Cornell men’s hockey pulled off the unthinkable on Saturday, defeating Harvard on a game winning goal with just 1.4 seconds left to play. The goal was ranked first on the NCAA Hockey Plays of the Week and propelled Cornell all the way up to sixth and fifth in the nation in the USCHO.com and USA Today polls, respectively. Alec McCrea’s shot capped off a tremendous team effort to come back from two goals down against a then fifth-ranked Harvard to win 3-2.
Naturally, that game-winning goal has stolen the spotlight in the few days since that game. However, there are many storylines from the Harvard game, as well as the Dartmouth game on Friday, which flew under the radar as a result.
First, in the Dartmouth game, freshman goaltender Matthew Galajda made just 16 saves in recording the second shutout of his career. In his other shutout — the second game of the Alabama-Huntsville series — Galajda made just 11 saves. In both games, Cornell did an excellent job blocking shots and helping Galajda see pucks. These two shutouts, albeit a small sample size, seem to prove that if Cornell can continue to block shots and limit shot totals for opponents, Galajda can keep performing well.
Second, also against Dartmouth, Cornell struggled to score in the first period, despite outshooting the Big Green 15-5. In years past, Cornell tended to dominate teams early on without scoring and then concede goals when other teams had a stretch of offensive play. It was nice to see Cornell continue to keep up the pressure, which finally resulted in a goal when junior Mitch Vanderlaan scored late in the first period. Cornell never looked back and won 3-0.
Third, the faceoff statistics from the Harvard game tell a major story. Harvard’s Jake Horton won just six of 22 faceoffs. The Crimson senior tri-captain usually takes defensive zone draws for the Crimson since his line attempts to shut down the Cornell offense. Often, Horton opposed Cornell’s Trevor Yates in the faceoff circle; unsurprisingly, Yates had a big night at the dot, winning 13 of 18 draws. Since many Yates-Horton draws took place in Cornell’s offensive zone and Yates won most of them, Cornell often had the puck and all five skaters in the Harvard zone to start the play, which proved to be pivotal on its first tally and the winning goal.
Lastly, on the winning goal against Harvard, there are so many little things that went right to allow Cornell to score. With about twenty seconds left, the eventual hero McCrea misplayed the puck at the blue line, and it came to rest on the line’s edge, centimeters from leaving the zone. Of course, if the puck had left the offensive zone, all of Cornell’s forwards would have had to leave the zone before McCrea could bring the puck back in, taking up valuable seconds and likely preventing the eventual winner. All hypotheticals aside, McCrea retrieved the biscuit and flipped it down low. Eventually, the puck came to Morgan Barron, who had his jersey tugged by a desperate Harvard forward behind the net. Had the Harvard skater taken down Barron and drawn a penalty, or had Barron fallen down to try to draw a penalty, the goal would not have happened. In real life, Barron kept skating and set up McCrea, who one-timed it home for the goal that still has the Lynah Faithful buzzing.