With Lynah Rink open once again for regular season competition for the first time in over 600 days, the arena echoed with loud chants and humorous jests from the Cornell student section.
The energy of the rink was matched by the Red, as it edged out a thrilling overtime victory over Alaska Fairbanks in the Friday night matchup. The back-and-forth contest saw Cornell tying the game up 2-2 late in the third period and sealing the win in overtime.
The Red started the 3-on-3 overtime period with a bang, ending the game quickly. Just 40 seconds into overtime, senior forward Brenden Locke scored on an assist by junior defenseman Sam Malinski to seal the 3-2 overtime win for the Red.
The game started out slow and chippy for the Red. Although Cornell had the possession advantage for most of the first period, the team couldn’t manage to score.
The first period was one full of hard checking and multiple penalties the Red managed to kill. Sophomore defenseman Tim Rego was issued a penalty for holding with 8:36 remaining in the first period and, subsequently, junior forward Matt Stienberg was given one for interference with 5:19 remaining.
For the Nanooks, forward Harrison Israels was flagged for cross checking just 2:31 into the first period and defenseman Jordan Muzzillo was called for hooking about four minutes later. The Red was unable to convert the power play in either instance.
The Red had several opportunities, including open slapshots from junior forward Ben Berard and junior defenseman Sam Malinski, within the first 10 minutes. Cornell had another great chance when freshman defenseman Hank Kempf and senior defenseman Cody Haiskannen rattled off back-to-back slap shots that deflected off multiple Nanook defenders but couldn’t find its way into the back of the net.
Nanook goalie Gustavs Davis Grigals was credited for six saves in the first period, while Cornell’s senior goalie Nate McDonald notched seven saves.
The second period featured a lot more action. Things started off slow for the Red when it had to kill a penalty, after sophomore defenseman Jack Lagerstrom was penalized for hooking.
The Nanooks earned their place on the scoreboard first after forward Riley Murphy, who earned the assist, hit a hard slap shot that forward Brayden Nicholetts tapped into the net off of the rebound with 15:02 remaining in the period.
Cornell’s response came a minute later when freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka tapped in a goal with Haiskanen being credited for the assist. The Red, however, had little time to celebrate tying up the game.
Just 22 seconds later, forward Didrik Henbrant snuck it past McDonald after an assist from forwards Jakob Breault and Chase DuBois. The Nanooks led 2-1 with 13:38 remaining in the second period.
Although the Red had several nice opportunities to score, its attempts were thwarted each time. After Nanook forward Matt Koethe was called for hooking with 10:57 remaining and forward Brady Risk was flagged for tripping 34 seconds later, the Red was unable to produce a goal during the ensuing 5-on-3 opportunity.
With three minutes remaining, the Red missed another opportunity to score when Grigals blocked two shots and rebound attempts on those shots in quick succession.
At the very end of the period, with 30.4 seconds remaining, junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven was penalized for interference and Breault was given a penalty for slashing. With a mere 4.8 seconds remaining in the period, Henbrant was issued a penalty for hooking, giving the Red a 4-on-3 power play opportunity to start the third period.
McDonald allowed two goals and made 12 saves on 14 shot attempts in the second period. On the other side, Grigals allowed one goal and made 12 saves on 13 shot attempts in the period.
Starting the third period with a 4-on-3 power play, Cornell was unable to convert once again. It took another ten minutes of play until any scoring occurred.
With 13:53 remaining in the period, Berard hit a slap shot directly at the upper-right corner of the goal but Grigals made an impressive save to hold the Nanooks’ lead.
Four minutes later, with 9:28 remaining in the period, senior forward Kyle Betts earned an unassisted score. He knocked in an easy goal after the primary Nanook defender mistakenly brought the puck in front of his own net. Betts’ goal tied the game 2-2 for the Red.
Cornell certainly held the momentum for the next few minutes, constantly peppering Grigals with shot attempts that seemed to narrowly miss. Tied 2-2 with just 32.4 seconds left in the third period, Grigals left the net on a play but quickly recovered to make a tough save on a slap shot, preventing the Red from scoring and effectively sending the game to overtime.
The Red will host Alaska Fairbanks once again at Lynah Rink for the second and final game of the series at 7 p.m. tomorrow.