March 14, 2010

Men’s Hockey Sweeps Harvard, Advances to ECAC Semifinals

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The men’s hockey team had not won a game on a Saturday night since the 30th of January. Head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 squad picked the most important time of the year to finally break that streak, as the Red earned victories Friday and Saturday for a 2-0 series win over Harvard in the ECAC quarterfinals.

On Friday, the Red dominated right out of the gates and received two goals from freshman defenseman Nick D’Agostino and junior forward Riley Nash on the way to a 5-1 victory.

Then on Saturday, the game stayed tight through the third period, but the Red ultimately escaped with a 3-0 win, with senior Blake Gallagher earning his 100th career point in the process. With those two games, the seniors made their last appearances at Lynah Rink and advanced to the ECAC semifinals in Albany next weekend.

“It was perfect,” Gallagher said. “Our guys played great. Everybody just bought into the system, played hard and really battled. The guys played within themselves and did their jobs. It was a nice way to finish off in Lynah.”

On Friday night, Colin Greening opened the scoring just 4:35 into the first period when he banged a loose puck by Harvard goaltender Kyle Richter from just outside the crease. D’Agostino was credited with an assist on the play. However, the Crimson tied it up just five minutes later when junior forward Pier-Olivier Michaud scored on the power play by one-timing a shot after receiving a pass from freshman Conor Morrison.

After Michaud’s goal, it was all Cornell for the rest of the night. D’Agostino restored the Red’s lead with a power-play rebound goal of his own at the 12:41 mark of the first period.

In the second period, D’Agostino notched his second goal of the game ––his fourth of the season–– after a beautiful display of passing from Gallagher and junior forward Tyler Roeszler, giving the Red a 3-1 lead.

“You’re never going to be successful without your underclassmen stepping up and playing big roles at key times,” said senior goaltender Ben Scrivens. “Nick [D’Agostino] was just one example of that entire class stepping up. Obviously, his two goals yesterday really catapulted us to that win, and I’m sure he’s pretty jacked up about it. It’s definitely great to see that he’s relishing the role.”

The first period on Saturday was played fairly conservatively by both teams, as Cornell put just four shots on goal and Harvard tested Scrivens only three times. However, in the second period, Cornell’s offense took control and started dictating the pace of the game.

Midway through the second stanza, the Red controlled the puck in the Crimson end for sustained stretches of time, cycled the puck around the ice and created multiple chances in front of Richter. On this nigth, though, Richter stood tall, making key saves on senior forward Joe Scali and senior co-captain Colin Greening, and getting help from his post when Riley Nash rang one off of the iron.

“Kyle Richter was unbelievable tonight,” Schafer said. “I thought he was absolutely phenomenal as far as the amount of saves he made in the second period. I thought we could have put the game away in the second period, but time and time again he made big saves or we blew things over the net.”

At 12:05 of the second, the Red’s power play was finally able to get one by Richter. Sophomore defenseman Sean Whitney received a pass at the point from Riley Nash. Whitney skated in, faked a slap-shot at the point, but then sent a hard pass along the ice to the side of the crease, where Gallagher banged a one-timer into the back of the net before Richter even had time to react.

“It’s funny, actually, I must have taken that shot 200 times this week,” Gallagher said. “So it was nice, I saw it coming, it was rolling a little bit. I just tried to get it up high and Richter actually did a good job of getting over. There wasn’t a whole lot to shoot at. It was a perfect pass. I was just coming right out of the corner; I just tried to get it high and luckily it made it under the bar.”

Cornell added to its lead with just over five minutes remaining in the second when sophomore forward Sean Collins managed to collect a rebound to the side of Richter and wrist a shot through a crowd that Richter was unable to get in front of. The play was reviewed, but ultimately the goal stood. Coach Schafer was extremely impressed with his team’s ability to execute its game plan in the offensive zone throughout the weekend.

“When you show poise, it can really lock a team down a little bit and get them running around,” Schafer said. “When we were talking going into the weekend, we put three words up: poise, poise, poise. In the offensive zone, really moving our feet, not throwing pucks blind, and we talked about just having a methodical approach in the offensive zone.”

Harvard pulled Richter for an extra attacker with just over a minute remaining. The Crimson managed some pressure early, but soon Gallagher sprung Greening free with a pass down the ice and Greening shoved the puck into the empty net, giving the Red a 3-0 win. With that, Gallagher collected his 100th point in a Cornell uniform.

Scrivens made 17 saves to earn the shutout on Saturday, while Richter made 29 saves in the losing effort.After the game ended, the Red skated to center-ice to give its usual stick-wave of approval to the crowd. But this time, Greening followed that up by leading his team in a lap around the ice to thank the fans and to let his classmates soak in some last memories of Lynah Rink.

“That was really special,” Gallagher said. “I don’t think anyone had left the rink, which was pretty neat. It was still packed. It was just kind of a nice final good-bye. It was really special. They’re the best fans in the country. It was bitter-sweet because I’ll probably never get to play in front of a crowd like that again. It was something I’ll never forget for sure.”

“Lynah is second to none,” Scrivens said. “If you talk to any of the seniors tonight, that is one of the loudest crowds I have ever played in front of. It was just really nice to be involved in it and to be able to help the team out.”

Original Author: Mitchell Drucker