March 13, 2011

Next Stop: Atlantic City

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While many Cornellians were cramming for pre-break prelims Sunday night, the men’s ice hockey team battled Quinnipiac (16-15-8, 6-9-7 ECAC Hockey) in the final and deciding game of the ECAC quarterfinals at Lynah Rink. The Red (15-14-3, 11-9-2) has senior forward and co-captain Joe Devin to thank for his overtime game-winner — one of his four goals on the weekend — that sent Cornell to the ECAC tournament semifinals in Atlantic City, N.J. for a Friday night 7:30 p.m. puck drop against Dartmouth.

“If there is one guy that is going to bury it, it’s Joe,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.

The first period saw both teams come out with the gusto they emerged with on Friday night. At 3:13 into the contest, senior forward and co-captain Patrick Kennedy, set-up by freshmen defensemen Kirill Gotovets and Mathieu Brisson, scored on a deflected slap shot from the point. The goal was Kennedy’s second of the season.

Devin matched his co-captain with another goal for the Red with 7:30 left in the second. A 2-on-1 advantage for the Red set Devin up with a crease-crossing pass, which the Red’s leading scorer tapped in on a sinister forehand just past Eric Hartzell’s left blocker. Schafer recognizes how crucial the first line trio of Devin, senior left wing Tyler Roeszler and sophomore center Greg Miller will be this weekend in the final stretch of the ECAC playoffs, as the group scored four of the Red’s five goals in the quarterfinals.

“If Joe just keeps scoring that’s fine with us,” Schafer said. “I don’t think there is a day that he is not out at a goalie session [in practice] on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday working on his shot and scoring goals. He has been doing that since he was a freshman.”

Quinnipiac, a physically large team whose play over the weekend featured plenty of hard-hitting, continued to go after the body on Sunday, as the Red looked to 6-0, 201-pound senior right-winger Dan Nichols to enforce its own forecheck. Kennedy joined in with a massive hit of his own, sending a Bobcats forward into the air to end a Qunnipiac 3-on-2 chance without a shot on goal. The third period saw the hitting pick up even more as the Bobcats’ captain Scott Zurevinski looked for payback with what could have been a dangerous hit on Kennedy behind the Bobcat net; Kennedy narrowly dodged the attempt.

Yuri Bouharevich and Scott Zurevinski both notched a goal for Quinnipiac in the third period, with the Quinnipiac captain picking up his second score of the series. The game progressed to a sudden death overtime system, which consisted of consecutive 20-minute periods as opposed to the typical five minutes allowed in the regular season. The Red waited until 10:41 into the overtime to break the tie at Lynah Rink, earning a trip to Atlantic City, N.J. for the semifinals.

“It was a great play by [junior defenseman] Sean Whitney to find Joe Devin, who had popped away from the net. We made the extra pass, which is what you need to do against Quinnipiac,” Schafer explained.

After the goal, Devin threw his glove up and pretended to shoot it out of the air with his stick before being tackled by the entire Cornell bench.

“I told the team afterwards that they are taking a lot of years off my life with these kinds of games and this kind of year,” Schafer said. “We have faced this kind of adversity throughout the … course of the season and we’ve been in a lot of overtime games and we’ve won a lot of overtime games. We just had to get back to playing with poise in overtime.”

Junior goaltender Mike Garman made 37 saves on the night, while Quinnipiac’s Eric Hartzell stopped 29 for the Red’s 32 shots in over 70 minutes of action.

Schafer and Bobcats head coach Rand Pecknold both acknowledged that the series could have gone either way in their postgame comments. Though Quinnipiac had not come back from a two-goal deficit for a win all season, this was not the case in Sunday night’s do-or-die matchup.

Cornell will take today off and plans on returning to the Lynah Rink ice to restart practice on Tuesday. The Red is scheduled to play Dartmouth on Friday night at 7:30 p.m. in the ECAC semifinal in Atlantic City, N.J. for a chance to play the winner of a Colgate vs. Yale matchup in the finals.

Schafer reiterated his thoughts from early in the season, emphasizing the importance of the leadership that his senior class has brought to this year’s squad.

“It is really easy to lead when things are going well. It is much harder to lead when things don’t go as expected,” he said.

Devin described the mood in the locker room as electric after yet another overtime game-winner. The co-captain became the first Cornell player in 15 years to collect three or more overtime goals in a season when he put the game-winner in the net to close out the series.

“Somebody pinch me because I think this is a dream,” he said. “We’ve worked so hard for this, it is unbelievable.”

Original Author: Rob Moore