November 6, 2011

M. HOCKEY | Brown Comeback Spoils Weekend After Win at Yale

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After seeing its 2010-11 campaign come to a screeching halt in the ECAC championship game with a blowout loss to Yale, 6-0, the Red resumed conference play on Friday night against the Bulldogs. Cornell returned the favor to No. 9 Yale in New Haven, Conn., putting up a six spot of its own to silence the crowd at Ingalls Rink with a 6-2 victory.

The Red’s upset victory did not translate into a ‘W’ the following night against Brown in Providence, R.I., where the Bears orchestrated a late comeback, scoring two unanswered third period goals to prevent Cornell from securing a four-point weekend, 5-4.

In Friday night’s game, Cornell (1-2-0, 1-1-0 ECAC Hockey) finished much stronger than it did against Mercyhurst in the season opener at Lynah Rink on Oct. 29th, ending the contest with two consecutive goals — including an empty netter — after Yale (2-1-1, 1-1-0) cut the deficit to 4-2 at 5:14 in the third period. The victory marks Cornell’s first win over Yale since Nov. 9, 2007, ending a losing skid that saw the Red fall to its Ivy rival in each of the last nine contests between the two squads.

“It feels unbelievable,” said senior center and assistant captain Sean Collins following his first win against the Bulldogs in a Cornell uniform. “We circled this day in our calendars since the last meeting in the championship. We’ve been waiting as a class for three years to beat Yale, and it feels so great especially to beat them in their own rink.”

The Red was slow out of the gate in the first end of the two-game road series, as the Bulldogs recorded the first seven shots of the evening. An increase in hitting by the Red defense, spearheaded by junior defenseman and assistant captain Nick D’Agostino, slowed down Yale enough for Cornell to advance the puck into the offensive zone.

The Red arrived on the scoreboard first at 13:49 in the first period, when freshman winger Brian Ferlin fed junior forward John Esposito for a one-timer. Ferlin’s first point with the Red found the five-hole on Yale goalie Jeff Malcolm, earning Esposito his second goal in as many games and the designation of being the Red’s leading scorer when including exhibition games.

The sold-out crowd at Ingalls then watched Cornell put the puck past Malcolm just seconds before the end of the first, when freshman forward Joel Lowry accepted a pass from Collins while charging the net. The rookie hit the top left corner, lighting the torch for the first time in his collegiate career.

“They’ve been playing unbelievably,” Collins said of the Red’s freshman class. “They’re going to be a huge part of our team this year, and they’ve had a great couple of games, so we’re really looking forward to seeing them progress this year.”

Junior center Greg Miller picked up his first goal of the year, after leading the Red in points last season, on a score assisted by Ferlin and D’Agostino in the final minute of the second period. Miller’s goal came in response to Yale’s first score of the contest, a puck off the stick of Chad Ziegler in the opening minute of the second frame.

Lowry would go on to add another score just 20 seconds into the third period, extending the Cornell lead, 4-1.

“Joel Lowry had two great plays, and two great shots,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, when asked about the freshman’s two-goal performance. “The third goal was huge to make it 3-1 right at the end of the second period. It was a big goal for us and it was the difference in the game.”

After Yale trimmed the deficit to two goals once again at 5:14 in the third period, the Cornell power-play unit went to work, scoring for the only time in three stints on the ice. Sophomore defenseman Kirill Gotovets picked up his first goal of the season at 14:15, assisted by Collins and senior defenseman Sean Whitney.

Ferlin provided the exclamation point to the Cornell victory, connecting on an empty netter in the final minute to secure the win in the ECAC opener, 6-2.

For Schafer, the greatest difference in his team’s performance on Friday night was its ability to play with a lead, something the Red struggled with in its loss to Mercyhurst the week prior.

“We didn’t do a good job of protecting the lead and making good decisions [against Mercyhurst],” he said. “We were able to sit down, watch video and say ‘these are all bad decisions, and we killed ourselves’ … Tonight we made much better decisions with the puck.”

On Saturday night, the Red played a game mirroring its defeat against Mercyhurst, falling to Brown (2-2-0, 1-1-0) by the same score, 5-4.

“This kind of level of hockey just can’t happen,” Schafer said, referring to what he termed a “mental meltdown” on defense. “We didn’t come out tonight nearly as ready to go as they did. We clawed our way back in the game, made some great plays and gave ourselves a 4-3 lead, but you can’t make that kind of play in hockey.”

After surrendering two goals early in the first period, Cornell came roaring back with three consecutive goals to take the lead, 3-2, at 12:57 in the second frame.

Miller kicked off the scoring with his second goal of the weekend late in the first period, and senior defenseman and captain Keir Ross notched his first of the season, assisted by Ferlin and Esposito. Ferlin lit the torch later in the period, recording his second goal on the road trip, unassisted at 12:57.

As was the case in the home opener, the Red was unable to hold the late lead, as Brown’s Matt Wahl tied up the score just over two minutes later, 3-3. Despite a short-handed goal from freshman defenseman Joakim Ryan, his third on the early season, Cornell could not prevent the Bears’ offense from scoring two goals over the course of 1:20 seconds just over halfway through the final period, ultimately falling, 5-4.

“Great teams, when you win games, they come back with that same focus and confidence, and we didn’t do that tonight,” Schafer said, regarding the team’s play a night after an emotional victory against Yale. “We didn’t come back ready to work, we didn’t come back focused and we didn’t do what we needed to do to win on the road.”

Original Author: Rob Moore