After dominating two games last weekend, including an 11-3 victory over RPI last Saturday, a Friday night home matchup with 1-2 Brown seemed like somewhat of a sure thing for No. 10 men’s hockey.
The contest proved to be anything but a sure thing, as Brown (1-3, 1-3) took Cornell (6-1, 4-1) to overtime.
“I was disappointed with the way our guys played tonight,” said Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was a frustrating night. I think we thought it was going to be easier than it was.”
In its opening weekend, the Red went to overtime twice against Alaska Fairbanks. The Red ended things quickly in both, including on a game winner from junior forward Matt Stienburg.
Once again it was Stienburg who proved to be the hero for the Red. 58 seconds into the overtime period Stienburg buried a shot in the back of the net to give Cornell the win in a game it struggled to pull away in.
“I’m obviously fortunate to have two [overtime goals],” Stienburg said. “I have some good chemistry with my linemates and I think that helps [us] take advantage of the open ice.”
Senior goalkeeper Nate McDonald was stellar in net, making 30 saves on 32 shots after not playing last weekend.
“You show up to the rink expecting that you’re going to be in net today and prepare accordingly, and that’s what happened tonight,” McDonald said.
After scoring in the first five minutes of its games against Union and RPI last weekend, the Red got off to a slower start against Brown.
The Red put up six shots in the opening half of the first period, five of which were easily saved by Brown’s freshman goaltender Mathieu Caron. On the other shot, Caron was forced to make a fantastic save after Stienburg set up senior forward Max Andreev with an opportunity on a one-timer. Caron somehow managed to get his leg pad on the puck to keep Cornell off the board.
Cornell ramped up the pressure in the second half of the period. Senior forward and tri-captain Kyle Betts came up with a turnover in the neutral zone that shifted the momentum in favor of the Red. Betts’ turnover led to two good shots, the first of which was deflected by Caron and the second sailed wide of the pipes.
After those scoring opportunities, the puck barely left the Red’s offensive zone down the stretch of the final few minutes of the period. The Red launched shot after shot, but Caron stood tall and kept Cornell off the board.
The Red finally broke through in the final minute of the period. Andreev flicked a wrist shot at Caron from in close and the puck deflected out and landed in front of the crease. Caron could not recover in time to locate the rebound, and Stienburg easily punched in the score to put Cornell ahead.
“That was a pretty convenient bounce,” Stienburg said. “There was an open slot for an empty net.”
The Red took a 1-0 lead into the first intermission despite outshooting the Bears 17-5. Caron’s outstanding goalkeeping kept the Bears in the game going into the second period.
“We had a barrage of chances right down by the net and at the side of the net where we missed a couple wide open nets and the puck just popped out,” Schafer said. “It’s a funny game, at RPI everything seemed to pop to our sticks, tonight nothing seemed to pop to our sticks.”
It did not take Cornell long to extend its lead in the second period. Just 21 seconds into the middle frame, sophomore forward Kyle Penney scored his third goal of the season after junior forward Jack Malone set him up by breaking into the zone.
The quick goal represented a change of fortunes for the Red as it had generated plenty of opportunities but struggled to capitalize in the first period.
With about 13 minutes left in the period the Red once again had a series of plays that generated shots in the offensive zone, but nothing could get by Caron.
“I think we could have done a better job sustaining pressure,” Stienburg said. “We didn’t play a full 60 minutes so we kind of shot ourselves in the foot a little bit.”
Momentum shifted in favor of the Bears after Caron’s string of saves. With 12 minutes left in the period Cornell was called for a too many men on the ice penalty after a miscommunication on a line change.
The Bears took advantage of their first power play of the night. McDonald dropped into the butterfly to stop a shot, but could not control the rebound. A Brown skater appeared to knock McDonald over, but there was no call and Brown poked the puck in to cut Cornell’s lead to 2-1.
“I didn’t really think about challenging the call,” Schafer said. “There was a lot of traffic there and I don’t know if you could even see the puck, so who knows what they would’ve called on the challenge.”
Brown had a great opportunity to equalize after a series of penalties on freshman forward Kyler Kovich. At the nine minute mark Kovich was nabbed for cross checking. The Red killed the penalty, thanks to several saves by McDonald, including a flashy glove-save with seven and a half minutes left in the period.
Kovich was released from the box and skated right to Cornell’s defensive zone, where he was promptly sent back to the box for an illegal hit from behind. Once again, McDonald and the Red’s penalty killers managed to keep Brown from tying the game.
Cornell held on to its 2-1 lead going into the second intermission, despite being outshot 11-15 in the middle frame. Just as Caron had kept the Bears in the game in the first period, McDonald’s work in net kept the Red in front heading into the third.
Brown eventually found the equalizer early in the third period. McDonald saved a shot, but Brown’s Michael Maloney flicked the rebound past McDonald’s outstretched glove to even the score at 2.
The Bears were given a golden opportunity to take a lead when junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven was assessed a five minute major penalty for game misconduct, but the Red put together a five minute long penalty kill effort that thwarted Brown’s opportunity. Cornell gave Brown a hard time entering the offensive zone, and McDonald made nice saves on the shots that Brown managed to get off.
“With the length of the penalty kill obviously fatigue is a factor, but I think we did a really good job on that five minute penalty of keeping them to the outside and not really giving up much,” McDonald said.
The Red’s strong effort on the kill, including generating two dangerous short-handed chances that forced Caron to make nice saves, gave the team momentum down the final stretch of the game.
The Red generated pressure at even strength until Brown’s Wyatt Schlaht was called for holding with just over seven minutes left in the game, giving Cornell a power play. The Red launched five shots in the opening minute of the power play, but nothing got past Caron and Brown managed to kill off the final minute.
Neither team broke the tie in the final minutes of the third, sending the game to overtime, where Stienburg scored to win it for Cornell.
Under the new ECAC rules, the overtime win gives the Red two points, as opposed to the three it would get for a regulation win.
“Everybody says it’s not really a win,” Schafer said. “Well check out the celebration of the crowd and everything else. It’s a win.”
The Red will go for three points tomorrow night at 7 p.m. against Yale.