This post has been updated.
Going into its matchup against No. 20 Dartmouth, No. 1 Cornell men’s hockey boasted a near-perfect record that featured only a single loss, a 2-1 defeat to the Green on Dec. 7.
With Dartmouth visiting Lynah Rink for a rematch, the Red had the perfect opportunity to not only avenge its prior loss but earn a victory in a crucial conference game.
On Friday night, Cornell got its revenge, coming from behind to defeat Dartmouth, 3-2.
“We kind of let off the gas pedal when we were away at Dartmouth,” said junior forward Cam Donaldson. “They were the only team that has actually beat us, so it was really nice to [win].”
For much of the night, Cornell trailed the Green. After both teams traded goals in the first two periods, the Red went into the final frame looking to break a 2-2 deadlock.
Early in the third, senior captain Jeff Malott was sent to the penalty box for holding. The Red, which had already killed two penalties, notched its third kill, and Malott re-entered the game and put the Red on top with a game-winning snipe.
“I’m extremely grateful that we have a solid penalty kill,” Malott said. “I owe those guys big time … They really ran [Dartmouth] into the ground. So, I picked [the puck] up, brought it across the middle and was lucky enough for it to go in.”
Dartmouth, trailing by one score, killed off two penalties and started its search for the equalizer. The Green peppered junior goaltender Matt Galajda with shots in a desperate attempt to knot the game.
Malott was called for his second penalty midway through the third, enabling Dartmouth to take the man advantage. Galajda held firm as the Red killed the penalty. And for the remainder of the game, Galajda denied the Green at every turn — even as Dartmouth opted for an empty net — to help Cornell secure a big victory.
“Every game is, as these guys found tonight, hard-battled games,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It is what it is.”
The Red did not get off to an ideal start. After exchanging a few shots with Dartmouth in the first few minutes of the contest, Cornell saw the Green strike first. Senior Cam Strong tracked down a rebound off Galajda and lit the lamp for the game’s first score.
“I don’t think we were necessarily worried about letting up that first goal,” Malott said. “But it’s something we haven’t been exposed to very much this year. It’s definitely something we have to wipe off and take the momentum back.”
Coming into this contest, the Green was 7-0-2 when drawing first blood. That did not deter Cornell, though. The Red came out firing, and this pressure resulted in a Dartmouth error as Quin Foreman was sent to the penalty box for slashing.
It did not take long for Cornell to capitalize on the power play. Just 16 seconds into the man advantage, junior forward Tristan Mullin whipped a rebound past Dartmouth goaltender Adrian Clark to knot the game at one apiece.
With the game tied, the Red did not let up, continually peppering Clark with shots, but the senior netminder stood tall in goal. At the 18:07 mark, junior captain Morgan Barron was whistled for tripping, giving the Green a chance to respond.
The Red, which went a perfect 7-for-7 on the penalty kill last weekend against Northern Michigan, came through on the kill once again, shutting out Dartmouth for the remainder of the first as well for the seven leftover seconds in the following frame. Cornell finished the night 4-for-4 on the kill.
“In the last four games, we’ve really focused on resetting our penalty kill,” Malott said. “It’s basically breaking it down to just the fundamentals and having everybody learn the basics from scratch.”
Shortly after the power play expired, Dartmouth climbed back on top. Freshman Tanner Palocsik skated into a wide-open slot, received a feed from behind the net and buried the shot to reinstall Dartmouth’s one-goal edge.
After neither team could gain ground offensively, the Red turned up the heat midway through the period. Cornell had numerous open looks thanks to odd-man rushes, but it could not punch the puck in against Clark.
“It seemed like it was going to follow the same script we had up there where we hit posts and had all kinds of scoring chances and didn’t capitalize on them,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “They were lingering around.”
“I think we could have shot more earlier on those scoring chances,” Malott said. “That’s definitely something we can learn from moving forward.”
Then, Barron was called for his second penalty, halting the team’s offensive momentum. Dartmouth had its second opportunity on the power play, but the Red’s penalty-kill unit was up to the task, denying the Green once again.
Once the power play ended, Cornell went back on the attack, and its efforts finally paid off. On a breakaway, sophomore forward Michael Regush set up Donaldson, whose deep shot found the back of the net.
“On the bench, [Schafer] was telling us that we need to shoot the puck,” Donaldson said. “We were trying to be too cute on the offensive rushes.”
While the Red ended up with a victory, it was not a perfect game by any means. Cornell blew numerous scoring chances and turned the puck over several times.
“There was a lot of looseness in the sense of some of the parts of our game,” Schafer said. “I was a little disappointed in the execution of our gameplan. I thought we had a solid gameplan, but I don’t think we executed it very well, which led to some of those turnovers. So, now we get ready for Harvard.”
Cornell will be back at Lynah Rink on Saturday night as it hosts its arch-rival, Harvard.