This post has been updated.
It had to happen eventually: After an impressive 10-game tear to open the 2019-20 season, No. 2 Cornell men’s hockey’s historic winning streak is over.
Behind 39 saves from goaltender Adrian Clark, Dartmouth (4-3-1, 4-2-1 ECAC) beat Cornell (10-1, 7-1), 2-1, at Thompson Arena on Saturday night, ending the Red’s winning streak. The 10-game run had been the program’s best start to a season since its perfect 1969-70 national championship campaign. Cornell was the nation’s only remaining unbeaten team.
Cornell was forced to come from behind, something it hadn’t needed to do all season. But despite controlling play — outshooting the Green 40-17, peppering Clark with shots, crashing the net, hitting the post three times and earning five power play opportunities — the Red couldn’t avoid its first loss of the season.
Almost everything had gone right for Cornell through 10 games: The team has been almost perfectly healthy, dominated blue bloods Boston University and Harvard, picked up an elusive North Country sweep and has worn down opponents with four effective lines night in and night out.
But on Saturday, the Red finally ran into some bad luck, in the form of Clark and a handful of pucks — especially late — that just couldn’t find the back of the net.
“[Dartmouth] did the job with regards to special teams and we didn’t do the job with regards to scoring chances and just playing hard enough in order to win a hockey game on the road,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
The Red dug itself into an early hole 2:20 into the first when Dartmouth’s Jeff Lusurdo rifled a puck past junior goaltender Matt Galajda right after the home team’s first power play of the game expired.
Thanks to junior forward and captain Morgan Barron’s goal with just 12 seconds left in the opening period, Cornell entered the first intermission tied. Barron’s tally was his seventh of the season and ended a four-game stretch without a goal for the Halifax, Nova Scotia native.
Less than a minute into the second period, Cornell fell behind again, as Matt Baker scored a sharp-angle goal to reestablish Dartmouth’s one-goal lead. The shot from near the goal line and close to the right corner showed just what kind of night it was for Cornell — the Green had just 17 shots on goal and limited scoring chances but was able to beat Galajda on two shots from outside prime scoring position.
UPSTAIRS! Matty Bakes with his 4th of the season to give America’s Team the one-goal lead again!
🚨 Baker (4)
🍏 Strong (1), Demler (4) pic.twitter.com/l0x75wr9L5
— Dartmouth Men’s Hockey (@Dartmouth_MIH) December 8, 2019
“I don’t think we were as sharp as we’ve been collectively as a group,” Schafer said. “From net to our blueline to our forwards we [need] to play better. Maybe it’s a silver lining for us throughout the course of the year that we don’t go into Christmas break being undefeated … Guys are going to have to re-look and reevaluate how they played tonight and where we’re going forward.”
When it went behind by a goal early on — and again in the second period — Cornell found itself where it hadn’t been since its first game of the season. The Red hadn’t trailed in a game since Nov. 1 at Michigan State, when it fell behind 1-0 before emerging with a 3-2 win. Going into the game, Cornell had trailed for less than a single period all season, but the Red was behind for almost the entire 60 minutes on Saturday.
A Cornell team that was dominant in second periods through 10 games was outscored in the middle frame for the first time this season.
After Baker’s goal early in the second, Clark stood tall between the pipes the rest of the way to secure the win, making 39 saves. Cornell had chances galore throughout the game — including with an extra attacker in the game’s final minute — but couldn’t solve Clark to even up the score. Twenty-one of the Red’s 40 shots came in the final period.
The Red was 0-for-5 on the power play despite pestering Clark with several scoring chances. A couple odd-man rushes failed to produce quality shots. Senior forward and captain Jeff Malott’s shorthanded breakaway opportunity early in the first ended with a save by Clark.
Cornell has gone four straight games without a power-play goal.
“Back-to-back nights we had great opportunities on the power play, but we gotta get in the back of the net,” Schafer said. “We hit a lot of goal posts tonight … missed breakaways, 3-on-1s where we didn’t even take a shot, but that’s just a symptom of not being prepared to get after it.”
Cornell is still alone in first place in the ECAC standings heading into final exams and winter break, clinging to a two-point lead over Clarkson and Harvard. The Red next takes the ice at the Fortress Invitational in Las Vegas during the first weekend of January.