November 14, 2010

Men’s Icers Notch First Home Win Against Quinnipiac

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Coming off of last Saturday’s decisive 6-1 victory over the Clarkson Golden Knights, the Red was back in action at Lynah Rink on Friday night, when it took on the Quinnipiac Bobcats. Returning to home ice, Cornell (2-4-0, 2-2-0 ECAC Hockey) was looking to take down a Quinnipiac team (5-4-1, 1-2-1 ECAC Hockey) that had been playing a tough regular season schedule since Oct. 8 (in which it earned wins over the likes of St. Cloud State and Ohio State).

“It’s tough with the Ivy League, because we don’t play as soon as the other teams play,” said sophomore defenseman Braden Birch, referring to the fact that the late start on the year is not just something Cornell has to deal with, but something that tends to put all Ivy League teams at a disadvantage coming into the beginning of the season.

However, the Red did not look disadvantaged at all when it finally hit the ice against the Bobcats, delivering a sound 4-1 win to the Faithful in the first home win of the season.

“We were excited to get back here to Lynah tonight and after what happened a couple of weeks ago,” said associate head coach Casey Jones ’90. “The guys were anxious to get back and we thought we started to forge an identity on the road last weekend.”

There was a certain energy in Lynah on Friday, perhaps due to the fact that the crowd was almost all red, with very few Quinnipiac fans making the trip from Hamden, Conn. to leave the lower half of section O virtually deserted. Perhaps the Bobcats fans knew what was coming, since they would have had little to cheer about as the Red took control of the game in the first and never let go of its stranglehold.

Things started off slow enough, with Quinnipiac’s John Dunbar whistled for holding at the 59-second mark. While the Red was almost able to capitalize on the power play, a heads-up play by a Quinnipiac defenseman saw the puck get cleared out of the zone after it was loose in front of the net for a few seconds.

Five minutes later, Cornell freshman Dustin Mowrey was called for tripping. While Mowrey was in the box, things got a little hairy in front of the Cornell goal. Quinnipiac was able to take the puck right to Garman, who made some of the first of his many great saves on the night. At one point, a Bobcat forward sent the puck across the crease, where it found Spencer Heichman, who was unable to get his stick on the puck and completely whiffed a shot at an open Cornell goal. However, the Red was able to clear the zone and the penalty kill unit again got the job done, adding more numbers to its already impressive stats this season.

Cornell really took control of the game at the 13:46 mark, when Braden Birch took the puck from Jordan Kary and, waiting just long enough to get a clear shot at the goal, put the puck over Dan Clarke’s left pad and put the Red up, 1-0, on a lead that would never be relinquished.

“It only took about a year,” Birch said, regarding his first career goal with the Red. “It was a pretty clean face-off, the puck came back to me, I was about to shoot it, guy got in the lane, he kind of … lost his step so I saw a lane, shot it, made it through about eight guys –– which I was pretty lucky to get it through –– but it was nice to see it hit the back of the net.”

With time winding down in the period, the Red began an offensive that would see another one get past Clarke. Things started off when sophomore forward Vince Mihalek took the puck to Clarke and got off a huge shot, only to see it turned away by Clarke.

Quinnipiac then took the puck back to Garman, who came up big again. Sophomore forward Nick D’Agostino then got the puck back in the Quinnipiac end, letting one fly from just outside the crease. D’Agostino’s shot was turned away by Clarke, who used his blocker to send it into the right corner, but the puck was picked up by a Cornell attacker, who was able to cycle it around pack to D’Agostino (via Mowrey and senior defenseman Mike Devin), who promptly sent it to the back of the net, putting the Red up, 2-0, to conclude scoring for the period.

The second period started off tough for the Red, with the team having a difficult time connecting passes in its own zone.

“Our weakest period by far tonight was the second period,” Jones said. “We weren’t great coming out … we got a little bit deviated, a little away from the game plan, didn’t get pucks deep and didn’t make our forecheck work for us to wear them down.”

Shortly after the five-minute mark, Quinnipiac’s Connor Jones took the puck in the neutral zone and took it right to Garman, firing a laser top-shelf, putting the puck over Garman’s left shoulder and bringing the Bobcats to within one.

Whatever boost Jones gave Quinnipiac was extremely short-lived as, 43 seconds later, junior forward Keir Ross got the puck to sophomore forward John Esposito, who sent it to junior forward Lock Jillson. Jillson took the puck around the front of the net and was able to slip it underneath a sliding Clarke, giving the Red the 3-1 lead and prompting the band to strike up “Deep in the Heart of Texas”, as the play started by the man from McKinney, Texas ended up with the man from Dallas finding the back of the net, all with a little help from a Canadian.

The period would finish uneventfully, with Garman coming up with more big saves and the penalty kill unit getting the job done yet again after freshman defenseman Kirill Gotovets was sent to the box on a boarding call.

The third was almost as uneventful, with the Red dominating the Bobcats, despite the fact the team only got two shots off the entire period.

“[In] the third period the shots on net were probably more of a reflection of what the score was,” Jones said. “We put pucks in safe areas and we weren’t forcing pucks to the net. I’d say we were really happy with the third period and how we came out and played.”

While things on the ice may not have been eventful, things on the Cornell bench certainly were. About three minutes into the period, Cornell senior forward Dan Nicholls delivered a hit on a Quinnipiac player along the Cornell bench. In the confusion that resulted from the Quinnipiac player ending up halfway over the boards, a stick hooked head coach Mike Schafer ’86 in the face, causing him to drop to the floor immediately. Schafer was escorted to the locker room by the trainers and did not return for the remainder of the game, being notably absent from the handshake. Seen in the office after the game, Schafer maintained that he was fine, just a little “groggy,” and did not give his traditional post-game press conference. At the time it was still unclear whether or not the coach would need stitches as a result of the injury.

With slightly over three minutes remaining in the game, Nicholls delivered a big hit on a Quinnipiac defender in the corner and was able to wrestle the puck out of the ensuing scrum. Nicholls then passed the puck to freshman forward Rodger Craig. Craig then got the puck to junior defenseman Sean Whitney, who flipped it over Clarke’s right shoulder, giving the Red a 4-1 lead and sealing the fate of the Bobcats. At that point the Faithful brought out their keys and the Bobcats began preparing for their long trip down the road to Hamilton for their Saturday match up with Colgate.

While the team as a whole shined, there was one player who really stood out: senior netminder Mike Garman.

“It was nice, it was really nice,” Garman said of earning his first win. “I think we’re starting to find our own way. We’re an inexperienced team a bit, we have a lot of guys in new roles and we’re really learning quickly what it takes to win in this league and I think the young guys … are doing a great job. There were some great hits, that line with [junior forward] Jordan Kary and Craig and Nicholls is just doing a great job for us. I think they’re really instrumental for our team right now and I think they’re wearing teams down, but at the same time I think the whole team is playing great defensively, each guy is doing their job and it’s really limiting the opponents.”

“He did a good job of not creating any traffic for himself and smothering up and not giving any second chance opportunities,” Jones said of Garman. “He looked a lot more comfortable and did a good job from start to finish on that tonight.”

While Garman shined between the pipes, there was no one player in particular that led the team in offense Friday, with 11 different players combining to tally a total of 11 points.

“We’re going to have to be a team that scores by committee,” Jones said.

Overall, the team seems very happy with its performance Friday, as it should be. Whatever the victory may mean for conference standings, the fact that they were able to come home and offer the Faithful a performance like they did is what matters most to the players.

“I like playing at home, I really do,” Garman said. “It’s great, [the] best fans in the world, that’s for sure.”

Original Author: Zach Waller