When sophomore forward Jeff Malott scored 1:27 into the first period Friday, it appeared as if the Red, having scored just twice in its last three games, was primed for an offensive resurgence.
But it was a timely penalty kill and another strong performance from freshman goaltender Matt Galajda that allowed the Red (21-3-2, 15-2-2 ECAC) to squeak out a 2-1 win over Brown (6-16-4, 5-13-1). Senior forward and captain Alex Rauter scored the game-winner, a power-play goal in the second period.
Despite the win, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 was unhappy with his team’s performance.
“Lackadaisical effort, not very happy with our guys,” he said. “I thought it was one of the worst games we’ve had this year as far as effort is concerned, attention to detail [and the] little bit of selfishness that crept into our hockey team today.”
“We had selfishness right until the very end of our game tonight,” he added. “We wanted to score and we didn’t know the right way to do it.”
A few minutes into the third period, clinging to its 2-1 lead, the Red seemed to be in a dangerous position when Malott was assessed a five-minute major penalty and game misconduct for a hit from behind. The Cornell penalty kill, ninth-best in the country, frustrated its opponent’s opportunity to erase the Red’s lead. Brown went 0-for-4 on the power play.
“We’re all confident in our kill,” Rauter said. “We work hard on it, that’s one of the staples of our game. I thought we played well, killing that one off, and a lot of guys had to step up.”
Late in the third period, Brown was close to tying the score again and forcing overtime. Galajda made a series of key stops in the final minute after the Bears had pulled their goaltender. The freshman made 25 saves in the victory — 16 of them in the third.
Rauter agreed with his coach that the team lacked the effort that it had displayed in January, when it had dominated opponents.
“I though we didn’t really come ready to work hard and support each other on the forecheck and in our own zone,” Rauter said. “There were spurts in the second and third, but overall we really did not play very well.”
Junior forward Anthony Angello recorded another strong offensive performance, setting up both Cornell goals.
Early in the contest, Angello carried the puck down the right side and past the faceoff circle before teeing up Malott with a centering pass right at the net.
On Rauter’s goal, Angello received a pass from senior Trevor Yates near the right faceoff dot and immediately fed Rauter with a beautiful cross-ice feed, leaving his captain with a wide-open net.
It was the first power-play goal for Cornell since Jan. 2 against Union.
Highlighted by Malott’s tally, the Red controlled play to begin the contest, outshooting Brown, 8-3, in the first period. But Galajda and the defense’s night was far from over. Cornell entered the first intermission with just a one-goal lead despite controlling the opening frame.
Brown tied the game early in the second period when Tyler Bird tipped in a shot from the point past Galajda.
“We did not come ready to play in the second and that was evident on not picking sticks up on [Brown’s] goal,” Schafer said. “We were careless with the puck just outside our blue line, then we won’t block a shot, then we won’t pick up.”
It was the first goal Galajda had allowed since the second period of a Feb. 3 loss to RPI.
Minutes later, Rauter’s eventual game-winner gave Cornell the lead, and the country’s best defense hung on.
Cornell will celebrate Senior Night when it hosts Yale at 7 p.m. on Saturday.