Cornell men’s hockey faced its toughest challenge yet by taking on two ECAC opponents on the road in its third weekend series.
Friday’s game against Clarkson — a rematch of last year’s conference championship — was the Red’s most challenging task, but Cornell emerged with a 4-2 victory thanks to Cam Donaldson’s game-winning goal.
All that stood in the way of the Red earning its first sweep in the North Country since 2005 was St. Lawrence, which had only managed three wins through 11 games. A victory was quite likely, and on Saturday, Cornell pulled through.
Despite a slow start that saw the Red tied with the Saints through the first 30 minutes, Cornell ran away with a blowout 6-1 victory thanks to a three-goal flurry in the second period as well as a pair of quick goals in the beginning of the third frame.
“I had no idea the last time we swept up here,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “But, [these are] tough places to play, and they’re good programs … We just stayed in the moment — we did that in the second and third, but not the first. That’s a good lesson for us.”
In the early going, it looked like the Red was going to coast to victory. After the Saints opened with a few shots, Cornell took control of the puck and came up with the first strike.
Freshman defenseman Sam Malinski laid out a nice pass from the blue line to junior Cam Donaldson. Donaldson then found junior Morgan Barron, who launched the puck past St. Lawrence goalie Francis Boisvert for the Red’s first tally and his sixth goal of the year.
“We probably went off the pedal a little bit,” Barron said. “They’re a really good team, so they pushed back.”
But Cornell struggled to pull away. The Red had a prime opportunity to double its lead when Saints forward Callum Cusinato was penalized, giving Cornell a one-man advantage. While Cornell fired off several shots on goal, the Red’s power-play unit, which entered the night with a 43% conversion rate, could not add to the team’s lead.
“When we scored the first goal, I thought we were going to have an easier night,” Schafer said. “But [St. Lawrence] works hard, plays at a pace, and our guys didn’t respect that early on.”
St. Lawrence soon evened up the contest. Freshman defenseman Travis Mitchell was called for interference, and the Saints began to apply pressure. Cornell’s penalty kill, which had only stopped 72% of opposing power plays, came up short as Keenan Suther picked up a rebound off junior goaltender Matt Galajda and buried it into the net to tie the game.
With the Saints putting up a strong fight, the Red sought to take control — and that, they did. To start the period, Cornell fired off seven shots on goal. Meanwhile, St. Lawrence could not muster a single shot on goal.
Still, the scoreboard did not reflect the Red’s effort as the game was still tied, 1-1. But within just a three minute span, Cornell turned a 1-1 game into a lead that it would not relinquish.
“Obviously we trailed off a little bit in the first,” Barron said. “But once we got back on our horse, it felt good to get it going.”
It all started with the Red’s third power-play opportunity of the night. Cornell’s unit missed out on a scoring chance earlier in the second period, but this time around, the Red converted. Junior forward Brenden Locke and freshman forward Ben Berard assisted Alex Green, who scored and allowed Cornell to retake the lead.
“That was a big goal by Alex Green on the power play,” Schafer said. “It just got it going after that — it was good to see.”
Shortly after, senior defenseman Yanni Kaldis added a tally of his own. With both teams at full strength, Kaldis scored off his own rebound to make it 3-1. Within three minutes, Cornell scored three goals, and third came thanks to sophomore forward Liam Motley, who made his second appearance of the season after scoring a goal earlier in the team’s 6-2 victory over Michigan State.
“We didn’t even talk about adjustments between the first and second,” Schafer said. “We needed to get to work and play with some pace and get back that intensity that we had last night.”
“We didn’t have it from line to line, and we got it going with four lines rolling in the second period,” Schafer continued. “I was happy to see our guys put the pedal to the metal.”
Entering the third, the Red still had another flurry that it was waiting to unleash. With a Saints penalty carrying over from the end of the second frame, Cornell capitalized during the first minute of the final period.
After peppering Boisvert, the Red went up, 5-1, following a strike by junior Kyle Betts. Unsatisfied with a four-goal lead, Cornell extended its edge with a goal by Locke a mere 27 seconds later. Locke, who tallied a goal and two assists, led Cornell with three points on the night.
St. Lawrence failed to mount much of a response after these devastating blows. Galajda continued to deny the Saints at every turn, and the junior finished with a .938 save percentage. Through six games, Galajda has only given up 10 goals.
Meanwhile, Cornell’s depth continued to shine six different players found the back of the net in the blowout victory.
The Red will host two ECAC opponents in Quinnipiac and Princeton next weekend at Lynah Rink.