Fresh off a Red Hot Hockey victory last weekend over Boston University, No. 9 Cornell men’s hockey looked to extend its six-game winning streak to six in a tilt with St. Lawrence in Canton, New York.
Meanwhile, the Saints entered on a three-game skid after suffering three blowout losses to top-10 teams — an 8-0 drubbing by Quinnipiac as well as 8-2 and 5-1 defeats at the hands of Western Michigan.
Despite their opposite trajectories, both teams were locked in a tight battle through the first two periods, skating to a 1-1 tie following the first two periods. The Red broke free in the final frame, though. Junior forward Matt Stienburg scored a hat trick in the third period to power Cornell past St. Lawrence, 4-1.
Senior goaltender Nate McDonald made his fifth start of the season for the Red, and through the first period, the North Day, Ontario, native made five saves, holding the Saints scoreless.
On its first power play of the evening, Cornell went 5-on-4 against the Saints after Justin Paul was called for a slashing penalty. The Red managed one shot on goal on the man advantage, but it was saved by St. Lawrence goaltender Emil Zetterquist.
Soon after, the Saints went on a power play of their own following a hooking penalty on senior captain and forward Kyle Betts. St. Lawrence failed to generate any quality scoring chances, registering just one shot against McDonald.
Through the first 11 minutes, junior forward Ben Berard’s shot on the power play was the Red’s only shot on goal. St. Lawrence also struggled to generate much offense, mustering just three shots on goal during the same time frame.
The first period came to a close as the physical hockey played by both sides resulted in no output on offense. By the end of the frame, Cornell had four shots on goal, while St. Lawrence had five.
“There wasn;t much space on the ice for the first 20 minutes or so,” said Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It was just a grind.”
St. Lawrence quickly ended the scoring drought to kick off the middle period. Ten seconds into the period, sophomore forward Kyle Penney was sent to the penalty box for hooking, and the Saints capitalized in quick order. That score marked St. Lawrence’s first power-play in a conference game this year as the Saints were previously 0-for-20 on the man advantage in ECAC play.
Aleksi Peltonen redirected the puck to Paul, who hammered it home past McDonald to put St Lawrence up 1-0. In response to this strike, the Red finally found an offensive rhythm, firing off five shots — more than its first-period total — in a three-minute span, though none of them found the back of the net.
The Red and the Saints continued to trade shots, but Zetterquist and McDonald locked down their respective nets. Berard broke through for the Red, though, at the 12:01 mark of the second period, tipping in a deflected puck off Luc Salem to knot the contest at one apiece.
On that goal, Stienburg recorded an assist, marking his ninth straight game with at least one point, the longest streak for a Cornell player since Topher Scott achieved the same feat in 2006.
Cornell and St. Lawrence remained evenly matched, but the Saints gained an upper hand with their third power-play opportunity of the night after senior forward Max Andreev was called for cross-checking. McDonald was only called upon to make one save, and the two squads went into the final intermission tied at 1-1.
“He had a great week of practice,” Schafer said of McDonald. “He was dialed in all week and focused, and I thought he elevated himself this week with the goaltending. It’s good to see that he redefined his game here a little bit, and he has a much more consistent approach.”
Early in the third, the Red found its first lead. Andreev opened up the scoring chance with a relentless charge and forechecking into St. Lawrence ice. Junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven then fired a shot from the left circle, which Stienburg tipped in past Zetterquist for the score, making it 2-1 in favor of Cornell.
Less than three minutes later, Stienburg did it again. With a penalty being called, the Red took quick advantage on the delayed penalty, Stienburg beat Zetterquist again to double Cornell’s lead to 3-1.
“He came right out of prep school, and we had a hell of a team [in the 2019-20 season] where he wasn’t getting a whole lot of ice time in key spots,” Schafer said of Stienburg. “Now that he’s on the power play and is a consistent penalty killer over the boards a lot, he deserves the ice time. He’s matured and come a long way.”
Cornell failed to convert on that penalty and when St. Lawrence went on the man advantage right after, the Red’s penalty kill came through once again to deny the Saints.
Stienburg wasn’t done, though, as he became the third different Cornell player — after Berard and Andreev — to record a hat trick. Stienburg out-dueled Tucker McIntosh on the dash toward the puck and the empty net, but Stienburg got his stick around McIntosh and found the empty net, earning a hat trick and burying the Saints, 4-1.
The Red will look to extend its winning streak to eight games in Potsdam, New York, when it takes on Clarkson on Saturday.