It was simply a “disappointing loss,” said head coach Mike Schafer ‘86, as the Cornell men’s hockey team (3-1, 1-1 ECAC) gave away a 4-1 game after taking an early lead on the Quinnipiac Bobcats (8-0, 2-0 ECAC). The Red dropped its first game of the season, 5-4, in overtime. The team fell short in this one, and they know it.
“We gave ourselves an opportunity to make a statement, a statement game against a great team. It looked good, but we let it slip away,” said senior Christian Hilbrich.
On Saturday evening, momentum swung in the Red’s favor 3:45 into the game. Quinnipiac’s Thomas Aldworth committed a hit from behind, warranting a five minute major penalty for the Bobcats and an ejection for Aldworth.
Just over 30 seconds into the power play and four minutes into the match, Cornell took a lead over the Bobcats on a goal from senior defenseman Reece Willcox. Willcox was able to get his stick on the puck from a shot by his counterpart on defense, sophomore Ryan Bliss.
“It was good to see the power play clicking there at the start,” said junior wing Jake Weidner.
Bliss fired a shot at the Quinnipiac goaltender Michael Garteig, who successfully fought off Bliss’ attack. But the Red would not let the play die, with an immediate follow-up shot from freshman Matt Buckles. Buckles flicked the puck towards the open left side of the goal where Garteig nearly got his pad on the shot. Fortunately for the Red, Willcox was there to clean it up and secure a 1-0 lead for the Red.
Cornell struck again a minute later with a goal from junior Jake Weidner. Hilbrich slid the puck across the crease to set up Weidner for a one-timer to which the junior deftly put past Garteig.
The Red capitalized on Quinnipiac’s lack of discipline, tallying two goals during the five minutes of the power play and coming out with an early lead.
In the same period, the Red extended its lead over the bobcats on a nice set up by the defense pair of Bliss and Willcox. Bliss, from the top of the left side of the zone, sent the puck across the width of the ice to his fellow defenseman Wilcox. Wilcox then detected Buckles in the middle of the ice.
The puck went from Bliss to Wilcox to Buckles ever so quickly. Before Quinnipiac could react, Buckles’ shot hit the back left of the net, giving Cornell a somewhat surprising 3-0 lead only halfway through the first period.
“The special teams kind of dominated the first [period],” Weidner said. This would show to be true for both sides.
Just as the Red thought it would enter the first intermission with a decisive lead, the Bobcats put themselves on the board.
Freshman Anthony Angello was sent to the box for cross-checking. With 30 seconds left in the powerplay, Tim Clifton of Quinnipiac put the puck past Junior goaltender Mitch Gillam, putting the score 3-1 in favor of the Red heading into the second period and changing the momentum of the game.
“When you’re up 3-0 … it’s easy to take your foot off the pedal,” Hilbrich said. “Staying mentally tough is key to not giving them the momentum back.”
Coming out of the second period, Cornell extended its lead back to three goals on what looked at that moment to be a key play. Off a screamer from freshman Anthony Angello, classmate Mitch Vanderlaan gathered the long rebound and backhanded the puck top shelf.
Then it all started to break down for the Red, who could not put up another goal for the rest of the match.
“I think we took our foot off of the gas a little bit,” Weidner said. “We got up 3-0 and then 4-1 again. Guys relaxed naturally throughout the game and that’s where we’ve got to step up. Older guys have to take the reins. We’ve been here before and send every line over the boards ready to step on their throats while they are down.”
Cornell did not step on Quinnipiac’s throat and let the Bobcats come back to life late the second period.
Just over a minute after Vanderlaan’s goal, the Bobcats netted two goals within a minute of each other. The first goal from Quinnipiac’s Travis St. Denis was counted after review.
Right after, the Bobcat’s Andrew Tavener, who was a nuisance for the Red, ending the game with two goals and two assists, scored his first goal of the evening.
“You have to have the effort to put it away,” Schafer said.” “They had the effort to come back and we didn’t to do the things necessary — discipline, not blocking shots on their power play, little things. It was disappointing. We were up 4-1 halfway through the [second] and we end up losing the game.”
Cornell committed what proved to be another costly penalty with a charging on sophomore Trevor Yates. 30 seconds into the power play, Taverner struck again with a game tying goal to make the Lynah Faithful a little uneasy at 4-4.
“This game was an official dominated game,” Schafer said. “[A lot] of power plays and [a lot] of penalty kills. … A lot of guys didn’t play tonight [with] all the special teams that went on in the course of the game. There was … no flow to game tonight.”
At 14:49, Cornell went on the power play in a key spot to try and take the lead before the end of regulation. However, the Quinnipiac defense proved to be stout, giving up their bodies to prevent the Red from scoring.
Junior Eric Freschi was called for boarding at 19:24, sending the Red onto the penalty kill and virtually squashing Cornell’s chances of winning in regulation.
“The more physical we are, the better hockey team we are. But as [I] said, you got to be physical, but you have go to be smart. In the last penalty of the game we took, it was physical but it was dumb,” noted Schafer.
Quinnipiac secured the win in overtime off a deflection goal from junior defenseman Connor Clifton as Lynah fell silent.
“We didn’t make smart plays,” Weidner said. “That came back to bite us there at the end and it cost us.”