In the second part of a two-game series against Northern Michigan, Cornell men’s hockey was not ready to settle for another tie — or suffer a loss.
Cornell jumped out to an early lead and fought hard to come out on top, 3-1.
The Red tallied its first goal of the night 1:04 into the first period when junior defenseman Alex Green put in his seventh goal of the season to put Cornell on the board.
Throughout the first frame, the Red looked put-together, but a pair of power plays for Northern Michigan put the Wildcats’ shot total well above that of Cornell — Northern Michigan finished the period with 17 shots while Cornell had eight. But five of those Northern Michigan shots came on the power play, which lasted fewer than four minutes, making the 17-8 disparity paint a picture of a Cornell team struggling more throughout the first period than it actually was.
Even so, Cornell had trouble picking up any real momentum after that Green goal. In one power play opportunity, Cornell recorded one shot. Junior goaltender Matt Galajda kept the Red in the game while his teammates struggled to elevate their level of play.
Cornell came out of the gates strong once again in the second period, with junior forward Cam Donaldson scoring even more quickly than Green had in the first frame. 48 seconds after the period opened, Donaldson sank a goal for the Red, putting the team up, 2-1 — a lead that it would not relinquish again.
“One thing that we changed a lot was kind of our forecheck,” Donaldson said. “Just getting above [Northern Michigan] was huge.”
It was a two-point night for Donaldson and junior forward and captain Morgan Barron, both of whom assisted Green on the first goal of the night. Barron also had an assist on Donaldson’s goal.
The second period flipped the script on the first, with Cornell having five shots in two power play opportunities and the shot total being 17-6 in the Red’s favor.
“In the second, we just came in, got adjusted — made some adjustments in the sense of just being a lot more aware and being ready,” head coach Mike Schafer ’86 said. “And we came out and played a heck of a second period.”
Cornell ended the day with four power plays, converting on none of them. Northern Michigan was in the same situation, also going 0-for-4. Despite 16 total penalty minutes, strong penalty kills for both teams prevented the power play from shaping the game.
“Our best penalty killer was Matt Galajda,” Schafer said. “When it was there and we needed it, he made big saves.”
The third and final goal of the night came from freshman forward Ben Tupker in his Lynah debut. First-year classmates defenseman Travis Mitchell and forward Matt Stienburg got the assists in the entirely class of 2023-manufactured goal that made the score 3-1.
“It’s a good feeling getting that [first goal] out of the way,” Ben Tupker said. “I’m just pretty relieved to be done with that.”
Following Friday’s 2-2 tie, adjustments had to be made to ensure a more prolific offense would come out Saturday.
“[The goals are] all created by guys being around the net — Matt Stienburg with net presence and Ben Tupker coming to the net, and we talked about that a lot in the morning about getting people in front of goaltenders, and today it paid dividends,” Schafer said. “Cam [Donaldson] went to the net and scored the second one and then Ben Tupker also scored on a rebound by the net.”
Going into the game, Cornell was already facing adversity. Forwards junior Kyle Betts and sophomore Max Andreev were both injured Friday and scratched from Saturday’s lineup. After getting hurt at the beginning of the third period Friday, Betts never returned to action. Andreev was injured in the first period but later returned to the bench.
“I think the travel has taken its toll more physically than I thought it had,” Schafer said.
Coming into this weekend, Cornell had played 11 of its 15 games on the road.
The three missing forwards were replaced by goal-scorer Ben Tupker, his twin freshman Zach Tupker and sophomore Liam Motley. Schafer did not outline a timetable for Betts’ or Andreev’s returns other than to say they are likely to be out for most of the coming week.
In the latter half of the third period, it looked like Cornell might’ve lost another key member of its offense when Donaldson was hit and suffered an apparent upper-body injury. He went down and did not get up for over a minute before making his way into the locker room.
The play was reviewed and no penalty was handed to Northern Michigan for the hit.
“I have no comments on the officials,” Schafer said. “I talked with them last night and they didn’t give me anything.”
Not long after, Donaldson returned to Cornell’s bench.
“I got the wind knocked out of me, I got hit square in the chest,” Donaldson said. “But I feel fine now.”
The last 12 matchups of the regular season are in-conference, starting with another pair of home games next weekend.
“We just need to come out and play with the kind of passion, alertness and awareness that we had tonight in the second and third,” Schafer said. “ And, you know, for us, we’ll just keep plugging away.”
The Red will take the ice against Dartmouth Friday at 7 p.m. and Saturday against Harvard at the same time.