This post has been updated.
Over the course of 33 games in the 2017-18 season for Cornell men’s hockey, only twice was the Red unable to find the scoresheet. Neither were in the tournament elimination games, and neither were in the midst of a losing streak. They were a pair of games against Clarkson — a 4-0 loss at home and a 0-0 draw on the road.
During the week leading up to Friday’s 5-0 thrashing of fellow top-10 team Clarkson, the Red said that the inability to solve Golden Knight netminder Jake Kielly throughout the course of last season would be a motivator.
Kielly stymied the Red for 125 minutes last season. Four goals and 40 minutes later on Friday, revenge was exacted and he was pulled from the game.
“We didn’t score a goal against them last year, so there was definitely some fuel for the fire there,” said junior forward Jeff Malott, who potted a pair of goals Friday and one of Cornell’s two power play tallies on the night. “But I think the goals just kind of came off hard work.”
Part of Clarkson’s success against Cornell last season lies within its playstyle. With a pair of coaches that used to coach in Ithaca under Cornell head coach Mike Schafer ’86 — including head coach Casey Jones ’90 — the Golden Knights tout an identity eerily similar to that of the Red: physical play, spreading the wealth, an unrelenting defense and a goaltender among the best in the country.
“They’re a big strong team, it’s almost like playing ourselves,” Malott admitted. “I think a game like that, if both teams are on their game, it can just be a battle. Last year 0-0 at Clarkson, that’s kind of what happened; it was just two good teams not really making any mistakes. I think [tonight] we kind of had to be on our game and make sure we weren’t making any mistakes either.”
But Friday was a vastly different game than the two lone shutouts Cornell suffered last season. After a scary moment which sent sophomore defenseman Cody Haiskanen to the hospital with a laceration, Cornell took a 4-0 lead after two periods. Malott’s second goal, on backup netminder Nicholas Latinovich, secured the Golden Knights their worst loss of the season.
“From start to finish, I thought we were really solid throughout the course of the night,” Schafer said. “I didn’t think we had many lapses in our game tonight. I think we are starting to learn as the season has gone on.”
Along with that learning has been the continued second-half outbreak of Galajda, who has all but re-cemented his role as the starter after a battle with classmate Austin McGrath. His 17 saves Friday — several during a Clarkson flurry in the game’s dying moments — granted him his third shutout in his past five starts.
“There wasn’t really anything in front [and we] limited their chances,” Galajda said. “Everything just seemed like it was coming a little slower to me. It felt good.”
Galajda was supported by an early lead that never stopped ballooning. Sophomore forward Brenden Locke scored his fifth goal of the season 8:17 into the contest, upheld after video review. Locke collected a rebound on a routine shot from freshman defenseman Joe Leahy and snuck the puck past Kielly.
Cornell’s first power play of the night was drawn and scored on by Malott after he was hauled down dancing around the Clarkson zone. On a tip-in so slick he didn’t realize for a split-second he scored, Malott put Cornell up 2-0 t the 17:12 mark of the opening period and pushed Cornell’s first period scoring margin on the year to 26-6.
“It took a second,” Malott smiled, “but Lynah fans are pretty loud.”
After earning the primary assist on Malott’s goal, Nuttle scored a goal himself on an innocent-looking shot just 1:03 into the second period before Haiskanen drew collective groans and hands covering the eyes from the 4,020 at Lynah.
Here’s a replay of the beautiful second period Regush PPG: pic.twitter.com/jP9umKgaBH
— Raphy Gendler (@raphy_gendler) February 9, 2019
But Cornell responded with an incredible individual effort from freshman Michael Regush on the Red’s third power play chance of the night. On a Clarkson neutral zone turnover, the freshman danced around two Golden Knights in their defensive zone and just barely tucked the puck between Kielly’s pads.
“It was a big-time play,” Schafer said.
“I saw him toe drag and then I lost it,” Galajda said. “I’m not sure how it went in, but it was a good goal.”
On 4-on-4 play with Kielly chased from the game, Malott added his second on a strong cut to the net before sending the puck top shelf on Latinovich. After missing two separate portions of play this season with injuries, Malott’s return has brought back physicality and exemplary play for the rest of forwards, Schafer said.
“That’s the kind of play we’ve been encouraging of all our guys,” Schafer said. “I thought our guys leaned to the inside to get the inside on them, but that late goal was a big-time goal for him to come down and get across the crease and score.”
The paragon play was furthered by junior forward Noah Bauld — “Noah right off the bat had a big hit on his first shift,” Schafer said — who returned to the lineup Friday after a four-game absence due to injury. But the speedy forward was was shaken up in the win, Schafer said, and is questionable for Saturday’s contest against St. Lawrence.
The Red hosts the Saints, the ECAC’s last-place squad, at 7 p.m. Saturday.