March 13, 2011

Narrow Win in Opener Puts Men’s Hockey on Fast Track to Semifinals

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The Cornell men’s ice hockey team topped the Quinnipiac Bobcats, 2-1, Friday night at Lynah Rink in the first game of a best-of-three ECAC quarterfinal series. Coming off a two-week respite, the Red (14-13-3, 11-9-2 ECAC Hockey) finished off the Bobcats (15-14-8, 6-9-7) in a closely contested game that could have gone either way up through the final moments of the game.

Within the first two minutes of play, senior forward and co-captain Joe Devin put the puck past Quinnipiac junior goalie Dan Clarke to place the Red on the scoreboard with an early lead, 1-0.

“The first goal was pretty important, especially early on,” Devin said. “[Senior forward Tyler Roeszler, sophomore forward Greg Miller and I] try to come out strong on our first shift. It’s huge for the momentum of the rest of the game.”

Twelve minutes later, the Bobcats barely missed a tying-goal opportunity when their offense bobbled the puck at the back post behind junior goalie Mike Garman. The Bobcats maintained constant pressure on Garman, totaling 20 shots on the netminder in the first period alone; however, just one made it through. Junior left wing and captain Scott Zurevinski of Quinnipiac sniped the top left corner of the net with a one-timer slap shot from the slot at the 18:36 mark. Like the first Cornell goal, the assist came from the corner, this time from sophomore winger Russell Goodman. Zurevinski was highly active at both ends of the ice during the first period, demonstrating forechecking as strong as that of Cornell’s senior forward and co-captain Patrick Kennedy.

Heading into the second period tied at one, both teams almost ended up in a brawl before the puck even hit the ice. In total, Friday’s contest saw 32 penalty minutes distributed including 18 for the Red, all of which were killed successfully.

“That’s just playoff hockey, said sophomore defenseman Braden Birch, when asked about the chippy play from both teams. “For a lot of guys this is their last playoffs so everyone has a little extra and everyone is going their hardest.”

Referees Tim Kotyra and John Murphy maintained control of Friday’s quarterfinal game and were quick to separate players exchanging words in front of the net after the whistle. Though penalties were relatively evenly assigned, the Lynah Faithful demonstrated much distaste for a two-man advantage awarded to Quinnipiac at the 4:57 mark in the second for a simultaneous roughing penalty on Devin and elbowing penalty on freshman defenseman Kirill Gotovets.

“[Killing that penalty] was huge for us,” Birch said. “We had been been practicing it all this week, so we were in our positions pretty well. The crowd was bumping so that gave us some life. It’s really all about positioning. You don’t want to get caught reaching out because that is where they get the gaps and the dangerous cross-ice passes.”

“Penalty killers were definitely the MVP of the game,” Garman added.

The Bobcats also demonstrated a strong penalty kill when Quinnipiac center Jeremy Langlois flawlessly executed a rare full-ice cycle to kill off precious seconds in a short-handed situation with 1:56 remaining in the second period. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, the Red took advantage of the remaining time in which it held a man advantage, taking the lead with a power-play goal. With 24.9 seconds left in the period, Devin notched his second goal of the night, set up from the corner again by Roeszler from Miller. Though Quinnipiac quadrupled the Red’s shots in the first period, Cornell came back with 13 shots below the dots in the second.

The third period would go scoreless for both teams. Quinnipiac would not allow the Red an insurance goal, forcing head coach Rand Pecknold to pull Clarke to try and squeeze the frozen rubber past Garman in the final moments of the game. The intensity of the third period of playoff hockey is best illustrated by the two timeouts taken within the last 30 seconds of Friday night hockey.

“We thought it was going to be a tight game,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “Special teams were the difference in the game. They have some really skilled players over there [at Quinnipiac], and [Garman] played strong.”

Original Author: Rob Moore