This post has been updated.
After avenging its only loss of the season by beating Dartmouth on Friday, No. 1 Cornell men’s hockey returned to Lynah Rink on Saturday to face its biggest rival, Harvard.
Cornell came into the game riding a seven-game unbeaten streak and had only one loss to its name. Meanwhile, the Crimson, which started the year with a perfect 6-0 record, entered the contest with a measly 3-6-3 mark in its last 12 games.
While it seemed like both teams were trending in opposite directions, the Red and the Crimson battled in a close contest. Harvard first drew blood late in the game, but sophomore forward Michael Regush forced a 1-1 draw with a strike on the power play.
The first goal wasn’t scored until there was only 4:05 left on the clock. After relentlessly pressuring junior goaltender Matt Galajda, the Crimson finally broke through as freshman Jack Drury’s shot from the slot found the back of the net.
“I made a mistake,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “I had four freshmen out there against the top line in the league. They both jumped out at the same time, and they took advantage of it.”
Cornell put forth its best attack in an effort to score the equalizer. With just under two minutes left in the game, the Red was gifted a power-play opportunity as Drury was sent to the penalty box for slashing.
After whiffing on its first three power plays, the Red converted just six seconds into the man advantage. With a 6-on-4 advantage after Galajda was pulled, Regush beat Harvard goaltender Cameron Gornet to tie the game.
“We did a great job winning the draw, which kind of set things up from there,” Regush said. “[Senior defenseman] Yanni [Kaldis] had the puck, and I found myself loose. And he made a great pass to me, and I kind of tipped it in.”
The Red pressured Gornet as it tried to net the game-winner, but could not score, sending the game into a five-minute overtime period.
Each side had opportunities, but none of them manifested into a score. Perhaps the Red’s best chance came when senior captain Jeff Malott took the puck on a one-man charge and nearly scored on Gornet. Cornell kept the puck in Harvard’s zone late in the period, but Gornet stood tall, preserving the 1-1 deadlock.
Before all of the action, the Lynah faithful practiced the age-old tradition of throwing fish on the ice. Despite the prohibition regarding fish-throwing, Cornell fans did it anyway, hurling scores of fish as Harvard skaters entered the rink.
“The crowd’s energy the last two nights has been phenomenal,” Schafer said. “There just was not a whole lot to cheer for in the game as far as goals were concerned.”
Though the puck drop was delayed by about a minute, a delay-of-game penalty was not enforced against the Red. Cornell and Harvard quickly took to the ice, and play was very physical right from the get-go — both teams took every opportunity to slam skaters into the boards or lay down massive hits.
Cornell’s offensive efforts were aided by two power-play opportunities, but Cornell failed to convert both chances.
The initial frame concluded in a scoreless draw with each team only generating five shots on goal. Harvard had a chance to strike first in the following period when freshman forward Jack Malone was whistled for interference, but the Crimson could not capitalize on the power play.
Cornell had yet another opportunity midway through the second when Harvard’s Henry Bowlby was called for a slashing infraction, but the team could only muster a single shot on goal as the Crimson defense contained the Red.
Gornet, who started at goal for Harvard, provided a wall that the Red could not break. It was a stark contrast to the Dec. 6 match-up at Harvard’s home rink. There, Mitchell Gibson was the netminder for Harvard, and Cornell beat him for three goals.
For the rest of the period, Harvard peppered Galajda with shots, but the junior did not let the puck past him. In the end, the second frame ended with the same outcome as the first — both teams tied at zero. But Harvard applied far more pressure in the middle period, and it held a 17-9 edge in shots on goal.
“I don’t think they outplayed us,” Schafer said. “We just didn’t generate anything through large bands of the night … We turned a lot of pucks over during the course of the night. I just didn’t think there were a lot of scoring chances.”
In the final period, Cornell put more pressure on Gornet, tallying a few shots. But the Red found itself on the kill eight minutes into the period, as freshman forward Zach Tupker was sent to the penalty box for holding.
During the kill, the Red survived several close calls, including a Casey Dornbach shot on the doorstep that Galajda was able to save. Cornell’s success on the penalty kill kept Harvard scoreless.
“We’re just clearing pucks,” Galajda said. “Before, we were just trying to clear pucks, and they would get knocked down on those chances.”
Fans watched a similar scene unfold minutes later with a swarm of Harvard players charging the goal. Even though he was vulnerable on his right side, Galajda was able to stretch his body to cover the puck in the midst of the pileup.
“You can’t really let the emotions get the best of you,” Galajda said. “I think you just have to stay even-keel in the net and be a calming influence back there.”
Even though the Red trailed very late in the game, it still found a way to escape with a point against its rival.
“Obviously, we got one point, and we wanted two,” Regush said. “We’re going to make our adjustments to get more chances and shots.”
Cornell will go back on the road as it faces Quinnipiac and Princeton next weekend.