March 11, 2012

M. HOCKEY | Red Advances to ECAC Semifinals

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“How weird is it that we want this to be our final game at Lynah Rink?” senior forward Locke Jilson said to senior captain and defenseman Keir Ross as they drove to Lynah on Saturday afternoon.

Shortly before their second quarterfinal game with Dartmouth, Locke, Ross and the remainder of the men’s ice hockey team took a rare break from their game day routine to watch the third overtime period of the women’s NCAA quarterfinal win.

“We all took it in and had fun rooting them on,” Jilson said. “The finish was incredible, it kept our energy high.”

Junior forward Eric Axell, who was sitting behind the goal, ran down to the glass to celebrate with the women. 60 minutes of hockey later, Axell was celebrating again, this time in anticipation for his own team’s trip to Atlantic City for the ECAC semifinals for the fifth year in a row.

The Red (17-7-7, 12-4-6 ECAC Hockey) downed the Green (13-16-4, 8-11-3) with a 3-1 win ignited by another jackrabbit start.

“Enthusiasm was high [Friday] night but maybe not focus,” Jilson said. “Tonight, even with the delay, we were able to get focused and really adhere to the game plan more so than last night.”

All of the Red’s goals came within 8:21 of the starting buzzer, shorter than it takes Davethe Zamboni driver to clean the ice. Head Coach Bob Gaudet then replaced senior Dartmouth goalie Jody O’Neill with his classmate James Mello who made a perfect 23 saves. Mello’s readiness was not enough to close the 3-0 gap. Though Dartmouth’s freshman center Charlie Mosey was able to flip the puck over sophomore net minder Andy Iles at 11:29 in the first off a rebound of freshman defender Andy Simpson’s shot, it was the only goal the Green would score.

Iles’ 27 saves on the night helped the Red preserve the win without much insurance, a feat the team struggled with this season as late as January. “[Iles] played phenomenal all weekend,” said Jilson. “He just shows up to play every game.”

A tremendous amount of four-on-four hockey in the third period benefited Dartmouth, who needed a goal to move within tying range.Seniors Sean Whitney and Jilson scored during their final game on home ice, and sophomore Dustin Mowrey scored for the second night in a row. Mowrey’s redirection from junior John Esposito came just 1:07 into the game and Whitney almost had a second score off the crossbar, but the angle was off and it clinked harmlessly out of the crease. Mowrey’s goal was his sixth of the season.

Unlike Friday’s game in which junior forward Greg Miller was sent headfirst into the boards without a call on the play, nobody got away with anything on Saturday. 17 penalties were handed out as evenly as possible to the two combatants. Even still, huge hits were exchanged as is common in playoff hockey.

After the game, the Red’s seniors took center ice to thank their fans and the team took a victory lap to amp up for more tournament play. Cornell, holding the No. 2 playoff seed, is scheduled to play the second semifinal game at 7 p.m. on Friday, Mar. 16. Cornell will face off against third-seeded Harvard, who defeated Yale in three games this weekend, two of which also ended in overtime victories.

The Red is still looking for an at-large bid into the NCAA tournament.  “Guys are aware of it and are checking out our pairwise rankings,” said Ross.  Schafer does not advertise said statistics in his locker room, but players are understandably curious at this crucial point in the season.

Original Author: Rob Moore