March 23, 2009

Cornell Shut Out by Yale in ECAC Championships

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ALBANY — The men’s hockey team advanced to the ECAC Hockey tournament finals with a 4-3 double overtime stunner over Princeton on Friday night, but fell to Yale in the title game, 5-0. Cornell finishes the year second in ECAC Hockey rankings and received an at-large berth to the NCAA tournament for the first time since the 2005-06 season.
Friday’s semifinal win over Princeton seemed like an instant classic — head coach Mike Schafer ’86 called it “one of the best college games I’ve been a part of.” It looked like a dire situation for the Red, with the Tigers up 3-1 late in the third period and goalie Zane Kalemba, the ECAC Player of the Year, stopping everything Cornell threw at him. With less than three minutes remaining in the contest, senior Evan Barlow came up a terrific end-to-end one-man effort to cut into Princeton’s lead and push his ECAC Hockey playoff goal total to five. Barlow stole the puck in front of Cornell’s goal, stormed to Princeton’s zone, eluding three defenders on the way, and fired one past Kalemba to pull the Red within one goal.
“That was an absolutely outstanding play by Evan Barlow,” Schafer said.[img_assist|nid=36134|title=Playing for keeps|desc=Senior forward Tyler Mugford (21) is joined in a scrum at the Yale goal by freshman forward Sean Collins (12) at the ECAC finals on Saturday.|link=node|align=left|width=|height=0]
The goal seemed to revive Cornell’s skaters, who had played well and controlled the puck for most of the game, but could not solve Kalemba. With time winding down and the one-goal lead, Princeton seemed content to play defense and cleared the puck out of its own zone as quickly and often as it could, but did not press much on offense. Cornell junior goalie Ben Scrivens was pulled for the extra skater with one minute remaining in regulation, and the move pulled off when sophomore forward Riley Nash netted the tying goal with just 24.5 seconds left to play. Traffic accumulated in front of the Princeton net, Barlow was checked into Kalemba and Nash took the opportunity to slip the puck inside the near post, drawing a roar from the Cornell fans in attendance.
“I thought I had it covered,” Kalemba said. “But obviously I didn’t.”
Both teams had scoring chances in the first overtime, but Scrivens and Kalemba were solid in goal, making 10 saves apiece in the period. As the night drew on, both teams seemed to wear down and traded icing calls until junior forward Colin Greening scored the game winner on a broken play. Senior defenseman Jared Seminoff, who was named to the All-Tournament team, had his shot blocked but classmate Tyler Mugford tracked the puck down and passed it to Greening. Greening skated between the circles and blasted a high shot past Kalemba’s glove to hand Cornell the win about halfway through the second overtime.
“Very tough hockey game, it ended with a great player making a great shot,” said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky.
Saturday’s finals game was hard-fought the entire way, despite the 5-0 final score. Yale’s fast skating team seemed to be ahead of Cornell on nearly every play, and three of its scores came on perfectly executed one-timers from crossing feeds as Bulldogs rushed the Cornell net.
“They did a tremendous job of capitalizing on their chances in transition,” Schafer said.
Yale’s junior forward Sean Backman managed a hat trick, though his third goal came with an empty net as Cornell sought to avoid the shutout in the third period. Backman was named the tournament Most Outstanding Player after the game.
“When he gets his opportunities, he doesn’t squander them,” Schafer said. “That’s what goal-scorers do.”
Cornell did not generate many quality scoring chances, and Bulldog goalie Alec Richards was up to the task whenever the Red managed to set up its offense.
“They blocked some shots, their kids did a good job sacrificing their bodies,” Schafer said. “When it got through them, Alec made some big saves.”
The Red’s best shot to get on the scoreboard came with 9:32 left in the third period. Yale’s Jeff Anderson was called for slashing and Scrivens was pulled for the extra skater to give the Red a two-man advantage. Cornell managed to set up its offense and took a few good shots, but couldn’t get past Richards.
“We were trying to bring the puck to the net as much as we could and get a greasy one,” Greening said. “We hoped that once we got one, the floodgates would open. … It just didn’t happen tonight.”
Despite the tough loss, Cornell is still moving forward and preparing to play its NCAA game against Northeastern University. The game will be played at 4 p.m. on Saturday at the Van Andel Arena in Grand Rapids, Mich.
“It hurts when you lose,” Schafer said. “But part of the dream we still have is to win a national championship. Part of the dream is still alive.”