This post has been updated.
After falling behind by a pair of goals early, Cornell men’s hockey embarked on a painstaking comeback attempt in an effort to avoid a catastrophic late-season loss at home. And despite dominating most of the game and tying the score in the third period, a fortuitous bounce near the end of overtime sealed the game for Rensselaer, 3-2.
“Really frustrating to go through that game and end up losing,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
Clinging to the top spot in the ECAC standings by just a point, a win was imperative for Cornell against a Rensselaer team that entered the game in ninth place in the conference. After going down 2-0, it appeared as though Cornell and the Lynah Faithful would be in for a long night.
“I think initially we were just overthinking,” said senior defenseman and alternate captain Alec McCrea. “We were trying to do a little too much, especially in the D-zone.”
But the ship reversed course quickly. Just 30 seconds after RPI’s second goal, junior forward Jeff Malott potted one for the Red to make the score 2-1 — a position in which it stayed for more than a full period.
Cornell dominated shots on goal in the second and third periods, 23-5 combined, as it attempted to find the equalizer. Finally, after countless offensive shifts of sustained pressure and high-percentage opportunities, Malott found the back of the net once more to tie the game at two in the third period.
“We’ve faced adversity this season before,” McCrea said. “I loved how we battled back there.”
For the remainder of regulation, Cornell tried and tried to break through and take a lead, finding as many opportunities as it could to score. But nothing dropped, although many attempts came extremely close.
“We got to find a way to bury some of those shots,” Malott said. “[RPI goaltender Owen Savory] played well, I think we did a decent job of possessing the puck below the goal line.”
Savory, after leading his team to a tie against the Red when the teams met in the Capital Region earlier in the season, made 35 saves, including a handful of stops in the third period and overtime that prevented the Red from netting the game-winner.
Another look at the Burgess winner: Weak clear and then what looks like two deflections gets by Galajda. Ugly sequence, heartbreaking loss. pic.twitter.com/AqXpKt5ekp
— Zachary Silver (@zachsilver) February 23, 2019
With 52 seconds left in overtime, Todd Burgess netted the game winner for the visitors, capitalizing on a turnover and ricocheting an errant shot off junior defenseman Yanni Kaldis and past sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda.
In all, the Red amassed 37 shots to RPI’s 16 and dominated in a many other facets of the game.
“We won every statistical category you can win tonight, except for the one that’s most important, which is winning,” Schafer said.
Now, Cornell must shake off the heartbreak from a tough loss and turn its focus to another conference game — now with even more importance than before. With Quinnipiac defeating St. Lawrence on Friday, Cornell has fallen out of first place in the ECAC.
“We got to leave this one behind us,” Malott said. “That’s one of the strengths of our team, is short memories. Whether it’s the outcome we want or not … it does us no good to dwell on this.”
The Red will look to bounce back and salvage its hopes of winning a Cleary Cup tomorrow when Union visits Lynah on Senior Night. Puck drop is at 7 p.m.