For an intensive, blow-by-blow recap of the 6-2 loss to Clarkson, click here.
Clarkson and Cornell are no strangers to close games. In two regular season matchups, the two teams walked away from both contests deadlocked at three apiece.
But that pattern was broken in a big way in game one of the ECAC quarterfinals Friday night, as Lynah Rink was exposed to a 6-2 beatdown from the Golden Knights.
The first round bye, given as an award to a team for its regular season success, appeared to be an achilles heel for the Red. While Cornell was left to intrasquad scrimmages, Clarkson put up 11 goals in a two-game sweep of RPI to keep its gameday mentality alive and thriving.
“[Clarkson] looked like a team that has been in the playoffs and we looked like a team that had two weeks off,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They played well, made us play poorly. They did all the things we want to do.”
Cornell did not open its postseason like a team that finished the regular season hot with a nine-game undefeated streak. Clarkson dominated in nearly every aspect of the opening period and held the Red to hardly any offensive zone time at five-on-five. The Golden Knights filed into the visitor’s locker room with a 2-0 lead in goals and 13-2 lead in shots. For much of the period, Cornell looked lost.
“We got outcompeted tonight,” said senior captain and forward Jake Weidner. “They wanted it more.”
The Red was awarded two power plays in the opening frame, but at times, it seemed as if Clarkson held the extra man. On the second opportunity, Weidner fumbled a puck on the blue line that turned into a Clarkson two-on-zero. But on the ensuing rush, senior goalie Mitch Gillam flexed his quick reflexes and stuck out the left pad to make the impressive save and keep his team’s deficit at just two. Gillam’s save appears like it could have been the inciting for to motivate his team to find the scoresheet.
As the second period wound down, Cornell looked like it would head into the second break tied at two thanks to goals from junior forward Trevor Yates and sophomore forward MItch Vanderlaan — his sixth-straight game with a goal. But with less than a minute left on the clock in the second, Clarkson’s Troy Josephs drove down the ice with James de Haas for a two-on-one, sneaking it past Gillam to steal his team the lead.
Josephs’ skating momentum would drive him into Gillam, who took a nasty spill and remained on the ice for a short while. The senior would remain in the game.
Clarkson did not look back after that point, and held the Red to a single shot on goal in the final 20 minutes of play. Brett Geravis extended the Golden Knights’ lead to two just three minutes into the third. He then added another in the final two minutes of the game along with Nic Pierog’s second of the night to put the game away.
“As soon as it went 4-2, the game changed,” Schafer said. “They are a good defensive team, they sit above you and have some guys that can make plays. They did a tremendous job of being above us and moving their feet and we didn’t.”
If Cornell wants its fans to have an incentive to come to Lynah Rink for a rare Sunday game, the team knows it will need a complete shape up for Saturday night’s tilt.
“We have to leave the negatives as the rink and regather ourselves and home,” Weidner said. “We have all the confidence in the world we can come back in this series.”
And the team is used to this type of situation. Through all the injuries, long road trips and disappointing losses, Cornell still fought to finish third in the league. All that was accomplished and learned in the regular season will come back to fruition Saturday and Sunday, Schafer hopes.
“We have been resilient all year long, we’ve stuck together all year long and we’ve overcome adversity all year long and that’s where we are right now,” he added. “We need to stay together as a hockey team and come with a different mindset tomorrow night and show the pride in the Cornell uniform that we’ve shown.”