It was a series of ups and downs, but unfortunately for the men’s hockey team, the downs proved too much, as evidenced by a 6-3 game three loss to No.1 Quinnipiac in the ECAC quarterfinals, allowing the Bobcats to sail to the semifinals.
It was a hard-fought, gritty series between two teams who clearly did not like each other. Many expected Quinnipiac to run away with this series, so forcing game three was, in itself, a small win for the Red.
In game one’s losing effort, the Red started scoring early, but eventually Quinnipiac’s high-power offense proved too much for Cornell, taking game one, 5-2.
“I thought they played well and I don’t think we played well,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “I don’t think we did the things we did last week, which was pick guys up around our own net and be solid on special teams.”
Game two was a different story, however, as the Red never led until Trevor Yates sunk Cornell’s fifth goal with just over five minutes played in the third, beating the Bobcats 5-4.
“Our team showed a lot of heart and soul coming back tonight in the game being down 2-0, then 2-1,” Schafer said. “Then [Quinnipiac] gets a 5-on-3 and we have to kill that, so it was a lot of accolades for our guys as far as their character and work ethic. They competed tonight. I didn’t think we competed well last night.”
The biggest difference between game one and two was, without a doubt, the ability to limit Quinnipiac’s shot total. After totaling 41 in the first game, Cornell only allowed the Bobcats to get 28 through to junior goalie Mitch Gillam, who appreciated the help from his team.
“We just put in a lot more effort tonight,” Gillam said. “I thought we battled hard and blocked a lot of shots. The guys played really great in front of me and made my job a little bit easier.”
Game three was a mix of the first two games in how it played out. Quinnipiac started out very strong, like they did in game two, but Cornell had its own spurts of resiliency here and there, keeping the game close, like in game one, until the Bobcats blew it open towards the end of the second period.
“It was a special teams game and when Quinnipiac gets in a special teams game they’re really good,” Schafer said. “They came out and we didn’t respond very well early on.”
Cornell’s kryptonite the entire series was penalties. The team gave up a total of 19 penalties, totaling 38 minutes. Quinnipiac was able to capitalize on three of those over the three-game series.
“Officials are officials,” Schafer said. “I didn’t think they forced us into penalties. We took a couple penalties. There were a couple questionable calls both ways. I don’t think it was that chippy of a game and penalties are penalties.”
Yet again, Schafer lauded his team for the bounce-back ability in the third tilt with Quinnipiac.
“[I liked] the fight back, trying to overcome adversity in all different ways, shapes and forms,” Schafer said. “Being down in the series and coming back from from two goals down and they kept fighting throughout the course of the night.”
At the end of the game, Schafer made the very classy move of putting in junior goalie Ryan Coon, allowing him to get his first official ice time at the collegiate level.
“Our team is a close-knit team and I didn’t even think of [putting Coon in] until [Quinnipiac put their backup goalie in],” Schafer said. “It was a good opportunity for Coon to go into the net. The guys love him. He is a great kid, a great teammate.”
What was fascinating about the year-long series between Cornell and Quinnipiac was how well, for the most part, the Red played against the Bobcats, especially for being a number one ranked team.
“Quinnipiac is a good hockey team,” Schafer said. “A well deserved victory in a hard-fought series. They have great players and I’m sure they’ll go a long way and represent our league very well.”
While Cornell is out of the ECAC tournament, they still have a slim, but real chance at receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament, which will be revealed on March 20.