This post has been updated.
Coming into its contest with Yale, No. 2 Cornell men’s hockey had the opportunity to clinch an Ivy League title. If the Red could secure a win over the Bulldogs, it could take sole possession of the Ancient Eight crown.
On Friday night, the Red wasted no time in claiming its 20th Ivy League title, dominating Yale, 4-0, thanks to a trio of first-period goals and a shutout performance by junior goaltender Matt Galajda.
“Just getting the 3-0 lead in the first — our guys played really well, and I thought we did a good job defensively, not giving them a whole lot.” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was a good win and nice to get the Ivy League championship out of the way tonight.”
As it has done this past month, Cornell excelled in the first period. Entering the game, the Red had tallied 14 first-period goals — a mark that led the nation. Against the Bulldogs, Cornell added three more tallies.
It didn’t take long for the Red to strike first. On a delayed penalty, Cornell opted for an empty net and sent an extra skater on ice. This move paid off as junior forward Cam Donaldson received a feed from fellow junior Morgan Barron. Donaldson proceeded to beat Yale netminder Corbin Kaczperski from the left circle for the Red’s opening score.
While the Red whiffed on the ensuing penalty, it found the net shortly after. Twelve seconds after the penalty expired, junior forward Kyle Betts was left alone in the slot. Junior forward Tristan Mullin found his linemate, who punished the Bulldogs to double Cornell’s lead.
After a flurry of penalties on both sides, Yale emerged with a power-play opportunity. It appeared that the Bulldogs had cut into Cornell’s lead when Jack St. Ivany rifled a shot past Galajda. But after a review, the officials ruled that Yale went offsides 20 seconds prior, nullifying the goal and preserving Galajda’s shutout bid.
“[Senior forward] Noah Bauld was the first guy to say they went offsides,” Schafer said. “We checked with the guys upstairs, and they were clearly offsides. Good call by those guys looking at it, and it was a big turning point.”
Cornell took advantage of the shifted momentum from the call as sophomore defenseman Joe Leahy hit twine to put the lead at 3-0. In the final minutes of the period, Yale unleashed several shots at Galajda, but the junior held firm to preserve the Red’s big lead.
“Joe [Leahy] has played with a lot of poise,” Schafer said. “He has his head up and makes plays, and he did a solid job again tonight.”
While the first period was filled with scores and penalties, the middle frame was more uneventful. Both teams only combined for nine shots with Cornell outshooting Yale, 6-3.
The lone penalty of the period was assessed against Betts for a high stick, but the Red’s defense suffocated the Bulldogs on the ensuing penalty kill. That same play occurred for much of the period. Cornell had several strong opportunities to extend its lead — including a breakaway by senior forward Jeff Malott — but Kaczperski buckled down between the pipes.
“You don’t have to press as hard,” Schafer said. “But we still created scoring chances and didn’t give up much. I was happy with the discipline.”
The same narrative continued early in the third period with neither team breaking through. A shift finally occurred when an unsportsmanlike penalty was assessed against Yale’s Billy Sweezey.
Though the Red failed to score on its fourth power-play opportunity, it once again found the back of the net moments after the penalty expired. This time, Malott beautifully maneuvered the puck between two defenders before dishing it to freshman forward Matt Stienburg, who scored the fourth and decisive goal.
From there, Yale did all it could to notch a single score, but the combination of Galajda in net and Cornell’s strong defense proved too much for the Bulldogs. Yale launched several shots in garbage time, but none of them hit their target as the Red secured the 4-0 victory and the first-place Ivy trophy.
Not only did the win secure the 20th Ivy League title in program history for Cornell, but it also moved the Red into sole possession of first place in the ECAC standings. Clarkson, who was tied with Cornell atop the league standings for several weeks, fell to Harvard on Friday night, giving the Red a two-point edge over its conference rival.
Cornell will finish its road trip at Brown 7 p.m. Saturday night.