Going into Friday’s game at St. Lawrence, Cornell men’s hockey had its sights set on a weekend sweep in the hopes of clinching both a first round playoff bye and the ECAC regular-season championship. By the time the game ended, the Red was halfway to realizing its goal.
Cornell took down the last-place Saints, 4-2, to clinch the all-important bye in the ECAC playoffs. Now having earned a weekend off, the team will host a to-be-determined foe in the ECAC quarterfinals in two weeks.The Red can clinch its second consecutive Cleary Cup with a win at Clarkson on Saturday.
Cornell used the formula that has worked wonders for it for much of the season: starting hot and building big first-period leads.
Friday’s matchup got off to a slow start, but in the final six minutes of the first period, freshman forward Michael Regush got things going when he scored twice in the span of two minutes for his ninth and 10th goals of the season.
“It was a great first period to get out a lead again,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was just a solid win on the road.”
Regush’s 10 goals are third-most on the team, behind only top-line sophomores Cam Donaldson and Morgan Barron.
“[Regush has] done a great job, he just goes out and plays,” Schafer said. “He’s got strong hands around the net and makes the most of his opportunities.”
When Cornell took the ice for the second period, senior defenseman Brendan Smith made quick work to put another one on the board for Cornell within the first five minutes of the frame.
“We talked tonight about getting some secondary scoring, which we got from Brendan Smith, and Mike [scored] a 5-on-5 goal for us to get the game going,” Schafer said.
After Smith’s goal, Cornell’s third of the contest and the senior’s second of the season, St. Lawrence pulled freshman goaltender Emil Zetterquist and replaced him with junior Daniel Mannella, who put forward an impressive effort, allowing only a single goal while the Saints actually outscored Cornell in the time Mannella was on the ice.
But it was already too late for the Saints, who couldn’t completely close the gap.
St. Lawrence stayed in the game — twice answering during three-goal margins with goals of its own — to try and keep victory within reach. St. Lawrence outshot Cornell, 17-4, in the third period. Ultimately, however, the game was Cornell’s for the taking.
Donaldson scored in the final minute of the second period to reestablish his team’s three-goal lead. The Saints’ third-period power-play tally, which made the score 4-2, was too little, too late.
While Cornell was 0-for-4 on the power play, St. Lawrence’s third-period goal on the man advantage ended Cornell’s impressive penalty killing streak at 41 straight. Cornell challenged the goal for being offside, but the call ultimately stood.
The Red will travel down the road from St. Lawrence to Clarkson for a 7 p.m. Saturday tilt with the Golden Knights, who are only two points behind Cornell in the ECAC standings. The last time the Red met Clarkson, Cornell dominated the Golden Knights, 5-0, at Lynah Rink.
With only one game left, each of the top four teams in the ECAC is only behind the next team by a single point. Clarkson sits in third, currently behind only Quinnipiac and Cornell. Both Quinnipiac and Clarkson won on Friday night, meaning that Saturday’s results can change the final outcome of the season’s ECAC standings and thereby playoff seeding.