This post has been updated.
After capturing the Ivy League title last night against Yale, No. 2 Cornell men’s hockey continued its late-season push, earning its seventh straight win with a 3-0 victory over Brown.
On the surface, the Bears appeared to be a weak opponent. After all, Brown came into this contest slotted at ninth in the conference. While the Bears only picked up three wins in their first 18 contests, they were 4-2-2 in their last eight games, which included a 3-1 win against the Colgate the night before.
Brown’s recent play did not stop the Red from once again gaining an advantage in the first period. Before its early success, Cornell received two power-play opportunities early in the frame, but it whiffed on each one before tallying the first goal. The Red saw several of its shots hit the post.
“We hit two posts and a crossbar,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was just one of those nights where we were fortunate we did get things to drop for us first.”
Following the expiration of the second penalty, senior forward Jeff Malott charged into the Brown zone and then dished the puck out to freshman forward Matt Stienburg, who tipped the puck home to gift the Red an early lead. A familiar play, this same connection sprouted Cornell’s fourth goal in the previous game against Yale.
“I thought Matt [Stienburg], [freshman forward] Jack [Malone] and Jeff [Malott] were one of our best lines this weekend,” Schafer said. “That line was going tonight, and it gives them that needed confidence going into the playoffs.”
After being outshot, 7-0, during the first half of the period, Brown finally developed some offensive momentum when senior forward Noah Bauld was sent to the penalty box for tripping.
The Bears’ power play was initially disorganized as Brown struggled to penetrate the Cornell zone. Eventually, the Bears plowed through and pressured junior goaltender Matt Galajda with several shots on goal, but he stood tall in net to allow the Red to retain its one-goal lead.
Much like the Yale contest, the second period did not feature much action. Cornell went on the power play early in the middle frame after Tristan Crozier was whistled for cross-checking, but the Red’s drought on the man advantage continued.
From there, both teams traded scant shots on goal before Brown received a power-play chance following a call on Stienburg for interference. The Bears were held scoreless, though they launched a close shot on Galajda in the final seconds of the penalty.
By the end of the period, Cornell and Brown were tied for shots on goal in the second frame at eight apiece. Unlike previous games, the Red, which only held a 1-0 lead, was not sporting a comfortable edge heading into the final 20 minutes.
This uncertainty carried over into the third period with Brown launching numerous shots against Galajda, but none of them found the back of the net.
Meanwhile, Cornell continued to struggle on offense. The Red was gifted another power play, but it moved to 0-for-4 on the man advantage following another failed conversion.
It wasn’t until the 12:39 mark that the Red finally had a bounce go its way. Freshman forward Sam Malinski — who returned from injury on Friday against Yale — sent a pass to the center, which deflected off junior forward Kyle Betts and then ricocheted off a Brown skater into the goal.
“We just couldn’t get that second one,” Schafer said. “We finally ended up getting the second one. I thought we had to work hard in the third period, and we did a good job.”
The own-goal gave the Red a comfortable two-goal cushion heading into the final minutes. With under three minutes to go, Nieto was pulled from the game in a last-ditch effort by the Bears to score.
That move backfired on Brown, though, as junior captain and forward Morgan Barron took advantage of an error by Zach Giuttari, who failed to track the puck back in the Brown zone. Barron beat him to the puck and fired into the empty net to lock up the outcome.
In the waning moments, sophomore defenseman Joe Leahy was called for tripping, setting up a 6-on-4 for Brown. But as he did all game, Galajda shut down the Bears and notched his second shutout in a row.
“I thought [Galajda] was a little more zeroed in and more focused, and the guys did a good job around him,” Schafer said. “Back-to-back shutouts — that doesn’t happen very often.”
Cornell will come back home for its final regular-season series against Clarkson and St. Lawrence next weekend.