March 2, 2009

Men’s Hockey Splits Road Weekend vs. Yale, Brown

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After failing to score in the first two periods, Cornell (18-7-4, 13-6-3 ECAC Hockey) sliced Yale’s lead to 3-2 with two power play goals in the third period. However, the comeback was short-circuited as freshman forward Brian O’Neil netted his second goal of the evening with 45 seconds remaining in regulation to stake the Bulldogs to a 4-2 victory.
“We made some mistakes early on,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Give [Yale] credit. They came out with a lot of intensity. We didn’t come out with desperation right off the bat. I am happy our guys didn’t quit [when it was 3-0], kept pushing for it and tried to get the tying goal. But, I’m also disappointed because we can’t give up the goal that we gave up in the beginning of the game.”
No. 12 Yale broke the scoreless tie midway through the first period as junior forward Sean Backman registered his 15th goal of the season. Junior goaltender Ben Scrivens streaked from his crease to play the puck on his blue line. Scrivens speed did not let him down as he was first to reach the puck. However, an unfortunate bounce on his clearing attempt proved costly. Scrivens’ puck handling mishap resulted in the puck ricocheting off of Backman’s leg and heading toward the vacated Cornell goal. As the puck bounced back towards the Cornell net, Backman recovered in time to score the Bulldogs seventh short-handed goal of the season before Scrivens could scamper back to his crease.
“Against good teams on the road, you can’t give up that kind of goal and win the game, but give Ben [Scrivens] credit,” Schafer said. “He made a couple of big saves on breakaways, but we didn’t execute our game plan in the first 10-15 minutes. We gave up two great plays to stay above those guys, but that short-handed goal was hard to take.”
“We had a lot of pressure on ourselves because of how big a game it was,” said junior defenseman Brandon Nash. “We had to come prepared to play in a big game. [Scrivens] hit one of the two guys there with the puck and it kind of went right to [Yale].”
The 11th ranked Red seemed to settle down as the first period wore on while both teams demonstrated they were not content to merely settle for a first-round bye in the playoffs. There was no explanation needed for the hard checking, shoving, pushing and jawing after the whistle blew in a game of this magnitude. Nothing less was to be expected in a heated match with postseason seeding at stake.
“There was a lot of emotion out there,” said senior co-captain Colin Greening. “Everyone knew what was on the line for this game. That happens sometime. You’re always going to have pushing and shoving after the whistle and talking back and forth, but that’s part of hockey.”
The Bulldogs added to their advantage with two power play goals in the second period. O’Neil capitalized on a rebound attempt in front of the net and slipped in his 10th goal of the season eight minutes in. Junior forward Mark Arcobello tallied the Bulldogs second power play goal with 1:21 remaining in the second stanza. Sophomore forward Denny Kearney was able to sneak a cross-ice pass behind the Cornell defense to Arcobello, who quickly deposited the puck before Scrivens was able to recover.
The Bulldogs’ penalty kill proved to be quite effective as Yale shutout the Red in the first two periods. Cornell only managed eight shots on six power play opportunities in the first two periods. The Red finished the contest with two goals on 10 extra man advantages.
Cornell finally got on the scoreboard with its first power play goal at the 3:28 in the third, as Greening one-timed a blistering slapshot square at the pipes. Greening’s 11th goal of the season cut the deficit to 3-1 and served as inspiration for the boisterous contingent of Cornell fans, who made the trek to Ingalls Rink.
After pulling Scrivens in favor of an extra attacker, senior forward Evan Barlow recorded a 6-on-4 power play goal at the 17:43 mark of the third period. However, O’Neil’s second goal of the game less than two minutes later sealed the victory and the regular season ECAC Hockey championship for Yale.
Cornell maintained a 31-29 edge in shots. However, senior netminder Alec Richards was stalwart for Yale between the pipes, deflecting 29 shots.
“We definitely had our chances,” Greening said. “That’s a part of hockey. I think [Richards] played well. He trapped the puck really well, but to get as far as they come, they’ve played well and we didn’t play a good game tonight.”
Although Scrivens was the main culprit on Yale’s first goal, he demonstrated why he is the No. 3 goaltender in the nation in goals against average, making several acrobatic saves and displaying quick reflexes on odd-man rushes. Scrivens posted 25 saves.
“There was a lot of energy out there tonight [for our team], but it wasn’t expressed in the right way,” Greening added. “I think guys on the team were a little bit nervous in the first period and if you have nervous energy that’s not exactly positive for your team.”
Cornell found itself in a familiar position Saturday evening in Providence, trailing Brown, 2-0, heading into the third period. Thanks to both of the Red’s captains, Greening and senior forward Michael Kennedy, Cornell knotted the game at 2-2 before heading into overtime.
Kennedy recorded the team’s first goal at 8:49 during the third. As time was winding down on the Cornell power play, Kennedy capitalized on his own rebound to trim Brown’s (3-21-5, 3-15-4 ECAC Hockey) lead to 2-1.
Greening followed with 5:54 remaining in regulation, scoring off of the extra man advantage, notching his team-leading 12th goal of the campaign and second goal of the weekend.
This set up junior forward Blake Gallagher’s overtime heroics. A tie-breaking formula dictated the only way Cornell could surpass Princeton in the standings was with a victory. A tie at Brown would not suffice as the Tigers would hold the edge in the tie-breaking scenario with more league victories than the Red.
Gallagher registered the game-winning goal at the 2:13 mark of overtime with both Kennedy and Greening credited with assists.
Scrivens gloved and paddled away 24 shots while Brown freshman goaltender Mike Clemente made 39 saves. The Red outshot the Bears, 42-26.
The win also served to bolster Cornell’s effort to secure an at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament. A loss to Brown, a team that has the fewest wins in Division I, would potentially have had disastrous results. The NCAA seeding is predicated upon the PairWise rankings, a form of strength of schedule evaluation, which would not have looked kindly upon a late season loss to the lowly Bears.