No. 8 Cornell men’s hockey is still alone in first place in the ECAC with just four games to play, but it didn’t do itself any favors this weekend, losing to Yale, 5-2, a night after blowing a three-goal lead and settling for a tie with Brown.
Head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 decision to pull sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda appeared to spark-plug the visitors: Cornell (15-7-3, 11-4-3 ECAC) scored two quick goals to climb back into the game after trailing 3-0. But Galajda’s classmate Austin McGrath didn’t last long between the pipes: A wraparound goal for the home team made it 4-2 and led Schafer to yank McGrath and reinsert Galajda.
“You can’t play that poorly defensively and expect to win hockey games,” Schafer said. “It was a collective team effort tonight from our forwards to our defense to our goaltending.”
While Cornell’s successful formula for much of the season has been scoring the game’s first goal, the Bulldogs (13-9-3, 11-6-1) got on the scoreboard first in New Haven on Saturday, taking a 1-0 lead with just 18 seconds left in the opening period.
It was the first time since Jan. 5 at Quinnipiac that Cornell surrendered the game’s first goal. The 2-2 tie with the Bobcats also marks the last time the Red was outscored in the first period.
Cornell’s deficit grew to three goals in a circus of a second period and pulled within one before eventually entering the second intermission trailing by a pair.
Goals in quick succession led to trouble for the Red once again on Saturday after three goals in 53 seconds doomed the team on Friday. Phil Kemp’s second-period goal made it 2-0 and Yale scored 31 seconds later to go up 3-0. But like in Friday’s 3-3 tie, a three-goal lead didn’t mean the game would feature no more action.
Following Yale’s third goal, Schafer pulled Galajda in favor of McGrath. Then, senior defenseman Alec McCrea scored less than a minute after the change and sophomore forward Tristan Mullin scored on the power play about seven minutes later to give the Red life. But Bulldog forward Ted Hart’s wraparound goal made it 4-2 for the home team soon thereafter and led the Red to make its second change of the night between the pipes.
Here’s the goal that got McGrath pulled. Got caught too far in the net and Yale’s Ted Hart just slid it past him, albeit he didn’t get much help from his D. pic.twitter.com/jEWpo3SUJC
— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) February 17, 2019
“It wasn’t a good night for us, but [we] made it a 3-2 score and came back and we gave up another soft goal from a little bit of a breakdown defensively and it’s a 4-2 hockey game,” Schafer said.
The 4-2 deficit proved too much for the Red to overcome, and, in the third period, Bulldog forward Curtis Hall’s second goal of the night gave Yale its fifth tally. Saturday marks just the second time all season the Red has surrendered five goals — the first was its season opener against Michigan State.
Galajda’s removal was his first since the weekend against the Spartans, when he was pulled from each of his team’s first two contests. McGrath was last pulled from the Red’s Jan. 26 loss to Colgate — also his most recent appearance.
“We didn’t get the job done in front of our goaltender, and when [pucks] did get through, we didn’t get the big saves when we needed it,” Schafer said.
After a one-point weekend, Cornell is still alone in first place in the ECAC, just one point ahead of second-place Quinnipiac and two points ahead of third-place Yale. The Red hosts Rensselaer and Union next weekend.