Adrian Boteanu / Sun Staff Photographer

A year removed form getting blown out by Ohio State in the championship game, Cornell will get another shot at the Florida College Hockey Classic title.

December 28, 2016

Men’s Hockey Asserts Dominance in 5-2 Win Over NMU, Advances to Florida Classic Championship

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This post has been updated.

For an intensive play-by-play summary of the win over Northern Michigan, click here.

Cornell entered the Florida College Hockey Classic the lone team with a winning record and the only to receive votes in the USCHO polls. Expected to walk away from Florida with at least a win in its pocket, the Red played like the team that ended its first half of the season hot, extending the win streak to six games with a commanding 5-2 finish over Northern Michigan.

Cornell got its first man-advantage early into the first when senior captain Shane Sooth — who missed the entirety of the NMU season up to today due to eligibility issues — was called for hooking. Fittingly, senior forward Jeff Kubiak — who also missed a large amount of playing time this season — made the Sooth pay for his minor, as Kubiak’s shot from the top of the left circle made its way past NMU’s Atte Tolvanen, after deflecting off a Wildcat defensemen for an early, fluky goal.

The Wildcats pulled back even shortly after, aided by Cornell first penalty of the night. Sophomore forward Beau Starrett was called off for slashing, and NMU’s Dominik Shine sent a slapper past senior goalie Mitch Gillam for a quick response.

From that point on, the game was all Cornell. In the first even-strength goal of the game, junior forward Trevor Yates went streaking through neutral ice to receive a nicely touched pass from freshman forward Jeff Malott. Yates sent a strong wrister past Tolvanen’s blocker, tying his goal total of six from last season in 20 less games played and putting Cornell back on top.

Cornell held the lead and momentum going into the first intermission, a benchmark that eluded the Red for most of the season. This energy quickly carried over into the second, when junior forward Alex Rauter continued his excellent start to the season with a goal just 31 seconds into the period, the eventual game-winner.

Before heading back into the locker room, senior forward Matt Buckles, who, like Kubiak, also returned to the lineup from injury, got a goal of his own thanks to a cross-ice pass from senior defenseman Patrick McCarron — his third assist of the night.

Given the influx of injuries, no one player has stepped up quite as much as sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan. Vanderlaan continued his hot play with his team-leading eighth goal of the season to extend the Cornell lead to four.

The Wildcats struggled to sustain any offensive pressure in the Cornell zone for the remainder of the game, but were able to put one home on the team’s seventh power play chance of the night. Though Cornell gave up seven power play chances, the team more than doubled the Wildcats’ shots, 42-20.

Through the win streak prior to today, Cornell had sorely missed the contributions and depth that Kubiak and Buckles traditionally supply. The two combined for 38 points last year, and their return to the lineup gives head coach Mike Schafer ’86 the opportunity to finagle and adjust the lineup.

Tonight, it was freshman forward Connor Murphy and the versatile senior defenseman/forward Holden Anderson sitting out in favor of Kubiak and Buckles. The two combined for three points in their first game back and propelled Cornell to its sixth-straight win.

Cornell will take on Colorado College Thursday at 7:35 p.m. after the 4-12-1 Tigers upset a 6-9-3 Merrimack team, 3-0. Colorado College forward Matt Hansen led all scorers with an assist on each of the team’s goals, two of which were on goals by forward Mason Bergh.

The Red and the Tigers have met nine times, with Cornell holding a 6-2-1 edge in the series. The two have met once in the tropical tournament in 2009, when Colorado College bested Cornell 4-2 in the first round.

Cornell must fend off the Tigers if it wants to secure its fifth Harnkess Cup — awarded to the winner of the Florida Classic.