This post has been updated.
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — A week after dominating the conference quarterfinals, Cornell men’s hockey fell victim to an underdog Princeton team on Friday at an ice rink known for upset victories.
Cornell was leading 1-0 after the first period, after which it seemed to be in control of the game. But two fortuitous bounces allowed the Tigers to score two straight goals in the second, and Cornell was never able to catch up, ultimately falling by a score of 4-1.
“Honestly I think we just got away from our own process and our game plan,” said senior captain Alex Rauter. “We had a great first period … you’ve got to give them credit, but I don’t think we played our best game. “
Trailing by a goal in the second period, Princeton defenseman Josh Teves sent a long shot wide of freshman goaltender Matt Galajda. The puck ricocheted off the end boards and off the Tigers’ Eric Grande’s skate and past an unsuspecting Galajda, tying the game, 1-1.
“The hardest part, at least for me, is that we knew exactly what we had to do to win the game,” Rauter said. “We knew how to be successful, and we just didn’t do it.”
The Tigers’ second goal came courtesy of an Eric Robinson breakaway after a blocked shot sent him in all alone against Galajda.
Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 emphasized that the team didn’t respond to adversity as he would have expected.
“Their response was kind of surprising to us as a coaching staff,” Schafer said. “I don’t know what their mindset was after [Princeton] scored that second goal, whether they were feeling sorry for themselves, or they thought it was going to be easier or what.”
In the end, Princeton goaltender Ryan Ferland came up big for his team when it needed him, holding the Red scoreless down the stretch.
Princeton’s Max Veronneau scored his team’s third goal of the game, and the Tigers notched an empty-net goal in the game’s final minute.
“[Ferland] is a good goalie,” Rauter said. “I wouldn’t say that he stole the show by any means, we got good pressure.”
Despite coughing up its early lead, the Red entered the second intermission down by just one goal, but Cornell seemed unable to get it going late in the game.
“We were down one goal going into the third period,” Rauter said. “But we didn’t do what we needed to do to get back into it.”
The performance Friday was a stark contrast with the way Cornell played just last weekend — a dominant quarterfinal series win over Quinnipiac in which the Red looked near unbeatable.
“We were confident, we had a great weekend last weekend,” said senior forward Trevor Yates. “Maybe we were overconfident.”
Yates scored the game’s first and the Red’s only goal. It was his first tally since Jan 6.
Even with its lackluster effort in the final two periods, Cornell matched up well statistically with the Tigers, outshooting them 28-18 and holding Princeton’s best-in-the nation power play scoreless on the day.
“If you told me we’d come in tonight and we’d hold [Princeton’s top line] to one shot, outshoot them 28-18 and they’d go [0-for-2] on the power play, I’d say there would be a pretty good opportunity to win the game,” Schafer said.
One of the drastic differences in the game was the international size ice sheet on which the conference tournament is played — Lake Placid’s Olympic ice is 13 feet wider.
“Anybody who says [the bigger ice] is not a factor, they’re lying,” Schafer said. “I personally don’t like it … There’s not one team in our league that plays on an olympic ice surface.”
Princeton will advance to the conference championship on Saturday evening, where it will face either Harvard or Clarkson.
The loss ends Cornell’s conference season, which saw it clinch a regular season championship for the first time in more than a decade. It was just Cornell’s fourth conference loss in 23 games this season.
“[The players] will be disappointed in themselves,” Schafer said. “They had a great year and worked very hard to get to this point.”
Looking ahead, Cornell awaits its placement in the NCAA tournament, which will be announced at 12 p.m. Sunday.