This post has been updated.
Cornell men’s hockey head coach Mike Schafer ’86 is never one to mince words in the public sphere. Friday night was no exception.
The head coach called out his top forwards — all three Union goals Friday came from its top-six forwards — after seeing the Dutchmen steal game one of the ECAC Quarterfinals. But just 1:21 into Saturday’s do-or-die game two, the bench boss got the response he wanted from the players he criticized.
And then 42 seconds later, he got another response.
With their team’s backs against the wall, sophomore forward Brenden Locke and senior forward and captain Mitch Vanderlaan needed just 2:02 of game time to propel to Cornell to a multi-goal lead in game two — a lead never threatened as the Red won, 4-0, behind a shutout from sophomore goalie Matt Galajda to force a deciding game three on Sunday afternoon.
“That was huge for us to respond from last night,” Schafer said of the two goals in the span of 41 seconds. “It was disappointing last night to play the way we did and end up losing, and I thought we had good energy again tonight, good focus going into the game, good focus throughout the course of the game.
“That was an uphill battle for [Union] all night long to be down 2-0 at the start of the game,” Schafer later added.
Despite entering Saturday with the possibility of its expectation-heavy season crumbling to dust, Cornell now has the chance to advance to Lake Placid as the top seed thanks to No. 8 Brown shocking No. 1 and nationally ranked No. 5 Quinnipiac with a sweep on the road in their quarterfinal series.
It’s now in Cornell’s hands whether that fantasy will become a reality — and the confidence remains abound.
“Good bounce-back for us,” said junior defenseman Alex Green, who became the third Cornellian to score his first goal of the season this weekend. “Definitely physical, and [we] shoved it down their throat. And we’ll do the same thing tomorrow.”
On Friday, Schafer was also critical of the three video replays in the second period that forced game one to last two and a half hours. But if it’s a quicker pace of play he wants, he didn’t get his wish on Saturday as the myriad post-whistle skirmishes that took place between two teams fighting to keep their seasons alive — along with two more video reviews.
Whistle after whistle resulted in one Cornell and Union skater or another seeing a glove plowed into their facemask and, more often than not, a body slamming to the ice.
A combined 72 penalty minutes were amassed on Saturday, including a pair of unsportsmanlike conduct calls, a pair of roughing minors and two game misconducts to each side.
“We have the guys to deal with that,” said junior forward Noah Bauld, who scored his first of the season to make it 3-0 in the second period. “We are a big, strong team. We can take the physical battle. If they want to play like that we can match it and take it to the next level as well.”
Most notably, Union forward Zachary Emelifeonwu accounted for 16 of the penalty minutes Saturday to go along with a blatant charging call on Friday. All three of his minor penalties on the weekend — a charge, elbow and cross-check — are not exactly of the gentle variety.
“He finishes his checks and our guys are aware of him,” Schafer said flatly.
But when Cornell and Union weren’t exchanging blows, the former was lighting the lamp.
The Red was stymied time and time again by Union goalie Daron Hanson on Friday, seeing just two of its 32 shots find the back of the net compared to three of the Dutchmen’s 16. But the early barrage from Locke and Vanderlaan flipped the narrative for an early lead, extended later by both Bauld and Green’s first goals of the year — both at 4-on-4 play.
Galajda, meanwhile, had to make just 15 total saves en route to the second postseason shutout of his career.
“When he plays with confidence he’s a hard goalie to beat. He’s an All-American for a reason,” Green said. “When he’s on top of his game, the rest of the team follows.”
“They got a lot of bodies to the net and tried to make my life harder, but we did a great job clearing bodies,” added Galajda. “I’m expecting the same stuff from them [Sunday], expecting them to throw some more pucks to the net. … I’ll be ready for that.”
Bauld’s first of the year came on a hard drive to the net while Green’s was a top-shelf shot on a one-timer from the slot. Along with sophomore forward Kyle Betts, three Cornellians chose the big stage of the playoffs to find the back of the net for the first time of the year.
“I was talking to Kyle about it after the game, we had a nice little laugh,” Green smiled. “But it shows we have depth throughout our lineup.”
“They work really hard, they want to score, they want to contribute offensively,” Schafer added. “It’s been a frustrating year for all three of those guys not to be able to score goals. So for all of them to get their first goals of the game during the playoffs is huge.”
With a ticket to Lake Placid at stake, game three is set for 4 p.m. Sunday at Lynah Rink.
“It’s going to be a battle,” Green said. “Seasons are on the line, so it’s going to be a good game.”