One day after scoring twice in Cornell’s Friday night victory against Clarkson, senior forward John Esposito hit the winning shot to move the Red past St. Lawrence on Saturday evening — earning ECAC Player of the Week in the process.
Esposito scored off an assist from senior forward and tri-captain Erik Axell and sophomore defenseman Joakim Ryan to put the Red ahead, 2-1, late in the third period. The final score was 3-1 in the Red’s advantage, as Cornell (6-3-2, 3-3-2 ECAC) has begun a to move up the conference standings. The Saints dropped to 7-5-2 on the year (1-3-2 ECAC).
“There was a good effort,”said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We had great opportunities [in the] third period, with how many guys rolled right down into the front of the net. That’s the kind of shot chart you want in the third period in order to create offense — getting into the paint. That was a great play by Erik Axell, who found Johnny Esposito on the controlled breakout. I’m proud of our guys for continuing to follow the process. The frustration was getting there a little bit, but it . . . didn’t overtake their game.”
St. Lawrence quieted the crowd early with a goal in the third minute to take a one-goal lead, but Cornell struck back later in the first period with a goal by senior forward Vince Mihalek, assisted by freshmen forwards Christian Hilbrich and Teemu Tiitinen.
The game remained tied through the middle of the third period, despite the Red holding a 32-14 shot advantage on the night. Finally, with 5:45 to go in the third period, Esposito skated past a defender and flipped the puck into the net to break the tie and send Lynah into a frenzy.
After failing to capitalize on a 5-3 power play advantage, the Red kept grinding as sophomore forward Joel Lowry hit a game-clinching goal off a pass from senior defenseman and tri-captain Braden Birch with 56 seconds remaining.
“It was a team effort,” Esposito said. “It was a good way to end off until we play again [in late December].”
Esposito now has three goals in the past two games. The weekend was not only successful for the senior forward, but also the team as a whole, according to Lowry.
“This weekend we were a little bit more successful just getting pucks and bodies to the net,” he said. “You saw last night [against Clarkson] we scored a couple power play goals and I think we had a lot of chances just doing that tonight. Even five-on-five I think the first goal tonight — [Hilbrich] gets it to the next and Vince crashes real hard — was a huge goal for us.”
After a five game winless streak, the Red has now won three in a row to finish out a long stretch of high-stakes games.
With Cornell’s next game not until Dec. 28 against Ferris State, and no home games until Jan. 25 versus Yale, the next few weeks will give the team an opportunity to rest, practice fundamentals and prepare for some out-of-conference play in Florida and Colorado.
“Our guys really got to work over the last two weeks,” Schafer said. “I don’t think we play at home again until [late January] — it’s absolutely crazy. But our next six games on the road are going to tell you a lot about our hockey team, with being down in Florida, [then] Denver and then on the road at Union and RPI — you’re going to see a lot our hockey team before we get back to Lynah rink. But I like the character that exists with our group of guys right now.”
Original Author: Chris Mills