After attaining its first victory following a six-game winless streak last Saturday against Union, the No. 18 Cornell men’s hockey team played host to St. Lawrence, a team that has encountered tough sledding through 2022, only picking up two wins in its last 11 contests.
Going into Friday evening, the Red held a slim two-point edge over Colgate for fourth place in the ECAC standings. With the top four seeds earning a first-round bye in the conference playoffs, Cornell’s tilt against St. Lawrence provided an opportunity for the Red to cushion its current position in the conference.
Against the Saints, Cornell stumbled on offense as the team was outshot 30-20. St. Lawrence scored early and while senior forward Kyle Betts knotted the contest midway through the second period, the Red ultimately fell in overtime, 2-1.
“I think we were not as good as we needed to be to win tonight,” Betts said. “You’re not going to win many games with 20 shots on goal. They wanted it more than us tonight, and they deserved to win, so we got what we deserved.”
St. Lawrence kicked off the scoring less than two minutes into the contest. While Cornell had an early opportunity in the Saints’ crease, St. Lawrence quickly converted on its first possession in the Red’s zone.
The Saints got the puck into the Cornell crease, where freshman goaltender Ian Shane fended off three shot attempts. Immediately after, St. Lawrence maneuvered the puck out to forward Reilly Moran, who fired it past Shane to put the Saints on the board, 1-0.
“We have been preaching resiliency a lot for the last few weeks, especially with the low-scoring affairs we have had.” Shane said. “We have to be dialed in for 60 minutes.”
The Red experienced additional adversity as junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven was sent to the penalty box for cross-checking. On the penalty kill, the Red held firm, only conceding one shot on goal.
Cornell found itself down an icer less than 20 seconds later when junior forward Ben Berard was whistled for interference, setting up another man advantage for St. Lawrence. Despite the Saints’ three shot attempts, Cornell held strong, killing its second consecutive penalty.
By the end of the period, the Saints retained their 1-0 lead and had outshot the Red, 14-7. While Cornell ultimately did not notch many shots on goal, they had several close calls, including two uncontested attempts from Betts, one on a wraparound shot and one in transition. Both times the Saints were ready, but the Red’s offense began to show life in the waning minutes of the frame.
That offensive spark did not carry over to the initial portion of the second period. Through the first seven minutes of the middle period, Cornell recorded just a single shot on goal, struggling to generate any offensive rhythm. Meanwhile, Shane stayed busy in goal, recording four saves during that span.
The Red broke through just over eight minutes into the second period. Set up by freshman forward Justin Ertel, Betts was able to break away in transition, forcing a one-on-one with Saints’ goaltender Emile Zetterquist. Betts knifed his way up to the crease before going top shelf past Zetterquist’s glove side, tying the game at one apiece.
“Kyle’s been a dynamite player for us all year long, and he just has a determination to his game,” said associate head coach Ben Syer. “It was a huge goal by him, which was fantastic.”
Betts praised Ertel, who logged an assist on the score.
“I thought Ertel made a great play — I thought he had one of the best games of his young career tonight,” Betts said. “I saw the [defenseman] was kind of flat-footed, and [head coach Mike Schafer] has been getting on me to get across the body and get to the first side of the post. Luckily, it worked out.”
Fresh off its first score, Cornell looked to add to the tally as St. Lawrence’s Mason White took a two-minute stay in the penalty box for hooking. On the ensuing power-play opportunity, the Red could not convert, keeping the scored tied 1-1.
“You got to give St. Lawrence a lot of credit,” Syer said. “They did a really nice job of taking scoring chances away from us here tonight.”
While both teams had multiple clear shot attempts towards the end of the period, neither was able to convert. Despite losing the shots-on-goal battle, 23-14, the Red entered second intermission tied 1-1.
At the end of the period, associate head coach Ben Syer challenged a play in which Betts took a hard hit from St. Lawrence’s Tucker McIntosh, but no penalty was called. Upon review, a major penalty was assessed against McIntosh, granting the Red a prime opportunity to break the tie.
On the first minute of the power play, the Red looked disjointed on offense and nearly suffered a disastrous outcome when Shane tried to transfer the puck at the net to a Cornell skater, but a St. Lawrence’s Justin Paul snatched the puck and nearly scored on Shane, though he could not find the back of the net.
Cornell failed to log a single shot on goal before freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka was whistled for holding three and a half minutes into the period, effectively ending the Red’s power play while also giving St. Lawrence a man advantage for 32 seconds.
“That’s obviously a frustrating momentum swing for sure,” Syer said. “Our guys know that’s an oppoprtuniy that we had some good looks there, and it was frustrating that we didn’t get to capitalize.”
The Red succeeded in holding off the Saints for the final half minute of its power play, leading to two golden opportunities for Cornell. Andreev found himself in a one-on-one with Zetterquist in transition, but he sailed his shot high. Seconds later, Steinberg had an open look just outside the crease, but he also failed to record a shot on goal.
This was quickly compounded by a St. Lawrence power play chance, when junior defenseman Sam Malinski was called for interference. The Red was able to hold once again on defense, and found itself in a position to do damage when it went on a power play of its own following a boarding call against the Saints’ Josh Boyer at 9:16.
Cornell let its advantage go to waste. Aside from a rocket by Berard, the Red once again struggled to create quality looks on net. By this point, both teams were 0-for-4 on the power play.
Both teams traded shots on goal in the final minutes of regulation, but each squad came up empty, despite a last-second barrage by Cornell. With the Red headed to overtime, it appeared that the team was headed for its fourth straight tie at Lynah Rink.
In its last three outings at Lynah, Cornell skated to a tie in overtime before coming up short in the shootout, losing three league points in the process. This time around, the Red unfortunately conceded a goal in the overtime period.
On a rebound opportunity, David Jankowski launched a shot from the right circle and while Shane slowed the puck, it slowly rolled into the net, sealing Cornell’s fate in a 2-1 overtime loss.
“They love trying to funnel pucks right in the slot and get those Grade-A shots,” Shane said. “I made a save on the first one, but unfortunately they were able to get a second opportunity and put it in a pretty tough spot for me. I kind of wanted to squeeze, but unfortunately it trickled through.”
With Colgate losing to Clarkson, 4-1, the Red now has a three-point edge over the Raiders for fourth place in the ECAC standings. With only three games left in the season, each subsequent contest takes on more importance with the razor-thin margin separating the two squads.
“Every game has that playoff atmosphere and playoff intensity,” Shane said. “With the way things have been going the last few weeks, there’s an added emphasis and that bye would be crucial for us going into the playoffs.”
The Red will return to Lynah tomorrow night in hopes of redemption and suring up its league position as it faces off against No. 15 Clarkson. Puck drop is set for 7 p.m.