This article has been updated.
Coming off a narrow loss to Harvard at Lynah East on Friday night, No. 14/15 men’s hockey went to Dartmouth on Saturday seeking to salvage its first weekend of conference play.
Friday’s game ended with junior forward Ben Berard ringing the post on a shot that would have tied the game with less than 10 seconds left.
“That was tough to get it that close and not have it go in,” Berard said.
On Saturday night, Berard took another critical shot in the dying seconds of the game, but this time under different circumstances.
Cornell was up 4-3 late in the third period when Dartmouth pulled its goalie in favor of an extra attacker. With about two minutes left in the contest, Berard came up with a turnover in Cornell’s defensive zone, deked a Dartmouth defender at mid-ice and skated toward Dartmouth’s empty net.
Instead of taking the wide open shot at the empty net to seal the deal for Cornell and notch his third goal of the night, Berard elected to pass to freshman Kyler Kovich, who was streaking to his right and was still looking for his first collegiate goal. A Dartmouth defender got a stick on the puck and broke up the play.
“I obviously thought it was more of a sure thing than it was,” Berard said. “I saw Kovich beside me and knew he was looking for his first goal …. In hindsight it obviously wasn’t a smart play.”
By passing up a free score with two minutes left with a one goal lead, Berard left a window open for Dartmouth.
“It was kind of a crazy dumb decision in the moment,” Berard said. “As soon as it happened I was kind of in shock like ‘What the hell was I thinking?’”
Sure enough, Dartmouth cashed in a 6-on-5 rebound to equalize the score with 1:23 left.
In the second to last game of the 2019-2020 season, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 held Berard out of the lineup because he was unhappy with his play. The next night, Berard responded by recording a hat trick.
While Schafer had good reason to bench Berard for the remainder of the game following his costly gaffe, he elected to leave Berard on the ice to close the third period.
“Ben has responded to every challenge,” Schafer said. “I think the more he’s challenged the better he plays.”
As Berard took the ice in the final minute, it seemed like the game was destined for overtime.
“As soon as they scored it looked like I had cost us a regulation win,” Berard said. “I just really wanted to get on the ice and make up for it.”
Wiith 15 seconds left, junior forward Matt Stienburg deflected a shot and passed the puck out to Berard. Berard carried it down the right side of the ice, dribbled on the dot and then fired a wrist shot past the glove of Dartmouth’s goalie and into the net with 6.2 seconds left.
“That was almost not even excitement, just a relief when that went in,” Berard said.
The late game-winner saved the Red from squandering a game which it had dominated for most of the night.
The Red got off to a strong start, dominating shots and possession in the first period. Cornell (3-1, 1-1) outshot Dartmouth (1-3, 1-2) 17-2 in the first period.
Despite the early pressure the Red applied, it initially struggled to find quality opportunities. Only six of Cornell’s first 14 shots were on goal, and Dartmouth goalie Clay Stevenson stood tall on the pucks that were sent his way.
Stevenson finished with 22 saves on 24 shots before being pulled in the third period in favor of Justin Ferguson.
The Red finally broke through with just over five minutes left in the first period. Junior forward Zach Tupker came up with a turnover in Cornell’s defensive zone and fed his brother Ben Tupker to center ice. Tupker found junior forward Jack Malone streaking down the right side, setting him up with just the goalie to beat. Malone cut to the net, brought the puck to his backhand side and flicked it through the five-hole to put Cornell on the board.
Despite more opportunities, including a power play late in the period, the Red was unable to add to its lead and went into the locker room up 1-0.
“I liked our bounce back from last night,” Schafer said. “We talked about not having a slow start, and we played with poise.”
The second period started much like the first, with the Red dominating possession and firing shots at Stevenson. Cornell was unable to find the back of the net in the first few minutes of the period, but was set up with a power play opportunity with just under 17 minutes left.
Cornell appeared to capitalize on its man advantage. Stevenson made consecutive saves, but the puck trickled out to Berard, who put it over Stevenson’s shoulder. The goal was waved off for interference after the refs ruled that Cornell interfered with Stevenson.
The Big Green picked up momentum after the goal came back. Cornell was called for a series of three penalties, forcing the Red to go on the kill for the first time of the night. Cornell’s penalty killers kept Dartmouth off the board during the first two penalties, including a 51 second five on three.
With just under 11 minutes remaining in the period Ben Tupker was called for interference. Dartmouth capitalized on its third power play. Dartmouth’s Joey Musa fired a shot that deflected off of McDonald’s left leg pad and landed in the crease, where Jeff Losurda poked it in to even the score at one goal apiece.
The teams traded shots for the next few minutes, but there was not much action until Cornell found itself with an offensive zone faceoff with 3:45 left in the period. The Red won the faceoff and Berard fired a slapshot that was deflected by Stevenson. The Big Green took possession behind the net, but missed a pass along the boards and gave the puck to junior defenseman Sam Malinski in front of the blue line.
Malinski sent it in front of the net to senior tri-captain Brendan Locke, who set Berard up with a touch pass. This time, Berard fired the puck into the net to break the tie and put Cornell up 2-1.
The Red held on to its one goal lead going into the third period, but it did not last long. Just 29 seconds into the period, the Big Green evened the score at two after cashing in on a rebound in front of the net.
The goal put the Red in a familiar position — the Red had been tied at some point in the 3rd period in all of its first three games.
Cornell pulled ahead with 11:17 left in the game. Senior tri-captain Kyle Betts forced a turnover behind Dartmouth’s goal and skated up to the dot, where he fired a shot that deflected off Ferguson and fell at the feet of sophomore Kyle Penney, who buried the rebound for his first career goal.
Cornell extended its lead three minutes later. Kovich dropped a pass at the point to Berard, who patiently skated to the net and waited for his shot before firing the puck past Ferguson to bring the score to 4-2.
With time winding down and Cornell up two, it seemed like the Red were set to put the finishing touches on a road victory. With just over four minutes left in the game, however, Dartmouth scored to cut Cornell’s lead to 4-3.
With two and a half minutes remaining, Dartmouth pulled Ferguson for an extra skater, which started the wild chain of events that saw Berard become a villain and then a hero.
“Wild. I’ve never experienced anything like that,” Schafer said. “I totally get [Berard] trying to get it to [Kovich] for his first college goal, but then for us to cough it up and make a couple big mistakes at the end … it was just absolutely nuts.”
Two minutes after passing up a hat trick to try to get Kovich his first career goal, Berard’s game winner zipped in for his third of the night and his second career hat trick.
“[Kovich and I] kind of laughed about it a little bit after,” Berard said. “It was almost nervous laughter like ‘Thank god that worked out that was pretty stupid.’”
By winning in regulation, the Red earned 3 ECAC points and salvaged a 1-1 weekend.
The Red is back home next weekend as it faces Union and RPI in its second weekend of ECAC play.