This post has been updated.
CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Down four of its nightly skaters, its All-American goaltender and with a captain playing “on just one leg,” Cornell men’s hockey marched into Bright-Landry Hockey Center on Saturday and defeated its archrival Harvard, 2-1.
The win, which avenged a disappointing loss to the Crimson at Madison Square Garden just a week ago, sends Cornell into the mid-season break on a high note. Now owners of a 6-5 record (4-2 ECAC), the Red can allow its ailing bodies to heal up for the second half of the season.
“‘Heal up’ is the key word here,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “To get those guys back, it’ll be huge for our hockey team.”
Despite ultimately emerging victorious, Cornell faced significant adversity throughout much of the contest. Harvard jumped out to an early lead in the first courtesy of a power play goal from Jack Rathbone. But Cornell was able to exorcize its demons from a week ago behind 22 saves from Austin McGrath in the sophomore goalie’s first career win.
“One of the grittiest wins I’ve been a part of in my time as a head coach,” Schafer said.
The momentum shifted in the second period, when Cornell scored twice to enter the second intermission with the lead it would eventually finish with. First sophomore forward Cam Donaldson scooped up a loose puck in front of Harvard goaltender Michael Lackey and buried it to tie the game at one goal apiece.
“They never hung their head, they never got down,” Schafer said. “They just kept competing.”
Later in the middle frame, it was Tristan Mullin’s turn to light the lamp. The sophomore forward’s tally gave Cornell its first lead and proved to be the game-winner.
“I was sitting back door kind of, and I saw it pop up,” Mullin said. “Got a fortunate bounce. … Pretty happy with that.”
The vengeance-filed win allowed a sold-out Cornell-biased crowd to celebrate in an arena nicknamed “Lynah East” a week after disappointment in New York City.
McGrath, filling in the second night in a row for injured classmate Matt Galajda in net, backstopped his team to a victory, especially in the third, when Cornell was outshot, 10-1.
“Walking in … and playing cool, calm, wasn’t out of control in the net,” Schafer said. “[McGrath’s] got great character.”
McGrath’s performance earned him his first collegiate win in his second career start.
“Feels really good [to get win No. 1],” McGrath said. “It makes it feel really worth it, you put in a lot of work to play and you got the job done.”
Cornell’s victory is a crucial one, as the hobbled team enters the mid-season holiday break over .500 and 4-2 in the ECAC. Playing through a stretch in which injuries have completely decimated its roster, Cornell has struggled to find its way in the early going of the 2018-19 season.
Now, the Red owns a key win ahead of the break in which it hopes to mend its wounds and return at full strength when the schedule resumes in January. Two conference points on the road will likely prove valuable at the season’s end.
“It’s really huge to get a little confidence going into the break with a big win, and getting back to the way we like to play,” McGrath said. “It was big to get a game like that in before we go off for a month.”
Cornell will next play Jan. 4 and 5 at Princeton and Quinnipiac, respectively.