First came the fish. Then came the goals.
In the latest installment of the storied rivalry, it was Harvard who came out on top, cruising past Cornell to its first victory at Lynah since 2012. The Crimson stormed into Lynah, scoring a power play goal only minutes after the ceremonious fish had been cleared off the ice. Throughout the next 58 minutes of play, No. 8 Harvard (11-4-3, 7-3-3 ECAC) held control of the game, pumping in five more goals on route to a dominant 6-2 victory over No. 10 Cornell (11-5-3, 6-4-2).
The Crimson added two more unanswered goals in the first period, each time silencing the sellout crowd which had been so raucous at the start of the game. Harvard’s third goal of the period was another power play goal. The Crimson would add one more man-up goal later in the game.
“Obviously, our penalty killing let us down tonight in the course of the game,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “[Harvard] has a great power play, they’re number 2 in the country in the power play. We knew we couldn’t take any penalties and we took them. We have to be more disciplined with that, which we have been all year long.”
Facing a 3-0 deficit, Cornell began to methodically work its way back into the game, getting on the board just before the end of the first period. Sophomore defenseman Ryan Bliss one-timed a pass from senior forward John Knisely into the back of the net. The shot reinvigorated a crowd that had been quieted following Harvard’s fast start.
“It was huge,” Bliss said about scoring his first goal of the season. “It was nice to get it out of the way but at the same time it was at a pretty big part at the end of the first period. It was a nice momentum swing to get us started in the second. Knisely came around the net with his head up and made a nice pass.”
The Red continued strong play early in the second period, stymieing Harvard’s offensive attack for the first half of the second period. Cornell also did a good job of turning its defense into offensive opportunities. About three minutes after the first intermission, junior goalie Mitch Gillam ignited a fast break opportunity by knocking the puck out to sophomore forward Alex Rauter. Rauter found sophomore forward Trevor Yates on the break and Yates easily hammered it home to cut the deficit to just one goal.
With the home crowd at Lynah getting back into the game, it seemed as though a comeback for the ages was afoot.
That is until Harvard took back the wheel and peppered in four more goals while holding Cornell scoreless.
The Crimson answered back a couple of minutes later, when Harvard’s Wiley Sherman made a one-timer from the blue line, a shot that Schafer said “typically doesn’t go in for us.” Harvard would add on one more goal later in the period and an open net goal at the very end of the game.
“When we started to come back there, when we got the second goal, I think we may have got a little anxious and fell on top of ourselves,” said freshman forward Mitch Vanderlaan.
Schafer said he sees the failed comeback as something the team can learn from. With 10 more games left, all of them in-conference, the Red will look to maintain consistency in its play, something the team has struggled to do this season.
“When it was 3-2, we got excited but we got away from doing the things that made us climb back into 3-2,” Schafer said. “We got to learn our lesson with that, and we will. We’ll address some things and become a better hockey team after this weekend.”
With a full week of practice coming up, Cornell will attempt to iron out many recently-formed weaknesses.
“We got away from our game a few times there,” Vanderlaan said. “We stopped being physical at times. It’s definitely back to the drawing board for us, we’ll move forward from here.”
The loss extends Cornell’s winless streak to four games. After starting the season 11-2-1, the team is 0-3-1 since mid-January, including Friday’s 3-0 home loss to Dartmouth.
“It was a frustrating week of hockey,” Schafer said. “We valiantly tried to battle back in the game, but they’re a good hockey team and we dug ourselves too big a hole to overcome.”
The Red travels to Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend to try to get back on track in the ECAC.