Men’s hockey opened its season at Minnesota Duluth on Friday night, in a series that head coach Mike Schafer ’86 expected his team would have to “fight tooth and nail” for.
Schafer’s prediction proved to be correct, as the two teams battled back-and-forth in a close contest. Cornell responded after UMD took the lead twice, but a late goal by the Bulldogs with 1:41 left in the game proved to be decisive in a 3-2 Duluth win.
Cornell (0-1) found itself facing an early deficit after UMD (3-4)’s Wyatt Kaiser’s shot from the blue line traveled through traffic and past unsuspecting sophomore goaltender Ian Shane.
Shane finished with 29 saves on 32 shots.
Aside from Kaiser’s early goal, neither team generated consistent offense in the first period. Cornell took two penalties in the first, but killed the first with a series of quick clears and killed the second by hunkering down in the defensive zone.
Cornell went on a power play with just under four minutes left in the first period, and another one in the final minute that wrapped around to the second period, but the Red was unable to convert on either.
The Bulldogs had a dangerous power play early in the second period after a hitting from behind penalty on sophomore forward Ondrej Psenicka. The Bulldogs spent most of the two minutes in its offensive zone, but Shane made a series of saves, preventing the Bulldogs from extending their lead.
Cornell’s first goal of the year came midway through the second period, when sophomore forward Jack O’Leary brought the puck out from behind UMD’s net and fired a quick shot past the stick of goaltender Zach Stejskal.
Cornell built off the momentum of O’Leary’s equalizer, but could not capitalize and take the lead. The Red closed the period with sustained offensive pressure, but Stejskal made a series of saves to keep the score knotted at 1-1. Cornell outshot Duluth 20-11 in the second period.
Despite the Red’s strong stretch of play, it was the Bulldogs who were able to take a lead into the third period. With just over a minute left in the middle frame, freshman Ben Steeves scored to give the Bulldogs a 2-1 lead.
Cornell was quick to tie things up again in the third period. Freshman forward Dalton Bancroft collected a sloppy Duluth pass in the neutral zone, which set up a two on one. Bancroft skated down the right side before feeding it across to freshman forward Winter Wallace, who connected on a one-timer to even the score at 2-2.
Wallace lost his balance and slid into the boards after the goal, and had to be helped off the ice after sustaining what seemed to be a lower body injury. It was the first goal of his collegiate career.
The teams went back and forth down the stretch of the third period, with neither team able to break the deadlock. With 1:41 left in the game, just as it seemed an extra frame might be necessary to determine a winner, UMD’s Derek Dasche fired a shot from the slot that beat Shane to his five-hole.
The late goal was the game-winner. Cornell pulled Shane, and Duluth took a penalty with 25 seconds left to give Cornell a chance to equalize 6-on-4. The Red could not find the back of the net, and fell short in the season opener.
It is Cornell’s first 0-1 start since 2018, when it was swept on the road by Michigan State to open the season.
Cornell will hope to split the series with Duluth tomorrow night.