck over to senior forward Tyler Mugford as he came streaking down the left side. Mugford released a quick snap shot blocker-side that ricocheted off the post and into the net. Mugford’s score put the Red up 1-0 at 4:13 of the first.
“I don’t know if [Rensselaer] was on a change but [Seminoff] found me with a great pass in the neutral zone,” Kennedy said. “I looked up and Mugford was wide open on the left side there. So I just moved it to him and he made a heck of a shot.”
Soon thereafter, RPI goalie Mathias Lange made a save off of a tipped slap-shot from the point. With Lange out of position, the rebound bounced out to Evan Barlow, who ripped the puck home into the gaping net putting the Red up 2-0.
The Red continued to pour on the pressure; just over two minutes later, Mugford notched his second goal of the night and his fourth of the year. His second marker was quite similar to his first, as Mugford collected a backhand pass from Sean Collins and once again came streaking down the left side of the RPI zone. Mugford received the puck mid-stride, wristing it over RPI goaltender Lange, giving the Red a 3-0 lead just 11:03 into the game.
Mugford, who is not typically used to a role as a scorer, was pleased to have helped his team with some offensive contributions, but he was most satisfied with his team’s balanced effort in earning the win.
“I don’t know what happened there,” Mugford said. “I guess [Lange] shaded over a little bit and I got lucky on the short side. Hey, I am going to take them and I will take them anyway I can get them. … The main point of tonight was getting that 60 minute game and getting back into our winning ways here.”
Cornell head coach Mike Schafer was excited to see his players take advantage of their scoring chances at the start of the game, and he was also very pleased with the way they played once they built their lead.
“It was great to capitalize on our scoring chances early… but then we did a good job of not giving up a whole lot after that,” Schafer said. “They got some guys that can capitalize and our game plan going in was to stay above them and it just makes all that more important once we got that kind of lead.”
The play in the second period slowed down as the Red skated conservatively with their 3-0 advantage.
“We like to protect the lead and keep playing our game- we didn’t want to change anything,” Kennedy explained. “We wanted to keep playing physical, take care of the puck in the offensive zone, no high risk plays, keep it simple, keep the puck in their end as much as possible and try to limit their chances in our end.”
Cornell was given a 5-on-3 power-play opportunity as RPI forwards Tyler Helfrich and Jordan Watts were called for hooking and charging respectively around the mid-way point of the second frame. The Red set up its power-play cycle, swinging the puck around the RPI zone. Riley Nash sent a pass from the bottom of the circle up to the point to Brendon Nash. Brendon casually slid the puck over to Blake Gallagher who rifled a slap-shot blocker-side past Lange, putting the Red up 4-0 at 11:51 of the second.
“[Gallagher] had a great opportunity there with the one-timer over there to make it 4-0,” Schafer explained. “I thought that was a really big difference in the game, getting that fourth goal to get that separation going into the third.”
RPI was finally able to get on the board in the third period, as junior forward Garett Vassel scored his first goal of the year. The play developed as RPI worked the puck around the Cornell zone. Engineer defenseman Bryan Brutlag threw a low shot into traffic from the point. Vassel was able to get a stick on it and sharply redirected the puck over Scrivens’ glove, into the back of the net. Vassel’s goal cut the Red lead to 4-1, but that was as close as the Engineers would come, as the Red cruised to a 4-1 win.
The Red players were wearing black and pink uniforms as part of the ECAC Hockey’s Pink at the Rink campaign to raise money and awareness for cancer research. The Red players enjoyed their new threads and were happy that they were able to come away with a victory in pink and snap their three-game losing streak.
“I don’t think the pink can stay,” Mugford said. “But, I guess whatever works. I think we all had a few giggles to each other but it is for a great cause. The cause that it was for is not really a laughing matter so we were well aware of what we were getting into. I think it might have clashed with the red a little bit, but what can you do.”