This article has been updated.
After a narrow overtime win against Brown on Friday night, No. 10 men’s hockey hoped to get a full three points in its battle with winless Yale on Saturday night.
Cornell (7-1, 5-1) benefited from performances by two seniors who have had to wait for their opportunities to contribute.
Senior goaltender Nate McDonald made his collegiate debut earlier this season after playing behind Matt Galajda for his first few seasons. A phenomenal performance by McDonald kept Cornell in control on Saturday night. McDonald, who notched 30 saves Friday night, was called on after not playing in both games last weekend. Freshman goaltender Joe Howe, who laid a strong claim to the starting role after holding opponents to four goals last weekend, was unavailable due to injury. McDonald stepped up once again, finishing with a 14 save shutout.
Senior forward Liam Motley, who has been in and out of the lineup all season and who did not play on Friday night, scored what ended up being the game winning goal – his first at Lynah Rink.
“Kids like Motley and McDonald, guys that haven’t gotten a lot of ice time in their first few years here, they’re such an important part of our program,” said Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86. “To persevere and be great teammates and have great attitudes, guys like that are invaluable as far as culture is concerned.”
For the second consecutive night Cornell could not get much brewing offensively early in the game. The Red seemed mostly in control in the first period, as strong effort on the forecheck and in the neutral zone set the Red up with plenty of opportunities in its offensive zone, but Cornell did not generate any shots that posed a problem for Yale’s Luke Pearson.
“I didn’t think we got off to a very good start tonight,” Schafer said. “Early on we came out and I don’t know if we thought it was going to be easy, but we didn’t play fast, didn’t play strong,” Schafer said.
Cornell had three opportunities on the power play in the first period, but came up empty on all three. The Red spent a lot of its time with the man advantage passing the puck around the offensive zone, but could not seem to find any shooting lanes. Cornell took just one shot on its three first period power plays.
“The one [power play] unit struggled,” Schafer said. “They’re frustrated…they’re trying to force it and trying to do too much.”
Yale (0-6, 0-5) for its part, played with energy in the first period, especially on the defensive end — where the Bulldogs prevented Cornell from finding quality opportunities. The Bulldogs tested McDonald seven times in the first, including twice on a power play late in the period, but McDonald did not let anything through.
The two teams went to the intermission scoreless with Cornell holding a 10-7 lead in shots.
“I think it’s a really good lesson,” Motley said. “Sometimes games don’t start the way you want them to. It’s not like we’re going to come out and get a lead every first period. To get that experience early on and have that adversity is going to be great for our team.”
Cornell’s offensive struggles continued for the first few minutes of the second period during two long stretches of back and forth play without stoppages. With just under 14 minutes left in the period, Cornell’s offense came to life.
At the 13:41 mark, Motley put Cornell on the board after finding the back of the net on a wrist shot from the left circle. The goal was Motley’s first of the season, as he was added to the lineup tonight after not dressing Friday night.
“It felt incredible,” Motley said. “I’ve never scored at Lynah and I’m a senior now so it was a pretty exciting moment for me.”
The play also drew a tripping penalty to send Cornell on its fourth power play of the night. This time the Red was able to capitalize. With 13:06 left in the period freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka tipped in junior defenseman Travis Mitchell’s shot from the point to put Cornell ahead 2-0.
“Ondrej is a big screen down there, it’s hard for the goaltender to look around him and find [the puck],” Schafer said. “We were able to find that seam and get it down to the net. Ondrej was able to provide the screen and had a great tip.”
The Bulldogs ramped up the pressure following the goals, but could not get anything going. McDonald made three saves heading into the media timeout and another at the 7:40 mark to keep Yale off the board.
Both offenses were quiet for the rest of the period after a trio of blue-line shots by freshman defenseman Hank Kempf missed their mark with about seven minutes left.
With 44 seconds left in the second a pair of penalties on both teams sent the game to two minutes of four on four play. Yale’s William Dineen was assessed a five minute major for elbowing, but junior forward Ben Berard was called for embellishment to prevent Cornell from going up a man.
The wraparound four on four ended uneventfully, and Cornell got to work with a three minute man advantage early in the third period.
For the second time of the night, the Red capitalized on the power play. At the 16:30 mark, Mitchell fired a rocket from the point that snuck past Pearson and put the Red up 3-0.
The Bulldogs could not bring themselves back in the game down the stretch of the third period. Yale did not manage to get any shots on goal during a two minute four on four following offsetting holding calls at the 9 minute mark.
The Red’s defense smothered the Bulldogs during the final period. Yale’s first shot on goal did not come until past the seven minute mark.
“The big thing tonight for [the defense] was just owning the net front,” Kempf said. “That was ultimately what I think helped us tonight, just bearing down defensively, picking up guys, sorting out and just owning the net front.”
Frustration boiled over for Yale with six minutes left in the game when a scrum broke out in front of Cornell’s bench. Junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven and Yale’s Niklas Allain were assessed rouging penalties, sending the game to a third stretch of four on four play.
A little over a minute into the penalty, another fight broke out in the corner of Yale’s offensive zone. This time Mitchell was sent to the box for roughing and Yale’s Justin Pearson was given two minute for holding and sent to the locker room for game misconduct.
“Even though there were some skirmishes, we didn’t do anything in those skirmishes to ignite things or do anything stupid where we get an extra minor,” Schafer said.
The offsetting penalties resulted in a return to five on five play after Dirven and Allain’s penalties expired.
Yale could not get on the board during the final three minutes, and Cornell wrapped up its shutout victory.
The contest was the team’s final game at Lynah until Jan. 21. The Red will play in New York City next week for its biennial contest with Boston University at Madison Square Garden.