This post has been updated.
In the last seven seasons, Cornell men’s hockey has only managed four victories over Quinnipiac. Last season, the Red notched just a single point in its season series against the Bobcats.
But with several key contributors having graduated from Quinnipiac and Cornell ascending to the No. 2 spot in the USCHO.com poll, there was hope that the Red could maintain its perfect start and notch another ECAC victory.
In a physical contest that saw both teams combine for 11 penalties, Cornell edged out Quinnipiac, 2-1. Thanks to a strong second period, a penalty-kill unit that went 5-for-5 on the night and a 22-save performance by junior goaltender Matt Galajda, the Red clinched the tight win.
“I don’t know if we needed to play it as close as it was — I think we can be a lot better, to be honest,” said sophomore forward Michael Regush. “At the same time, the PK was fantastic, Galajda was fantastic — there are positives, but there are also things we need to do better.”
After a scoreless first period, Cornell notched the first strike in the second frame. 3:36 into the period, junior forward Brenden Locke scored as he jetted the puck past Bobcats goaltender Keith Petruzzelli.
“In the first, we didn’t get too much sustained offense,” Locke said. “Me, [Ben Berard, and Cam Donaldson,] said, ‘we have to start creating offense.’ … We got some good sustained pressure — Benny made a great play to me, and I just popped it off. Luckily, it found the back of the net.”
That lead did not last long. Cornell peppered Petruzzelli with a barrage of shots, but the Bobcat goalie held firm. After finally getting the puck out of its zone, Quinnipiac tied the game as Nick Jermain scored after being left alone on the backdoor.
A minute after that score, junior forward Tristan Mullin was thrown into the goal by Quinnipiac’s William Fällström, resulting in a penalty against the Bobcats.
This time around, the Red converted and regained the edge. After Petruzzelli fended off a shot by senior defenseman Yanni Kaldis, sophomore forward Michael Regush tracked down the puck off the deflection, and he whipped it by Petruzzelli to put Cornell back on top.
“It was a bit scrambly — we probably wouldn’t draw it up that way,” Regush said. “Everyone kind of battled to keep the puck in as we entered the zone, and then it got tossed toward the net. It popped out for me and fortunately, I put it in.”
The Red missed a chance to extend its lead when it went on the power play late in the second frame. Still, Cornell retained a 2-1 lead heading into the last intermission. The Red survived a scoreless but eventful third period.
During the first half of the third, the Red was short-handed due to two penalties. Back-to-back infractions by freshman forward Matt Stienburg and Locke gave Quinnipiac four minutes to tie the game with a one-man advantage on the ice.
“I’m disappointed with some of the calls and the discipline of our team,” Schafer said. “And I’m not disappointed with some of the discipline on our team. I thought that they did a good job tonight, but sometimes, penalties just go that way.”
But the Bobcats failed to score on these golden opportunities. Quality defensive play paired with several saves by Galajda allowed Cornell to preserve its one-goal lead.
Cornell and Quinnipiac alternated shots, with neither able to find the back of the net. With under seven left in the game, Stienburg was cross-checked in the head by Fällström, but the officials did not call a penalty. Instead, the play went on, and senior defenseman Alex Green was whistled, giving the Bobcats their fifth power play.
But after further review by the officials, Fällström was ejected, and while the penalty on Green was upheld, Quinnipiac was assessed a five-minute major penalty, resulting in two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey and an extended three-minute power play for Cornell.
With the mayhem taking place 13:38 into the period, the pair of penalties drained the clock. As the Red’s three-minute power play was nearing its end, Cornell was penalized for the sixth time of the night as junior captain Morgan Barron went to the box with only 1:43 left in the contest after Petruzzelli sold a goalie interference penalty.
“We take a goalie interference — did he interfere with him?” Schafer said, referencing Barron’s penalty. “You can’t reach on that hockey team. If you go down, you’re going to get called. We have to be more disciplined with our sticks and our positioning because if there’s ever a question, it’s a potential penalty.”
Facing its fifth penalty of the night, Cornell’s penalty-kill unit again came through. Quinnipiac launched a full-scale attack as it opted for an empty net. Despite being outnumbered on the ice, 6-4, the Red held firm as Galajda buckled down to help his team secure its seventh straight win.
“That’s unbelievable,” Locke said, referring to Galajda’s play. “It’s always good when a goalie can steal a game for you … He’s such a calm goaltender, and he came up huge tonight. You need a good goaltender to be a good hockey team, and he has proven that he is.”
In the opening period, the Red controlled play. Despite being whistled for two penalties, Cornell successfully killed both.
Soon after, it seemed like the Red had the perfect chance to put one on the board. With Quinnipiac’s Wyatt Bongiovanni being penalized for tripping, Cornell could show off its nation-leading power-play attack, which came into the night with a 42.3% clip.
Uncharacteristically, Cornell was sloppy with the one-man advantage. Several missed passes resulted in time draining from the clock, and the Bobcats engineered a takeover following the end of the power play.
Quinnipiac nearly capitalized on several defensive breakdowns by the Red. In a 2-on-1 situation, Bongiovanni could not score on puck junior goaltender Matt Galajda. Galajda then came up big with two more clutch saves to deny the Bobcats and keep the contest even.
“Matt Galajda was our best player tonight,” Schafer said. “He was outstanding — he saved us. Lack of awareness from our players [resulted in] three breakaways, and he made some huge saves.”
“It was a weird sequence,” Galajda said. “I can’t say I’ve really ever experienced something like that … I was just trying to make those timely saves and keep the team in the game.”
Prior to this contest, all of the Red’s previous victories came by two or more goals, aside from its season-opening 3-2 victory at Michigan State. While Cornell didn’t play its best, it demonstrated the ability to prevail in a close game.
“We haven’t really had too many close games this year,” Galajda said. “It’s nice to win those close games just so the younger guys are comfortable in those scenarios.”
“You got to have the ability to win games in all different ways,” Schafer added. “Tonight, our penalty-kill played well, our goaltender played well, and, you know, we defended home ice. We got through this game and we move onto tomorrow night.”
Cornell hosts Princeton Saturday night at 7 p.m.