This post has been updated.
It was a bloodbath at Lynah Rink on Friday night.
Of Cornell hockey’s 18 skaters, 14 had at least one point as the Red demoralized Quinnipiac by a score of 9-1 to take a 1-0 series lead in the ECAC quarterfinals.
“I think our guys were pretty focused throughout the course of the night,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They did a lot of things that we talked about going into the weekend.”
Junior defenseman Alec McCrea, the newly-minted ECAC defensive defenseman of the year, kicked things off for Cornell just 1:47 into the first period. The Bobcats tied it up on a power play goal by Tanner MacMaster not long thereafter, but that would be all for the Quinnipiac scoresheet.
Cornell took the lead once more on a goal from senior forward Alex Rauter and never looked back, steamrolling its opponent goal after goal. The Red added another goal with under a minute left in the first to take a 3-1 lead into the intermission.
In his first game back from a month of injury, junior forward Mitch Vanderlaan scored twice to help his team take a commanding victory.
“I felt good physically,” Vanderlaan said. “First game in a while, there were some jitters, but got those out pretty quick.”
Schafer spoke highly of the return of his star forward and the impact that it had on the team.
“[Vanderlaan] is our captain and a leader,” he said. “I thought he set the tone.”
It seemed like the first time in ages that Cornell turned in a healthy line sheet after several players had been sidelined with various injuries in the final weeks of the regular season.
“It was definitely helpful to have some guys back,” said junior forward Beau Starrett. “It helps seeing [Vanderlaan] work because he’s one of the players to … lead by example.”
Cornell seemed to benefit from the bye week that it had earned after securing the conference’s top seed, allowing some much-needed rejuvenation.
“I felt like the week off gave us some jump to our legs and got some guys healthy that had been in and out of the lineup,” Schafer said.
What’s more, the week off also seemed to present an opportunity for the team as a whole to get some rest and enter the playoffs ready to roll — evident in its nine-goal performance.
“I think the bye week gave everybody on the team some fresher legs,” Vanderlaan said. “So everyone was full of energy tonight and it paid off.”
Cornell took a five-goal lead 11:16 into the second period, when Vanderlaan’s second tally of the game made it 6-1 in favor of Cornell. At that point, Quinnipiac coach Rand Pecknold had decided to pull his starting netminder, Keith Petruzzelli, in favor of Josh Mayanja.
Mayanja found no luck against the potent Cornell offense either, and when the second intermission finally provided the Bobcats with a much-needed break in play, the Red had potted six goals in the frame and sported a 9-1 lead.
One of the Red’s most successful groups was its fourth line of senior Jared Fiegl, Starrett and sophomore Jeff Malott. The group posted three goals on the night — two by Starrett and one by Malott — while Feigl added a pair of assists.
“Guys were rolling,” Starrett said. “We have to keep our legs going, keep working them and finishing checks and keep that going for a full 60 minutes of the game and we’ll be successful.”
Entering Friday’s game, Quinnipiac had found great success on the power play towards the end of the regular season, scoring a goal on 25.8 percent of its extra-man opportunities in the month of February. Cornell successfully killed 4 of 5 penalties to keep the Bobcats at bay.
“[Quinnipiac has] always had great special teams,” Schafer said. “We knew that they are definitely a team you don’t want to get into a special teams war with.”
In the third period, which saw no further scoring, Schafer subbed out starting goaltender freshman Matt Galajda in favor of senior Hayden Stewart, who had started the last game of the regular season after Cornell had clinched the No. 1 seed in the ECAC playoffs.
“[We’re] thinking about tomorrow night,” Schafer said. “Both teams understand it’s a series, and trying to keep guys fresh for the next game.”
Cornell is now one win away from reaching ECAC Championship weekend at Lake Placid next week. If the team can get the job done tomorrow night, the Red will make its second consecutive trip to the conference semifinals.
“We’re going to definitely look to finish the series tomorrow,” Vanderlaan said. “But we’re not focusing on the end goal; we’re just going to take it shift by shift.”
The Red’s first chance to finish the series comes Saturday when the teams square off for game two at 7 p.m. at Lynah.