This post has been updated.
After scoring four goals in the first period against Colgate on Sunday, No. 2 Cornell men’s hockey seemed like it was well on its way to an easy victory.
After all, the Red outscored the Raiders, 3-1, in the first period during Saturday night’s smothering 4-1 victory. But that same result didn’t quite materialize.
Instead, Cornell let off the gas pedal. While the Red did earn the 5-3 win against Colgate, it faltered on the penalty kill and allowed the Raiders to narrow the gap.
“I’m really disappointed in how we finished the game out,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We have talked all season about playing the full 60. Last night, I thought we did a good job of that … but [today] we got cute with the puck in the second period and tried to do way too much.”
Despite taking steps forward in recent weeks, the Red (17-2-4, 12-2-2 ECAC) faltered on the penalty kill as it gave up two power-play scores in the final seven minutes. Colgate’s (9-13-6, 7-6-3) first score — in the first period — also came mere seconds after the penalty expired.
“Our penalty killing sucked — there’s no other adjective to describe it,” Schafer said. “We got everything resolved a couple weeks ago, and now we’re right back to making the same stupid blunders previously. We gotta get back to work and get the job done because it’s just something that pisses me off as a coach that we can’t be consistent in our penalty killing.”
While the team experienced regression on the penalty kill, the win moved the Red into a tie with Clarkson for first place in the ECAC standings.
“We’ll get back to it,” Schafer continued. “Good win, good sweep — it puts us where we need to be, but it’s also got some disappointing aspects to it.”
The contest, initially scheduled for Friday night, was pushed back to a 4 p.m. start on Sunday due to heavy snowfall. The game, dubbed the Courage Classic, was dedicated to the children of Camp Good Days, which is a camp for children, adults and families who have been afflicted with cancer or other challenges.
“It was a great experience for the people around here to understand Camp Good Days and all the good work that they do in the community and all over the place,” Schafer said. “It’s a tremendous organization that does a lot of good for kids.”
Much like Saturday night, Cornell dominated in the first frame. For the first time all season, the Red scored four goals in the opening period, bullying Colgate netminder Andrew Farrier throughout the afternoon.
“I think we definitely fully executed our gameplan,” said freshman defenseman Sebastian Dirven. “I have to say just with our gameplan, we’re playing quick, playing simple, getting pucks in deep and just not giving them a lot of time to make plays.”
To start off, Farrier stood tall in goal, turning away a number of Cornell shots. Eight minutes into the game, the Red drew first blood. Freshman forward Matt Stienburg provided the first tally on a second-chance opportunity.
A minute later, the Red doubled its lead thanks to the stick of Dirven, who corralled an excellent pass from junior captain Morgan Barron into the net for the first score of his career.
“It’s definitely that something feels pretty good — waiting a little bit of time for it,” Dirven said, on his first goal. “But I just knew that if I kept playing the right way, it would come.”
After freshman defenseman Travis Mitchell was sent to the penalty box for slashing, Colgate received its first power-play opportunity. While the Raiders didn’t formally convert on the man advantage, they halved Cornell’s lead as Bobby McMann hit twine from the right circle seconds after the power play expired.
The Red did not allow Colgate to pick up any more momentum. Right off the faceoff, sophomore forward Michael Regush restored Cornell’s two-goal edge with an immediate response.
“Well it started when [junior forward] Brenden Locke made a great play to force a turnover,” Regush said. “[Junior forward] Tristan [Mullin] had good vision — he just gave it to me, and I closed my eyes and shot it as hard as I could. It went over his shoulder, and it was a good play by those two.”
It didn’t end there, though. Sniffing blood, Cornell found the back of the net again on its very next possession as sophomore forward Max Andreev beat Farrier on the wraparound.
All four of the Red’s goals were even-strength. Cornell was awarded three power-play chances in the first period, but it whiffed on each one.
Following a first period that featured five total goals, the second frame was comparatively uneventful. Only one penalty was assessed, and Colgate missed on that power play.
“We didn’t give them a whole lot in the second period,” Schafer said. “They had a couple scoring chances … but that’s all they had. We were in there, but we were not finishing our scoring chances.”
Meanwhile, the Red launched 10 shots on goal, but none of them connected with Farrier solidifying himself in net. Down by three scores, Colgate improved on its three-shot total from the first period, but junior goaltender Matt Galajda came up with several saves during the period.
“I don’t want to say your mindset changes,” Regush said, on his team taking a lead. “I don’t think it does, but it does seem to be an occurence in hockey. You don’t have as much of a killer instinct.
“Our motto this year is ‘finish it,’” Regush continued. “Just because we’re up doesn’t mean we’re done. It can be tough, but it’s something that shouldn’t be tough.”
In the third, Colgate started off the frame on the power play due to a kneeing infraction by Regush in the final seconds of the previous period. The Red killed the penalty, and frustrations began to mount for the Raiders.
A scrum ensued in front of the Colgate net with Barron and Paul McAvoy having to be broken up after the whistle. Three total penalties were assessed — two on the Raiders and one on the Red, which gave Cornell its fourth power play.
On the power play, junior forward Kyle Betts — who returned from injury on Saturday night — was tripped, forcing an early exit to the locker room.
“I was a little disappointed with how the game was called,” Schafer said. “We barely touched anybody in the third period, and we’re going to get a penalty. A guy goes after Kyle Betts’ knees at center ice — it was disappointing.”
The Red failed to convert on that opportunity, but after another call against Colgate, Cornell finally scored on the man advantage. Junior defenseman Alex Green delivered the dagger with 22 seconds left on the power play, putting the puck past Farrier.
While Green’s score essentially decided the game, Colgate continued to pester the Red as it struck twice on the power play in the waning minutes. Penalties by Mitchell and senior forward Jeff Malott set up the opportunities for the Raiders. While the Red had already locked up the victory and the sweep, the two scores tainted the final outcome.
“I thought we’re a pretty friggin’ disciplined hockey team,” Schafer said. “I go back and I don’t see it — I don’t see the calls.”
Unlike last night, the Red failed to keep up its energy for the entire game. Cornell’s play in the last half of the contest showed that despite the team’s immense talent, it still has work to do with only six games left in the regular season.
“We’re not sitting here at 17-2-4 by mistake,” Schafer said. “These guys take a lot of pride in it, too … We’ll address the penalty kill and why we’re giving up transitions and not getting it deep and keeping it on them. Last night, we played a simple road game for the second and third period — tonight, we didn’t.”
Even after picking up the sweep, Cornell will regroup as it prepares to hit the road to face Union and Rensselaer next weekend.