This story has been updated.
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After securing a 3-1 win in the first game of a best-of-three quarterfinal series against Colgate on Friday, Cornell entered Saturday night with a chance to sweep the series and move on to the semifinals. Instead, Cornell fell, 4-2, and will have to play a do-or-die game three on Sunday afternoon.
Cornell fell behind in the first, and a slew of penalties against the Red prevented it from mounting a comeback effort.
Cornell gave the Raiders seven chances on the power play, including two five minute majors that the officials assessed after reviews. Head Coach Mike Schafer ’86 expressed outrage with the officiating.
“It was flat out awful. Our league should be embarrassed. Those two guys officiating tonight, should be freaking embarrassed about how they handled that game,” Schafer said. “They just flat out, as a pair of officials tonight, they struggled the whole night long.”
Schafer, who returned to the bench on Friday night and said he feels calmest when he’s behind the bench, was clearly aggravated by the officiating all night. He indicated that he did not plan on coaching Sunday’s game – partly because of the toll Saturday night took on his health and partly because he anticipated he might be suspended for his comments on the officiating.
On top of giving Colgate valuable power play chances – the Raiders went two for seven on the power play – the calls against Cornell prevented the Red from getting into a rhythm at even strength.
“When we play five-on-five against them, we dominate,” said senior forward Brenden Locke. “Taking a couple penalties here and there can really effect the momentum of the game.”
Colgate’s only goal on Friday night came on a power play. It’s man advantage unit struck again in the first period on Saturday. Freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka was sent to the box for cross-checking six minutes into the game. A minute and a half later, Alex Young found some room between freshman goaltender Ian Shane’s glove-side shoulder and the crossbar and sniped a shot in to give Colgate a 1-0 lead.
Despite falling behind, Cornell did not lose control. The Red put together a few solid shifts in the first, including on a pair of power plays, but could not beat Colgate’s Mitch Benson.
Things started to slip away from Cornell in the second period. Five minutes into the period, a bad bounce allowed Colgate to extend its lead. Ross Mitton broke into the zone and fired a shot at Shane, who deflected the puck with his pad. The puck hit a Cornell skate and slid just inside of the goal post to put the Raiders up 2-0.
“Not everything’s gonna be perfect, not everything’s gonna go the way you want it,” said junior forward Sebastian Dirven. “Having a play like that is just something where you need to snip it and then just come out with a fresh mindset.”
A Cornell power play 20 seconds after the goal gave the Red a chance to eat into the deficit. Cornell was unable to score on the power play, but still benefited from the man advantage. After the power play expired, but before Colgate’s Alex Young could rejoin the play, junior forward Ben Berard deked a defender and flipped a puck to the top shelf of the net to cut Colgate’s lead to 2-1 with 13 minutes left.
Cornell’s comeback effort failed to gain traction. A minute and a half after Berard’s goal, Colgate regained its two goal advantage. The Raiders launched a shot that hit off the back glass and Jeff Stewart collected the rebound and fired it past Shane to put Colgate up 3-1.
After the goal, Schafer opted to pull Shane in favor of freshman goaltender Joe Howe. Shane finished with 10 saves on 13 shots.
“We’ve got to make those bad angle saves,” Schafer said. “That’s uncharacteristic of [Shane.]”
Schafer said he had not decided on a goalie for Sunday’s game.
Cornell’s efforts to work its way back were hampered by a series of penalties. A cross-checking call on freshman forward Justin Ertel with just under 10 minutes left briefly sent Cornell to the kill before it was negated when sophomore forward Kyle Penney drew a slashing call on Colgate.
After 20 seconds of four-on-four play, Colgate asked for a challenge of a hit by Liam Motley in the corner. After a review, the officials assessed Motley a five-minute major penalty.
“That shows you how poor the officiating was,” Schafer said. “When they constantly have to go to the video and they’re not confident in their call, that shows you how bad the officiating is.”
Colgate immediately capitalized on the call, scoring 13 seconds into its four-on-three advantage off a one-timer from the face-off circle to go ahead 4-1.
The Red limited the damage during the rest of the major penalty, in part thanks to a big blocked shot by Dirven, who got in the way of an open look at the net.
Even after the major penalty, Cornell could not stay out of the box for the rest of the period. After a scrum in front of Colgate’s net that started when senior forward Kyle Betts pushed Benson into the net, Cornell went down a man for the fifth time of the night.
The Red killed the wrap around penalty and got to work with a three goal deficit in the third period.
Yet again, penalties prevented the Red from addressing its deficit. Three minutes into the period, the two sides were assessed offsetting penalties which sent the game into two minutes of four-on-four action.
Nothing came of the extra space, and with 13 minutes left, Cornell took its second five-minute major penalty of the night when junior defenseman Peter Muzyka was called for contact to the head.
Cornell managed to kill the major penalty and was immediately rewarded with a power play. With just under eight minutes remaining and a three goal deficit, Cornell desperately needed to make something happen on the power play.
The Red pulled Howe to gain a six-on-four advantage, but was unable to get any of its shots past Benson. Cornell kept Howe out after the power play expired.
Another penalty against the Red, this time against Betts for elbowing with four and a half minutes left, forced Cornell back on the kill and Howe back into the net.
Cornell killed the penalty and pulled Howe again. The extra-attacker allowed Cornell to score with 1:45 left when Matt Stienburg knocked a puck into the net to bring the score to 4-2.
Cornell ran out of time to further cut into the deficit, and fell by a final of 4-2.
The loss forced a decisive game three, which is scheduled for 4 p.m. on Sunday.
Cornell’s lackluster performance on Saturday was a stark contrast to its game one victory.
“When these guys think that they should win and they think its going to be easier, they don’t commit themselves to playing as hard as they possibly can,” Schafer said. “You can just sense it, they didn’t have the same edge that they had last night.”
Cornell has a short turnaround to regain that edge before game three. Sunday’s game is set for 4 p.m., which is already abnormally early before accounting for daylight savings.
“The whole thing is preparation. The way you come to the rink, the way you handle yourself before the game,” Dirven said. “If you don’t play with a chip on your shoulder, you never know what’s going to be your last shift or your last game. You got to go and just give it your all.”
A key for Cornell will be staying disciplined and staying out of the penalty box. Colgate has scored six power play goals on the Red in four games this season.
“That’s one of our keys tomorrow, it’s crucial,” Locke said. “We’ve got to be disciplined.”
While necessary, discipline is harder to achieve in a playoff atmosphere.
“With the crowd going wild and all the energy, it’s tough to not get caught up in it,” Locke said. “You’ve just gotta stay calm and stay poised.”
Saturday night’s performance will prompt lineup changes, according to Schafer.
“Some of the calls that we took, we’ve got to take responsibility for putting ourselves in that position,” Schafer said. “The offensive zone penalties that we took, the guys that took them won’t play tomorrow night. It’s too critical for guys to take penalties in the offensive zone and continue to play,”
With its season on the line, Cornell is hoping to play how it did on Friday night in game three.
“We know it’s do or die tomorrow, we know what’s at stake,” Locke said. “Ultimately, it comes down to how bad we want it.”