The Red dropped its first regular season contest against Mercyhurst in a game filled with odd bounces of the puck and rapid zone changes. Though the Red dominated the Lakers zone for much of the game, Mercyhurst (2-4-0) outscored Cornell (0-1-0) in front of a sold out Lynah Rink crowd with quick strikes and a strong defense.The first period opened with a young and eager Cornell squad taking full advantage of the aftermath of a play in which Mercyhurst senior goalie Max Strang lost his stick at the four minute mark. No Laker on the ice had the freedom to bring the goaltender his stick, and the away team struggled for a minute against an offensive stand that resembled the Red’s power play formation. Cornell was unable to take advantage of the opportunity, as an eventual icing ended the scoring chance. Soon after the puck was brought back to the Lakers’ zone, Strang succombed to the Red’s pressure on a goal by senior forward and assistant captain Sean Collins, assisted by junior forward John Esposito and his freshman wing-mate John McCarron at 5:38.An elbowing penalty on the Red’s junior forward Greg Miller gave Lakers’ sophomore defender Nick Jones the opportunity he needed to go upper left on shielded sophomore goaltender Andy Iles, tying the score at ones. The Lakers lit the torch again with two minutes and change left in the first, when freshman forward Nardo Nagtzaam fired the puck to freshman defender Tyler Shiplo, who buried it as he crossed in front. Mercyhurst would go on to outmaneuver the Cornell defense once more before the second minute of the middle period, leaving the Red trailing by one, 3-2. A Cornell firing squad peppered Strang until 5:28 into the second, but the net minder held firm, denying a great chance by freshman forward Brian Ferlin halfway through the period. “[Strang] made a bunch of huge saves in the second period. We had a bunch of great chances when it was 3-1 and 3-2 and we didn’t bury it,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86.The second period was highlighted by stand-out performances from Mercyhurst captain Kevin Noble, who laid a strong hit on the Red’s freshman Cole Bardreau while the forward was entering the zone, and freshman defender Joakim Ryan. The first year starter scored his first of two goals Saturday night on a pass from McCarron and junior defenseman and assistant captain Nick D’Agostino. The goal shifted the momentum into Cornell’s favor. “It is nice to get your first goals, but I wish it came with a victory,” Ryan said. The freshman added that he considers himself a full-ice player.In an unexpected turn of events, the Lakers took a bench minor for too many men on the ice after the action passed by their bench on a change with 18.1 seconds left to play in the middle frame. Esposito was able to capitalize on the advantage with an early goal in the third. “I saw the goalie wasn’t ready,” he explained. “Before Miller gave me that pass, I know what I was going to do. I got it right over his shoulder.” Though only four penalties were issued in Saturday’s contest, three resulted in power-play goals, one of them for the Red.Cornell would go on to hold the lead briefly in the third; however, the offensive efforts were too little too late. Two late goals by Mercyhurst, including a second by Nagtzaam left the Red in an unsuccessful struggle to tie it up after the crowd’s “Townies up” cheer. “We got the 4-3 lead. We’d dump the puck in and try to make a pass, but it goes back in our own zone, we take a stupid penalty, and they score to make it 4-4,” Schafer said. Lynah waited in anticipation as the referees reviewed Mercyhurst’s final goal with 7:11 left in the third. It was called good, though the Cornell coaching staff claimed a different video angle verifies contact with Nagtzaam’s skate. In its final efforts to send the game to overtime, the Red nearly connected on a slapshot by senior defenseman and captain Keir Ross that careened off the pipe with just seconds on the clock.“The two face-off goals that they scored right off the face-off were just blatant guys not paying attention to detail — and it’s experienced guys,” Schafer said. “It was frustrating that we gave up those types of goals…With four games on the road, we have to pick it up real quick.” “We’ll put this in our back pocket and get ready for the next game,” Esposito added. The Red is scheduled for back-to-back away weekends of ECAC Hockey action, starting with a game against Yale in New Haven, Conn. at 7:30 p.m. on Friday.
Original Author: Rob Moore