Thanks to Cornell’s nation-best defense and top rookie goaltender, a lone third-period goal was all the squad needed to get past St. Lawrence on Saturday night, a day after its offense couldn’t find the back of the net in a grueling 0-0 tie with Clarkson.
The Red (20-3-2, 14-2-2 ECAC) skated to a 1-0 win against the Saints (7-21-2, 3-14-1) in freshman goaltender Matt Galajda’s NCAA-leading eighth shutout. Senior forward Jared Fiegl’s third goal of the season 7:56 into the final period — the team’s first and only tally of the weekend — gave Cornell the lead for good and earned the Red three points on a tough North Country road trip.
It was yet another gritty, tough performance from Fiegl, who has led a resurgent fourth line and scored three times in four games, all while recovering from a battle with the flu.
“Jared’s always worked extremely hard, he had a lot of energy [Friday],” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86, who was back behind the bench on Saturday after being sidelined by illness the previous game. “He’s physical and he brought energy again tonight.”
A night after keeping the Red in the game all 65 minutes against the Golden Knights with 34 saves, it was an easier night for Galajda, who stopped all 16 shots that came his way.
“We just had to grind through the whole weekend,” Galajda said. “It just shows the boys are ready to work and they’re ready to grind out wins.”
In the contest’s early going, it was evident the Red had played a grueling game the night before. It came out firing in the third though. Junior forward Beau Starrett hit the crossbar 1:30 into the final frame just seconds after junior defenseman Alec McCrea had sent a one-timer toward the net.
Cornell was rewarded for its hot start to the third when Fiegl buried his own rebound with 12:04 to play.
The alternate captain worked for position in front of the net, got the puck from his classmate and co-alternate Trevor Yates and, after being stopped once by St. Lawrence goaltender Arthur Brey, buried his own rebound.
“With guys who were playing with energy, we started putting those guys together,” Schafer said of some line reshuffling to start the third. “Then maybe missing a few shifts here and there gave some of the other guys some energy.”
The first two periods, filled with penalties against both teams, were full of back-and-forth play without any grade-A scoring chances.
“It was a ho-hum game … for the first two periods and then we got our feet going, started working a little harder, started playing a little faster in the third and it shows on the score sheet,” Schafer said.
Cornell’s defense, best in the NCAA with 1.4 goals allowed per game, held its ground yet again. It was a dominant defensive effort for the Red despite being shorthanded for much of the contest.
Cornell’s penalty kill was a perfect 5-for-5 against the Saints after going 3-for-3 Friday. The Red is ninth-best in the nation when down a skater, killing 85.2 percent of its penalties.
“I thought we dominated most of the game tonight,” Galajda said. “I don’t really think we gave them too much and it’s kind of tough winning those games where you don’t get too many shots, so you just kind of try to focus and try to make the next save.”
Cornell, having already clinched a first-round ECAC playoff bye, returns home for its penultimate regular season series next weekend against Brown and Yale.