February 20, 2011

Men’s Hockey Splits Weekend Series, Celebrating Senior Class

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When the boys from Cambridge, Mass. entered the building on Friday, they were wise to stick to the boards along section O. Moments after the first wave of fish was cleared from the ice, just 31 seconds after the drop of the puck, sophomore defenseman Nick D’Agostino set the tone for the night with a quick goal to put the Red ahead, 1-0. By the end of the first period, however, Harvard had snatched Cornell’s lead and refused to give it back for the remainder of the game.

Cornell’s loss (12-11-3, 10-7-2 ECAC Hockey) to the Harvard Crimson (6-18-1, 4-13-1) on Friday, 4-3, was a game filled with high energy and high emotion. The Red came out strong even after it claimed the first spot on the scoreboard by out-hitting the Crimson early and winning battles in the corner.

“We want to come with energy like that. We want that kind of intensity,” D’Agostino said, referring to the Red’s early response to the deafening crowd.

Harvard also came to play in the first and looked to junior center Alex Killorn for the first of his two power play goals — both scored at point-blank range — to put the team on the board.

“They did something different on their power play than they did down at Harvard,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, “They were 3-for-4 on the power play and we were 0-for-3.”

Also scoring for Harvard was senior winger Michael Biega, who leads his team with seven points against the Red this season. For the Red, senior forward and co-captain Joe Devin and sophomore John Esposito each notched a goal in addition to D’Agostino’s score in the opening minute.

Schafer has been very successful in his efforts to turn around the 20-game drought against the Crimson he inherited after taking over in 1995. Since the two Ivy League powerhouses began playing each other in 1910, the Red has claimed the majority of the competitions, with Schafer sporting a 30-13-2 record against the team’s fierce rival. Friday’s loss marks the end of a five-game winning streak for the Red over the Crimson.

The contest also saw an interesting dynamic arise between Lynah tradition and the interests of the Red as Cornell took a bench minor for throwing objects onto the ice during the pivotal third period. Though the Red successfully killed off the penalty, a change in the game’s momentum could definitely be sensed.

“The fans hurt us,” Schafer said. “They want the tradition to live, but it absolutely killed us tonight. It was disappointing. The students who really, really want something from this team and those that have been complaining about how the athletic department is trying to crack down on it, didn’t use their brains as far as their support of our team.”

A hooking penalty against senior forward Tyler Roeszler a few minutes later gave Harvard the advantage it needed to put the winning piece of rubber past junior goalie Mike Garman. The net minder notched 24-of-28 shots fired on net.

“You never want to kill penalties. It’s a tough situation because it’s a tradition here for fans to do that sort of thing. It didn’t affect the score of the game, though maybe the momentum,” D’Agostino said.

Though the help of an extra attacker didn’t lead to a game-tying goal for the Red in the game’s final minute, Schafer was still pleased with his team’s overall performance on the ice.

“It was a tough hockey game … even in the last 15 seconds of the game they are confident they can get that goal.”

On Saturday night, the Red (13-11-3, 11-7-2 ECAC Hockey) earned redemption from the loss to Harvard with an overtime win against Dartmouth (15-9-3, 11-7-2). This weekend’s contests brought more of the same for the Red as the team once again split another weekend and headed into overtime for the third time in as many weeks.

Cornell came out of the gate decisively slower than it did in Friday night’s contest. While the Red could be heard communicating with one another on the ice, the first period saw several off-target passes and unintentional player collisions. Sophomore center Greg Miller went knee-to-knee with Green winger Jason Bourgea, forcing both players off to the bench early in the game.

After the first two periods of the matchup were characterized by a more businesslike attitude, the Red stormed onto the ice for the final third of the game looking like a completely different team. The intensity of play picked up and so did the rate of scoring. Early in the third junior winger Locke Jillson came up clutch for the Red with an unassisted carry up the left side of the ice and cross-in-front back post shot, beating ECAC Goalie of the Week, James Mello.

During a second period power play for Dartmouth, Mello showed the crowd why he has become one of the conference’s most feared goaltenders, advancing play on the offensive end by getting the puck to one of his forwards at the red line. Freshman goalie Andy Iles did his best imitation of the veteran Mello, with a sliding pad save in the second that robbed Dartmouth’s Eric Robinson of a goal.

“Andy played really, really well tonight,” Schafer said.

Saturday night also marked the last home game of the regular season for five Cornell seniors. Co-captains Joe Devin and Patrick Kennedy, Roeszler, Jordan Kary and Dan Nicholls all received standing ovations for their service to the Red during post-game ceremonies.

“I’m really proud of these guys. Winning is the most important statistic, and they’ve been able to do that,” Schafer said of his graduating class.

“This win was huge, and on senior night it stands out much more to us,” Roeszler said.

The head coach was also quick to praise Kennedy, who has been able to help the team in different ways despite rarely making an appearance on the score sheet.

“Patrick contributes more than just goals. He’s a good penalty killer, a big, strong forward and he helps other guys on the ice. He can’t hang his hat on [his statistics],” Schafer said.

The final goal for the Red was ultimately set up by a long Dartmouth change, which resulted from a rule change that involves teams switching sides in the case of an overtime period.

“I’m a traditionalist really when it comes to hockey. I don’t like tinkering with all these little rules like the icing rule. I just like hockey the way it is. College hockey is so exciting; there is really no need to add these little things in. I’m not really a big proponent of it,” Schafer said.

The win against Dartmouth puts Cornell in position to secure a first-round bye in the ECAC tournament as the team hits the road for Providence, R.I. and New Haven, Conn. to take on Brown and Yale, respectively, this weekend.

Original Author: Rob Moore