November 28, 2010

Men’s Hockey Halts Skid with Win at Prudential Center

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Over the Thanksgiving holiday weekend, the men’s hockey team traveled to Newark, N.J., to make history for the program on a few different accounts. As Cornell (3-6-0) battled Colgate (2-9-1) in a game that did not count as ECAC League play despite the respective conferences of both teams, 5,412 fans of the tri-state area were able to welcome the two upstate squads to the Prudential Center — home of the NHL’s New Jersey Devils — in what was the first-ever college hockey game played at the arena. As the Red skated past the Raiders to notch a 4-3 victory, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 was able to join only 45 other coaches in all of Division I hockey history to tally a 300th coaching career win.

The game featured a few positive components that all combined to make for the winning game on Saturday night, despite some injuries. Successful penalty-killing and power-play units, coupled with a goaltender boasting a 90.8 save percentage and an absent defeatist attitude on the team, allowed the players to make a three-goal comeback and eventually take down the Raiders.

Colgate got onto the board in the first period at the 12:53 mark on an even-strength goal. Almost three minutes later it seemed like the Raiders might have an opportunity to add another point, as they had an extra-man advantage when Red senior forward Tyler Roeszler took a two-minute minor hooking penalty. But Cornell’s penalty kill was on top of its game and Colgate’s power-play opportunity passed in the same fashion the rest of the period — without any more points for the Raiders.

“We had some great opportunities in the first, right dead in the slot and [Colgate’s goalie Alex Evin] made some great saves,” Schafer said.

Down by one entering the second period, the Red looked to equalize the score but it was the Raiders that would get the first point at 9:52 into the period, as the puck rallied off a Cornell player’s stick into the net — past freshman goalie Andy Iles — bringing the score to 2-0 in Colgate’s favor. However, the Red was quick on the response, and less than a minute and a half later managed to cut the Raiders’ lead in half; sophomore defenseman Nick D’Agostino successfully sent the puck into Colgate’s cage, with assists from classmate Greg Miller and senior forward and co-captain Joe Devin. But Colgate did not let up, and in another block of the same amount of time sent a third one past Iles to conclude the second period holding a two-goal lead.

Still, entering the third period with the Radiers leading, 3-1, the Red did not give up hope and continued displaying aggression. After freshman defenseman Kirill Gotovets stepped out of the penalty box from his second minor of the night, Miller found Roeszler, who was able to score on a breakaway at 3:47 and bring Cornell’s deficit to just one.

“There was a great play by the guys, coming off the ice on the penalty kill, and Tyler Roeszler jumped out there — jumped in the seam — and Greg Miller found him. That was a big lift for us to make the thing 3-2,” Schafer said.

At 6:13, the Red proved its ability again as it sent in a puck to tie the score at 3-3. Sophomore forward John Esposito received a puck from Joe Devin and D’Agostino and was able to capitalize on this opportunity. He scored on Evin, making the remainder of the third period essentially anybody’s game.

And indeed, the game that began in Colgate’s favor became anybody’s for the taking, and Cornell snatched it. It was the Red’s power-play skaters that were able to finish off the night in a winning manner, as junior forward Sean Collins redirected a puck sent from Gotovets and scored the game-winner during a man-advantage with nine and a half minutes left in the game.

“It was just a great play by Kirill Gotovets,” Collins said. “It was going to the net, went off my skate. [I’ve] kind of had some bad luck lately so it was nice to get that one.”

Now down by one, the Raiders attempted to overcome the Red’s first lead of the game, 4-3, but were unable to get another one past Iles for the remainder of play. Colgate pulled its netminder with 1:25 to go in the game, yet the extra skater on the ice did nothing for the team, as the game concluded in Cornell’s favor — breaking the Red’s previous three-game losing streak.

The victory can be much attributed to the turnaround that Cornell made in the third period. Sure enough, the team’s mentality to keep fighting to the best of its ability and waiting for the result to come finally paid off in this game.

“We were getting our chances — things weren’t just going our way … 20 minutes, find a way to win in the third, [we] went out there and were able to … get it going,” Roeszler said.

Cornell next returns to the ice in preparation to close out play before the semester ends when it hosts the University of Alabama — Huntsville in back-to-back contests at Lynah Rink.

Original Author: Reena Gilani