This post has been updated.
The torch of freshman hat tricks for Cornell men’s hockey has been passed in the most appropriate of manners.
On the road against Princeton last season, now-sophomore Jeff Malott scored a trio of first-period goals to help power his team to a 5-1 win over the Tigers.
Saturday against No. 20 Canisius, it was Malott with the primary assist on all three of the next freshman’s hat trick, feeding Kyle Betts thrice before the third period to propel the Red over Canisius, 6-2, as Cornell (11-2, 5-1 ECAC) opened the second half of its season with a win.
“Jeff did a really good job tonight throwing a bunch of guys in,” Betts said. “On all three goals, it seemed they had all defenders on him and left me open. A lot of credit to him for helping me in those plays.”
By Pairwise standards, the contest against Canisius (10-6-1, 10-4) was Cornell’s second-toughest matchup left on the schedule outside of a rematch with Clarkson. The Red took the match in stride, shaking off Christmas rust and tying its second-highest margin of victory on the season.
“It [was] a point to get legs going again after having a week and a half at home and get the Turkey and stuff from Christmas out,” Betts said. “It was nice having just one game this week so we could focus on exposing them.”
Betts notched his first of the day after a strong drive to the net from Malott drew Canisius goalie Daniel Urbani to the right post, leaving a wide open net for the rookie. Betts sunk the layup, giving him goals in two straight games after his first career tally in the second game against Miami before the break.
But the duo was far from finished.
Just over halfway through the second period, Malott dug a puck out of the corner and found Betts alone in the high slot to make it a 3-1 game, after senior forward Trevor Yates sniped one by Urbani to break a 1-1 tie less than a minute earlier.
Four minutes later, Malott found his linemate just feet from where he fed Betts moments ago to give Cornell the 4-1 advantage.
After the sparse amount of hats from a more humble 2,605 Lynah Faithful in attendance over winter break hit the ice, the torch was officially passed.
“We’ve definitely been working on the offensive-zone progression with a guy popping in the slot when the puck leaks out in the corner,” Malott said. “Betts completely took advantage of that and made his chances count there.”
Desperately needing a comeback, Canisius scored just 12 seconds into the third and played like the better team for most of the final period. Dylan McLaughlin, the nation’s leader in points per game, put his team back on the board for a two-point night after his primary assist the Golden Griffins’ first tally of the night.
But after chasing Urbani out of the net to start the third, Cornell added another pair of goals — a second from Yates and one from freshman Morgan Barron — in the second half of the final period on Blake Weyrick, who replaced Urbani to make his collegiate debut, to ice a convincing win and start the second half of an already-impressive season on a high note.
“Glad to see us get the fifth goal and sixth goal to put it out of reach,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, adding, “big performance from Trevor Yates to break [Canisius] momentum both times — once to make it -1 and once to make it 5-2.”
Cornell had a golden opportunity to double its score before the first intermission after drawing two penalties late in the period. But Urbani made the key saves, and the Red was unable to capitalize on the power play opportunities which carried over into the second period.
On its first power play opportunity of the night, Canisius took advantage of an aggressive Cornell penalty kill effort. After a broken-up odd-man rush for the Red while down a skater, the Golden Griffins rushed back up the ice with numbers on their side, easily sending the puck past Cornell senior goalie Hayden Stewart.
“It was that kind of night,” Schafer said of the first Canisius strike.
Stewart, making his second start of the season after freshman Matt Galajda earned the nod in the first 11, allowed the power play goal and the one additional tally from McLaughlin but played with poise the remainder of the game and finished with 24 saves in his fourth appearance of the season.
“It’s a battle,” Schafer said about the goalie situation after Stewart has started the past two games. “That’s what you want as a coach. … You want those guys to battle and prove themselves and have one of them that’s really, really consistent and good by the end of the year. And that’s when we’ll go to one guy. … They’ll make each other better by the end of the year.”