This post has been updated.
As a game that moves at such a quick pace — perhaps the fastest team sport out there — erratic bounces are inherent in ice hockey.
Fortunately for Cornell men’s hockey on Saturday night, the unpredictable bounce went the Red’s way and eventually pushed the team to a 2-1 win over Quinnipiac to open ECAC play.
Over halfway through the third period, a shot from the point by junior defenseman Alec McCrea hit teammate Morgan Barron in the body, soaring into the air of High Point Solutions Arena and eventually landing in the net behind the Bobcats’ clueless netminder Andrew Shortridge.
Here’s a look at that bizarre goal for Cornell. Barron had no idea he just scored. pic.twitter.com/ylqyD17L9r
— Cornell Sun Sports (@DailySunSports) November 4, 2017
Barron’s goal came on one of just three Cornell shots in the third period — a 20 minute period in which the Bobcats outshot the Red 12-3.
Until that point, Cornell held a typically-potent Quinnipiac offense at bay, with a majority of the action coming in the Bobcats’ zone.
“First two periods on the first road game of the year, we played exactly the way we wanted to play,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We were strong, quick to pucks and made a lot of poised plays.
“[But] the third period we got away from all the little things we were doing in the first period,” Schafer added. “They came at us harder in the third and at certain points of time and we didn’t handle it very well.”
At the time of the Barron goal, Cornell extended its lead to two, but it would ultimately prove to be the game-winner. Quinnipiac responded to Barron’s tally less than two minutes later to cut the Cornell lead to one off the stick of Matt Forchuk for the freshman’s first career goal.
But Cornell freshman Matt Galajda, who made his third consecutive start to open the season, stood on his head to keep the Bobcats from finding the crucial equalizer.
Galajda shined once again in net, stopping 28 of the 29 shots Quinnipiac threw at him. Senior Hayden Stewart returned from injury and was available to play, but the team decided to ride the hot hand in Galajda, who has allowed just two goals on 69 shots through three games.
Cornell junior defenseman Brendan Smith opened the scoring 8:34 into the second period on the rush just moments after the Red killed an interference minor. Junior captain and forward Mitch Vanderlaan led the charge into the Quinnipiac end, saucing a backhand pass to classmate Beau Starrett, who then found Smith in a golden position to score on the far side.
In every game so far this season for Cornell, a defenseman has opened the scoring — a sign that Schafer’s strategy to get the blueliners more involved is paying off.
“He jumps into the play nonstop with his feet and we talk about that all year long,” Schafer said of Smith’s goal. “That was outstanding.”
The penalty kill that just preceded the opening score was one of four power plays the Red had to kill all night. But thanks to plenty of special teams time in the sweep of Alabama-Huntsville last weekend, Cornell did not give anything up when a man down.
Cornell is a perfect 16-16 on penalty kills thus far and is the last perfect penalty killing corps in the country. It is the longest perfect streak to open up the season for the Red since it achieved 19-straight in the beginning of the 2008-09 campaign.
“Blocked shots, good clears, good goaltending and a commitment to keeping it out of our net,” is what Schafer attributed to a strong penalty kill unit. “We hope to keep that going.”
With the win, Cornell is 3-0 on the season, 1-0 in ECAC play and has downed the Bobcats two consecutive times, dating back to last season’s 2-1 win in Hamden. It is the first time Cornell has put together a winning streak against Quinnipiac since the 2011-12 season.
“Tough place to play, but a great road win,” Schafer said. “The guys did an excellent job and now we move on to the next endeavor.”
The Red will look to continue its undefeated start when it takes on Princeton Saturday night from Hobey Baker Memorial Rink. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.