Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell wallows in the defeat of Clarkson's overtime winner.

March 23, 2019

Men’s Hockey Falls to Clarkson in Controversy-Laden ECAC Championship

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This post has been updated.

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — While Clarkson was celebrating, Cornell men’s hockey was sulking. And steaming.

Minutes before a contested overtime goal from Chris Klack won the ECAC Championship for the Golden Knights Saturday night, Cornell sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda found himself trapped under his own net, which fell off its moorings and pinned him in an awkward position — one that left him injured.

With play still going on just under halfway into overtime, junior defenseman Yanni Kaldis paused playing defense to try and help free his ailing goaltender. Even Clarkson forward Devin Brosseau, who scored two power-play goals on Galajda earlier in the game, stopped his actions in the offensive zone to assist his opponent. But to Cornell head coach Mike Schafer’s ’86 dismay, no whistle was blown until the puck was cleared into the Clarkson zone.

“The million-dollar question is do I want to coach in the NCAAs or do I not want to coach in the NCAAs. That’s my goal in this press conference, so I’ll answer that question very carefully,” Schafer said when asked about the sequence, alluding to the need to keep his cool and not earn a suspension with his team taking on Northeastern in the first round of the national tournament next Saturday.

“Why [do] the officials want to keep the net on in that situation that cost my starting goaltender, our starting goaltender, a knee injury? For what? To keep the play going? They messed up the call and the kid got hurt. For no reason. The Clarkson kid’s trying to help him. That’s the kind of sportsmanship. The goalie’s down on his knees, the thing’s on the back of his neck and yet they can’t blow the whistle. And it hurt a student-athlete. I just think that’s unacceptable from an officials standpoint.

“And great sportsmanship. Like our guys started helping, the Clarkson kid was trying to help him. The only ones that weren’t trying to help him were the officials. They were the only ones not doing their job. … I mean It was just a weird play, and it’s just unfathomable why they would [not] stop to blow the whistle and protect everybody involved.”

Cornell players were not made available to the media after the game.

Cornell sophomore Matt Galajda is checked out by the team trainer before being removed from the game with a knee injury.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Cornell sophomore Matt Galajda is checked out by the team trainer before being removed from the game with a knee injury.

As if Schafer’s gripes on Galajda’s knee injury — the severity of which remains uncertain with NCAAs opening next weekend — weren’t enough, there were two more opportunities for him to display his displeasure.

On the Clarkson winner, Schafer and his coaching staff saw an offside call go uncalled. A puck sent into the Cornell zone by Brosseau hit off the stick of Cornell freshman forward Michael Regush and into a Clarkson skater. By rule: offside. But the puck made its way back into the neutral zone before being taken back again into the Cornell zone in a legal manner. The earlier offside went uncalled and was not a reviewable sequence.

“It’s a weird rule of the offsides, because you go back and look at the video, their kid poked it off our kid’s stick, hit the Clarkson kids’ stick inside the zone, but it didn’t get blown down,” Schafer said. “It was offsides but it didn’t get blown down. Then the puck comes out and it goes back in but you can’t review it. It’s just a weird rule.”

And earlier in the game, Schafer and his staff saw what they thought to be an inadvertent collision that ended junior forward Jeff Malott’s season called as a penalty that resulted in Clarkson’s first lead. In the first period, Malott was trailing into his defensive zone, crashed into Clarkson forward Nico Sturm and flipped head over heels before being whistled for interference.

The junior power forward needed assistance leaving the ice, and proceeded to watch — in crutches behind the glass — his team fall in a title game. His focus is now on 2019-20, as he is looking at a recovery time of 7-8 months, Schafer said.

“Didn’t even see Nico Sturm. Ran into him. He’s done for probably seven to eight months,” Schafer said. “Didn’t even see Nico on the play, they just inadvertently ran into each other.”

It came after Cornell junior forward Noah Bauld and sophomore forward Brenden Locke perfectly executed a 2-on-1 that was started after Kaldis took a hit at the far blueline to make it happen.

And it came after Clarkson first responded on a penalty by senior defenseman Alec McCrea. Brosseau sniped one past Galajda and added his second of the night just over four minutes later on the Malott penalty for a 2-1 lead.

“Give Clarkson credit, the key to the game tonight was we took those penalties and Clarkson capitalized on their power play,” Schafer said. “But Jeff, he was trying to get out of his way and inadvertently he hurt his knee on the play and he’s done.”

Junior forward Jeff Malott writhes in pain before leaving the ice and seeing his season end.

Boris Tsang / Sun Photography Editor

Junior forward Jeff Malott writhes in pain before leaving the ice and seeing his season end.

But even with the adversity that has followed Cornell throughout the 2018-19 season — plenty of it boiled into just over 70 minutes on Saturday — the team responded.

After knocking on the doorstep of Clarkson netminder Jake Kielly for unrelenting stretches of play in the second and third periods, sophomore forward Tristan Mullin knotted the game up with 5:41 left in regulation for his second goal in as many days, harboring back memories of when Clarkson tied Cornell late just three weeks prior.

“Losing Jeff, losing Matty in the game [and we] just kept plugging away all night long and faced that adversity,” Schafer said. “One of the best defensive teams in the country we come back we tied up 2-2.”

But 14:36 into overtime, Klack was sitting backdoor behind sophomore goalie Austin McGrath — who was making his first career postseason appearance in the most intense of situations — to slide a puck past a goaltender who hadn’t yet broken into a sweat and thus abruptly end the Golden Knights’ 11-year Whitelaw Cup drought.

Cornell’s, meanwhile, grew to nine.