February 26, 2012

M. HOCKEY | Senior Night Loss Ends ECAC Title Hopes

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“Tell me the difference between RPI and Union. Tell me the difference between St. Lawrence and Harvard. Tell me the difference between Clarkson and Rensselaer. Tell me the difference between Yale and Harvard. There is none,” said head coach Mike Schafer ‘86 in anticipation of ECAC Hockey playoffs.

After the Red’s Saturday loss, 2-1, to the Rensselaer Engineers (7-12-3, 10-21-3), Cornell has a bye week to rest up before the second round of the ECAC tournament kicks off on March 10. The Red (15-7-7, 12-4-6 ECAC Hockey) will hold the tournament’s second seed since Union clinched the Cleary Cup by winning its second game of the weekend over Colgate (17-14-3, 11-10-1), finishing the season with 32 points.

Saturday’s first period started sluggishly as both teams turned over the puck several times. Halfway through the beginning frame, the Red’s offense finally put itself into first gear. With 3:19 left to go in the period, junior defenseman and alternate captain Nick D’Agostino caught the Engineers in a change, but was unable to put a shot on net.

The second frame brought more scoring opportunities for both teams; however, neither team recorded a change on the scoreboard. The Red’s offense lost battles to the puck and players on both sides were falling down from hits and poor footing. The Cornell squad simply did not come ready to play Division I hockey, according to senior captain Keir Ross.

“We were off to a rough start,” he said.

Halfway through the final period, the Red pulled ahead. First, a long video review determined that a puck loose in the slot did not cross the goal line. But then, a hard shot by freshman forward Joel Lowry rebounded off Rensselaer goalie junior Bryce Merriam and freshman forward John McCarron swatted it out of the air. The puck bounced into the Engineer goal, giving the Red a 1-0 lead.

With 3:04 left to play the Engineers put the puck into the Red net for the first time; however, the referee blew his whistle first, halting play. Then, at the 17:40 mark in the third, Rensselaer was able to tie it up with a goal by sophomore forward Matt Tinordi from his senior linemate Patrick Cullen. The pair also combined to produce the overtime winner.

D’Agostino, who missed several keeps at the blue line earlier in the game, did not leave the final shot of the game to sophomore goaltender Andy Iles, instead leaving Cullen wide open at the back door. With just 19 seconds left in overtime, Rensselaer claimed the win.

After the game, the Red honored seniors Sean Whitney, Keir Ross, Locke Jillson and Sean Collins for their four years of dedication to the men’s hockey program. The Senior Night was bittersweet following the devastating loss in front of the team’s family, friends and fans.

“It’s a really emotional game,” Ross said. “You invest four years in something with your best friends. It’s tough for it to go that way. It’s not how I always pictured it.”

Known for his tough yet honest coaching approach, Schafer did not have particularly positive words for how his team played.

“How could you not be ready to win a league championship on home ice, in front of your home crowd on Senior Night,” Schafer asked. “Just because it’s Senior Night doesn’t mean you are not held accountable for how you played.”

The Red will take several days off to heal up before getting back to work in anticipation of the ECAC Hockey playoffs.

Original Author: Rob Moore