Brittney Chew / Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Quinnipiac has only been held to 20 or fewer shots twice this season: both times against Cornell.

January 15, 2017

In Bitter Rivalry, No. 19 Men’s Hockey Flips Script With 2-1 Win Over No. 15 Quinnipiac

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Quinnipiac always makes sure that Cornell men’s hockey fans only use a small portion of their seats whenever the teams face off. Both last season’s 5-4 OT thriller at Lynah Rink and the three-game ECAC quarterfinals series in Hamden have turned any matchup between the Bobcats and the Red into a must-see event. Saturday night’s showdown at High Point Solutions Arena was no exception, with Cornell capturing a 2-1 win on the road.

The last regular season win for Cornell at Quinnipiac came almost three years ago. Since then, the Bobcats have won every contest, apart from a tie at home last season and one win by the Red in last year’s quarterfinals.

As last year’s NCAA runner-ups, the hopes for Quinnipiac were high this year, though the team has not played to the level it achieved at the Frozen Four in Tampa last year. Catching a struggling Bobcats team, senior forward Jeff Kubiak and junior forward Alex Rauter provided the goals to give Cornell its first regular season win in Hamden since the current seniors were freshmen.

“We did what we had to do to get a win,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “You know when you get a victory out of here you’ve earned it. I didn’t think we had everybody on all cylinders tonight, but we had the right guys to get the job done.”

In recent memory, no matter the outcome, the norm has become for the Bobcats to outshoot its opponent and keep the goaltender busy. That was not the case tonight. Cornell’s blueline limited Quinnipiac’s offense to just 20 shots on senior goaltender Mitch Gillam.

For a team that is not shy about sending upwards of 40 to 50 shots on net — Quinnipiac ranks third in the country with 35.52 shots per game — the 20-shot performance against Cornell was tied for the lowest amount of shots the Bobcats have put on the board all season. The other 20-shot game also came against Cornell, though it was still a 3-1 win for the Bobcats at Lynah in November.

“You appreciate Quinnipiac over time,” Schafer said. “We did to them [tonight] what they did to us for a number of years.”

The statistics support Schafer’s analysis; Cornell flipped the script on Quinnipiac Saturday. Including the ECAC quarterfinals, Quinnipiac outshot Cornell 178-118 last year, a whopping 60 shot differential. In those games, Gillam was forced to come up huge at every blink of the eye in order to keep his team competitive. On Saturday, he still held his own at key moments in the game, but a burden has clearly been taken off his shoulders this season, thanks to shot suppression.

A resource of suppression for a Cornell team that has allowed the fewest shots in the country can be attributed to selfless blocks. Cornell’s program has been consistently lauded for its ability to play hard, physical and get the gritty details down pat. Perhaps the grittiest part of the game is putting your body on the line to keep a puck from making it on goal.

As a testament to Cornell’s emphasis on putting it all on the line, sophomore defenseman Alec McCrea ranks seventh in the country 2.38 blocks per game.

“We missed some blocks when we played them last year at home. We missed a block the first power play goal they scored [tonight],” Schafer said. “The difference is that when it was on the line, we got some blocks and big saves.”

“[Senior forward] Jake Weidner [had] a huge block at the end of the game,” he continued. “He has a huge black mark on his back.”

Weidner will be privy to what seems like a new concept for the men of Cornell hockey: the opportunity to rest up at home without having to worry about travelling next weekend.

Clarkson and St. Lawrence sit next on the docket for the Red, who have nine of its next 13 games within the confines of Lynah. But given the challenges a road-heavy start to the season — not to mention injures — presented, Schafer expressed his approval of what his team has accomplished in the circumstances.

“Yeah [our record has exceeded my expectations] just because of so many road games,” he said. “There is an old saying in hockey where if you win all your games at home and split on the road, you’ve had a good season. Obviously that never happens, but that’s kind of a good formula to follow. If you can do a good job on the road, and keep it near 500, and [keep] win percentage near 1.000 at home, you’re going to have a good year.”