This post has been updated.
After suffering a disappointing 5-4 defeat at the hands of Princeton on Friday night, No. 8 Cornell men’s hockey drew its toughest opponent to date as it hosted No. 1 Quinnipiac at Lynah Rink.
Quinnipiac entered the contest with a 17-game unbeaten streak, including nine straight wins, and the team also dismantled Princeton earlier in the week, 9-0. The team’s defense had been outstanding, only allowing one goal per game, the best mark in the nation.
Despite the tough matchup, Cornell pulled off an impressive upset, using two power-play goals from junior forward Ben Berard — including the game-winner in overtime — to defeat the top-ranked Bobcats, 2-1.
“That felt good,” Berard said on beating the No. 1 team in Quinnipiac, “especially after last night, that was a tough blow. Quinnipiac is a top team in our league every year, so that felt good to get one against them.”
Both teams went into overtime after ending regulation in a 1-1 standstill. During the second period, Berard broke the scoreless draw with a snipe just seconds into a power-play opportunity.
After putting up relentless pressure and out-shooting the Red by a significant margin, Quinnipiac scored early in the third period off the stick of TJ Friedmann.
Entering overtime, it appeared that Quinnipiac would continue its onslaught of shots, but freshman goaltender Ian Shane came up with two saves to hold the Bobcats at bay. With one minute remaining in overtime, junior defenseman Travis Mitchell fired a shot on the break, and senior forward Kyle Betts nearly punched in the rebound.
While the Red could not convert the attempt, Quinnipiac forward Wyatt Bongiovanni was whistled for slashing. Cornell went on a 4-on-3 man advantage in the final minute — its last opportunity to secure a win in the record book and avoid an official tie in a shootout.
“You don’t have many 4-on-3s, but that’s Benny’s gift,” said Associate Head Coach Ben Syer. “He’s got a great shot, and you got to give him a lot of credit.”
The Red turned to its leading goal-scorer in clutch situations. Berard seized the opportunity once more, beating Quinnipiac’s standout freshman goaltender, Yaniv Perets, from the right circle to secure the 2-1 overtime victory along with two points in the league standings.
“I told [junior forward] Ben Tupker to start yelling at me when there were about 15 seconds left so we knew to get a shot off. It was kind of funny I heard him yell and scream ‘attack’ from the bench,” Berard said with a laugh. “There wasn’t much of a lane, but I was kind of at the point where the clock was running out, so I had to take a shot. Luckily, it found its way to the back of the net.”
Perets was the anchor of the Bobcats’ stout defensive unit, posting a .952 save percentage and eight shutouts heading into Saturday. Quinnipiac’s surrounding defense also entered the game conceding just 17 shots per game.
Meanwhile, the Red’s offense was shorthanded with the team’s two leading point-scorers, junior forward Matt Stienburg and senior forward Max Andreev, out due to injury. Despite the tough circumstances, Cornell kept pace with Quinnipiac through the first period.
Early in the contest, the game amounted to a defensive battle. Through the first six minutes, the Bobcats mustered only one shot on goal compared to the Red’s total of zero.
Past the midpoint of the first period, Cornell’s offense began to click. In a three-minute span, the Red launched five shots on goal, though Perets denied each opportunity.
Quinnipiac then went on the attack in the final five minutes of the period, upping its shot tally to six. Despite Shane standing tall in net, the Red did not emerge from the period completely unscathed.
With only three seconds remaining in the period, senior defenseman and captain Cody Haiskanen was whistled for high-sticking, giving the Bobcats a man advantage to start the middle frame.
To kick off the second period, Cornell continued its defensive stand, killing the penalty. The Red’s penalty-kill unit did not have much time to breathe, however, as junior defenseman Sam Malinski took a trip to the penalty box for cross-checking.
While Quinnipiac had a prime opportunity in the waning seconds of the power play with the puck and multiple attackers in the crease, the Red came up with another kill, keeping the Bobcats scoreless.
Cornell’s impressive defensive effort was rewarded with a power-play chance — the team’s first of the evening — with Quinnipiac forward Ethan Leyh going to the box for holding. Just five seconds into power-play opportunity, Berard took advantage of a zone look and buried a deep shot past Perets to give the Red a valuable 1-0 edge.
That power-play conversion came against a Quinnipiac team that led the nation with its penalty kill, wiping away 93 percent of opportunities, but Berard’s timely snipe put the Red on the board.
That lead was soon in jeopardy after the Bobcats went on their third power play seven minutes into the period. The man advantage sprouted from a scuffle behind the net. Ultimately, freshman forward Justin Ertel and junior defenseman Sebastien Dirven were flagged for tripping and boarding, respectively. Bongiovanni was called for a hit after the whistle, setting up 4-on-3 hockey.
Once again, Shane and the Cornell penalty kill came through, holding the Bobcats scoreless amidst a flurry of shots and pressure. By the end of the barrage, Quinnipiac had doubled the Red’s shots on goal, 18-9.
“It’s pretty tiring. It’s a lot of movement,” Shane said. “My guys are letting me see pucks and giving me shot lanes like they’ve done pretty much every game. If I’m able to see pucks, we’ll have success in our zone. And if I can shut things down because I can see them, that’ll give [my teammates] fresh legs and give us a better opportunity to get out of our zone.”
The second period concluded with no change on the scoreboard as the Red preserved its 1-0 lead. Shane withstood another seven shots on goal by the Bobcats, and the shot disparity grew to 25-11. Despite Quinnipiac applying relentless pressure throughout the frame, Cornell matched that intensity on the defensive end to avoid several close calls.
“Quinnipiac is a team that pumps a lot of pucks to the net, and we know that,” Syer said. “Our guys did a great job of picking up six underneath and also blocking a lot of shots.”
Unfortunately for the Red, the Bobcats’ persistent pressure resulted in their first breakthrough. After a delayed penalty was called on senior forward Liam Motley, Quinnipiac icer TJ Friedmann beat Shane, knotting the contest at one goal apiece.
“He was all alone out in front of me,” Shane said. “I thought I played the angle decently well, and he got a really good tip on it and was able to send it the complete opposite way that I was pushing. Credit to him, it was a really good tip.”
The Red rebounded and slowed the Bobcats for two minutes — the team’s fourth penalty kill of the night. From there, both teams were in search of the go-ahead goal to break the tie.
Quinnipiac committed a costly error by trotting one too many players out on the ice with only four minutes left of regulation. Unlike its first power play, the Red could not find the back of the net on its second go, keeping the game tied 1-1.
Neither team mustered a shot in the final two minutes, sending the game into overtime. The Red boasted a 3-0-1 record in overtime, having picked up three victories against Alaska and Brown and a shootout loss to Clarkson. Taking advantage of the 4-on-3 power play, Berard gave his team a fourth overtime victory and narrowed the gap between Cornell and Quinnipiac in the ECAC standings.
The Red will look to build off this impressive upset as it hosts Dartmouth and Harvard next weekend at Lynah Rink.