Entering the championship of the Fortress Invitational, No. 2 Cornell men’s hockey not only had the chance to secure a flagship win in a stacked tournament field, but it also had the opportunity to avenge a 4-0 shutout loss to No. 14 Providence in the 2019 NCAA Tournament.
On Saturday night, the Red couldn’t quite accomplish either of those goals. In a gritty contest, Cornell trailed the Friars for much of the night and was constantly on the penalty kill. Still, the Red used a game-tying goal by junior forward and captain Morgan Barron in the final minute to force a 2-2 tie.
With Cornell (11-1-1, 6-1-0 ECAC) down a goal and only two minutes left in regulation, the Red pulled junior goaltender Matt Galajda to put an extra skater on the ice. This move paid off a minute later as Barron took a feed from senior defenseman Yanni Kaldis and beat Friars (11-5-5, 6-4-2 HEA) goaltender Michael Lackey for the equalizer. It was the junior’s second goal of the day and his ninth of the season.
“[Providence is] a solid defensive team — we saw it last year in the regionals where he had a tough time punching it in the net,” Barron said. “We talked about when we have an extra guy, we just have to find a way. And any time you have a lane, you have to take it.”
“So we made a nice pass across the ice, and I thought I had a little bit of a lane,” he continued. “I just kind of fired it at the net and I was lucky that it went in.”
Afterward, the game went into overtime, where Galajda endured a barrage of shots and Cornell had several quality looks, but neither team could find the back of the net during the five-minute period.
The contest officially went in the books as a tie, but a winner for the Fortress Invitational still had to be crowned. What ensued was a five-minute 3-on-3 overtime period and a shootout.
“That [3-on-3] was interesting,” Barron said. “It was the first time we have played that since I’ve been here, at least … It’s something we’re going to have to work on moving forward in case we get in this situation in non-conference games.”
Neither team scored during the second overtime either, setting up a shootout. In the third round, Providence forward Jack Dugan fired one past Galajda, and freshman forward Ben Berard could not do the same against Lackey, thus ceding the championship to the Friars.
“We’ll take a tie and it was obviously a big win against Ohio State,” Barron said. “A little bit of a bitter taste in a mouth just the way it ended, but the whole experience coming here really mimics what a regional event is going to be like.”
The Red found itself in an early hole. Both teams came in with a knack for scoring the first goal throughout the season — Cornell struck first 10 times in 12 games, and Providence had drawn first blood in 18 of its 20 games.
But the Red’s success in this category would not pull through against Providence. Six minutes into the first frame, the Friars’ leading goal-scorer, Tyce Thompson, launched a wrister to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Later in the first, Cornell whiffed on its first power play, but with a little over four minutes left in the period, Barron knotted the game. Behind the Providence net, freshman forward Jack Malone forced a turnover and set up Barron, who sent the puck home for the equalizer.
The Red, traditionally a strong second-period team, was marred by penalties in the middle frame. Despite starting off the second frame on the power play, Cornell could not take a lead, and that was the team’s second and last power-play opportunity of the night.
Meanwhile, the Friars saw themselves on the man advantage for a solid chunk of the second period, including a five-minute major penalty that was called against the Red.
After junior defenseman Alex Green laid a massive hit on a Providence skater, some extracurricular activity ensued after the impact, and officials reviewed the scrum for 10 minutes. No one was ejected, but Green was assessed a major penalty for charging, and sophomore forward Michael Regush and Providence’s Dugan were given offsetting minors for their actions after the whistle.
Cornell nearly killed off the major, but with a minute left on the penalty, the Friars regained their lead on a Parker Ford shot from the slot.
“I am happy with our guys,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “You know, you can’t get into the calls. Our guys played hard. Without getting into trouble, we just killed penalties, faced adversity and did the job.”
Searching to tie the game again, the Red was hindered by penalties to start the third as it found itself on the penalty kill twice. But thanks to strong defense and Galajda standing tall in goal, Cornell kept the deficit to one.
The Red continued to pressure Lackey throughout the final frame, but it simply could not punch the puck in. That luck finally changed with the 6-on-5 advantage as Barron again tallied the tying goal with his team’s back against the wall.
While Providence was the team that left Las Vegas with the tournament title, Cornell still managed to salvage one point from what proved to be a tough outing.
“A point is huge,” Schafer said. “To be 11-1-1 right now is absolutely huge for our hockey team and our program … We haven’t been home in a long, long, long time — we got to finish this road trip off at RPI and Union.”
The Red will return to New York but stay on the road as it faces Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Union next weekend in a pair of conference tilts.