By TROY BRIDSON
After blowing a two-goal lead, the Cornell men’s hockey team (3-0, 1-0 ECAC) needed a player to step up in the waning minutes of the third period. With under a minute to play, junior center Jeff Kubiak came streaking down the left side of the ice and fired a shot into the top right corner of the net, giving Cornell the decisive go-ahead goal to beat Princeton (1-2, 0-1 ECAC), 4-3.
“I was coming back to the middle of the zone and [the puck] just kind of popped out in the middle of the ice,” said Kubiak. “I grabbed it and fired one on net. I just heard the crowd yell and it was nice to see it go in.”
Cornell came out fast in the early minutes of the first period. After a flurry of shots from Cornell, the Red went on the power play. But a strong Princeton penalty neutralized the threat.
The Red won 16 out of 21 faceoffs in the first period, with junior center Jake Weidner winning 9 faceoffs in the first period alone. He finished with 21 won faceoffs, tying Princeton’s team total.
Nonetheless, towards the end of the first period, Cornell’s defense began to break down and junior goalie Mitch Gillam had to make several key saves to prevent Princeton from taking the lead.
“Our defense was panicked with the puck at different times and didn’t make poised plays,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
With less than three minutes to play in the first period, freshman left wing Mitch Vanderlaan broke away from a defender and darted towards Princeton goalie Colton Phinney, eventually poking the puck into the net. After a replay review, the officials determined that the whistle had been blown before Vanderlaan snuck the puck into the back of the net.
Princeton continued to pose problems for the Cornell defense in the opening minutes of the second period. Cornell came out slow and confused defensively. Freshman center Max Veronneau made Cornell pay, giving Princeton the 1-0 lead early in the second.
Schafer was frustrated with the sluggish play of his team.
“Very happy for the win. But I’m disappointed with the way we played,” Schafer said. “A certain group of guys played very well tonight and a certain group of guys didn’t play well at all.”
Schafer noted that the team will learn from their mistakes and hopefully make the needed adjustments before squaring off against No. 5 Quinnipiac.
“As a team we are going to survive by all of us playing well together,” Schafer said.
But the Red turned it around and answered shortly after the Princeton goal with a goal from freshman Beau Starrett. The goal ignited the Red offense, as Cornell began firing shot after shot at the Princeton net.
“[Freshman defenseman Alec] McCrea sent [the puck] up to [junior center Eric] Freschi and he entered the zone with good poise and then brought it to the net,” Starrett said. “That’s what we’ve been stressing all year, just getting to the net, getting to the crease, and then just hacking away.”
Starrett’s goal jumpstarted the Cornell offense.
“We were down one to nothing at that point and we just needed something to add fuel to the fire and get us going,” Starrett said.
Freshman right wing Anthony Angello added two electric goals for the Red to break open a 3-1 Cornell lead midway through the second period. On his second goal, Angello flew down the center of the ice and slammed his stick down, calling for the puck after he found space in front of the net. Junior center Jeff Kubiak made a brilliant pass to Angello, who ripped a shot past Phinney.
Angello credited his success to his cohesive play with line mates Jeff Kubiak and Mitch Vanderlaan.
“From a chemistry standpoint we’ve been playing really well and we want to keep it going,” Angello said.
Princeton called a timeout after Angello’s two goals and made some adjustments defensively. Veronneau scored again for Princeton before the end of the second period to cut the Princeton deficit to one goal.
Things got chippy late in the second period, with both teams heading to the penalty box numerous times. A minute of four on four play led to numerous chances for both teams, but Both Gillam and Phinney made key saves.
In the opening minutes of the third period, Princeton center Ben Foster scored to tie the game at 3-3. Shortly thereafter, Cornell was knocking on the door on a power play, but Phinney was outstanding.
Princeton then went on the power play twice at the end of the third period. A puck dribbled along the goal line and Gillam stretched out to make the save.
The gridlock was cut by Kubiak, whose goal fired up the whole team and cemented a Cornell victory in a tightly contested, back and forth matchup with Princeton.