This post has been updated.
A dreadful start to the season for No. 8 Cornell men’s hockey — and specifically for sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda — didn’t get any better on Saturday, as the 2017-18 Hobey Baker finalist was pulled for the second straight game.
After losing badly to Michigan State to open the 2018-19 campaign Friday, the Red came up short instead of rebounding on Saturday, losing to the Spartans, 4-3, and conceding a sweep on its home ice to start the year.
Galajda, pulled after the Spartans’ fourth goal Friday, was lifted for classmate Austin McGrath yet again on Saturday. McGrath relieved Galajda early in the third period, after a breakaway Michigan State goal less than a minute into the period extended the Spartan lead to 4-1.
“On some of the goals we definitely have to help him out, and obviously we have full confidence in Galajda,” said junior defenseman Yanni Kaldis, whose two power play goals helped keep the Red in the game. “He’s obviously a really good goalie so we know he’s going to bounce back. We all got to bounce back, it’s not just him obviously.”
“Galajda will be good. He’ll be fine,” added senior forward and captain Mitch Vanderlaan. “He’s a really good goaltender. He didn’t get the bounces this weekend, but same as the team though, we have a lot of work to do, we’ll go back to basics, I’m sure he’ll be ready next weekend.”
After Kaldis’ first tally 16:52 of the first period, Cornell entered the first intermission leading 1-0. But a three-goal second period by the Spartans would erase that and then some, sending Cornell to an 0-2 start for the first time in eight years.
“It’s a microcosm of our whole team,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said of Galajda’s consecutive early exits. “He’s a hell of a goaltender, he’s a great kid and he’s a prideful kid, and I thought he bounced back tonight and I know he’s going to bounce back down the road. … It’s not just Matty … On the defensive side of the puck, we can’t be giving up nine goals in a weekend and expect to have success.”
The Spartans scored three goals in the second half of the second period, two of which came from the skilled top line of Taro Hirose, Patrick Khodorenko and Mitchell Lewandowski.
“I have to do a better job of identifying a line that’s going to shut down the other team’s top line,” Schafer said. “I got to put together the right pair to make sure they’re going against the other team’s top line.”
Midway through the second, the first Spartan goal came soon after the most intense of several skirmishes that broke out between the two teams. The Spartans were penalized 12 times, and Cornell was whistled for seven penalties.
Trailing 4-1 early in the third period, Cornell dominated the final frame — outshooting the Spartans, 18-4 — but it was too little, too late. With less than five minutes left in the contest, after a goal from sophomore forward Cam Donaldson shrunk the Spartan lead to two, Kaldis scored his second goal of the game to bring Cornell within one.
“[Schafer] just told me to shoot the puck more, so I shot the puck,” Kaldis said of his two power-play tallies. “Sometimes it goes in, sometimes it doesn’t, and today’s one of those days when it went in.”
Despite a poor performance in the second period the Red controlled play in the third period. Michigan State goaltender John Lethemon made a number of big saves to preserve Spartan leads.
“[The fourth goal could’ve] been deflating, and I think we responded really well,” Vanderlaan said. “Obviously, it was a little late, and there’s a lot more in the first two periods we could’ve done.”
With the win, the Spartans improved to 3-1 on the season. The Red will begin ECAC play at home against Yale and Brown next weekend.
“It’s pretty humbling, so we’ll come back Monday we’ve got to work harder than ever and get back on the right track,” Kaldis said.