This story has been updated.
NEW YORK — Freshman forward Dalton Bancroft’s hat trick led men’s hockey to a 6-0 victory over No. 6 UConn at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night.
One of Cornell (6-4, 4-2 ECAC)’s big advantages on an up-and-coming UConn (10-3-3, 7-2-2 Hockey East) team was its experience playing under the bright lights. Cornell plays at the Garden every year, and entered the night having won four of its last five contests at the World’s Most Famous Arena.
That experience, and what head coach Mike Schafer ’86 correctly anticipated would be a “sea of red” in the stands proved to be big advantages for Cornell on Saturday night.
The Red struck before the Huskies had a chance to get acclimated to their surroundings. UConn came into the night allowing an average of 2.13 goals per game. 74 seconds into Saturday night’s contest, Cornell had put two goals up on the Garden’s jumbotron.
“I really liked our guys’ mindset, being focused and there were no distractions. They came out ready to play,” Schafer said. “I thought they did a tremendous job handling the distractions and all the things that are outside our normal control, and came ready to play hockey.”
32 seconds after the puck dropped, Bancroft connected on a wrist shot from the slot off a pass from sophomore forward Sullivan Mack. The goal sent the Cornell crowd into a frenzy and knocked the Huskies on their heels.
42 seconds later, senior forward Matt Stienburg cut to the net along the goal line and snuck a backhand feed to sophomore forward Ondrej Psenicka, who fired it past UConn’s Logan Terness’s stick side and in to give the Red a 2-0 lead.
With three and a half minutes left in the first period, junior forward Gabe Seger intercepted a pass in the neutral zone and broke to the net on a two-on-one. Seger fed the puck to Stienburg who buried a backhander in the crease and gave Cornell a commanding 3-0 lead.
Cornell did not relent in the second period. Specifically, Bancroft did not relent. He added two more goals in the middle frame to complete a hat trick.
“Personally, the bounces were there tonight and I had some great plays from my teammates,” Bancroft said.
With just over nine minutes left in the period, Bancroft deflected sophomore defenseman Michael Suda’s shot in for his second goal of the night. A minute and a half later, he finished off Sam Malinski’s slap shot on a Cornell power play to complete the hat trick and give Cornell a 5-0 lead.
“As a freshman you want to do whatever you can to stay in the lineup,” Bancroft said. “It just seems like the bounces are there right now and it’s helping the confidence a lot.”
The outstanding performance solidified Bancroft as one of Cornell’s most dynamic offensive producers. Schafer praised Bancroft after his nifty move and great vision set up Mack’s game winner on Tuesday against Sacred Heart.
“When he gets his feet moving, he plays well,” Schafer said. “He’s got great hockey sense and awareness… that’s a special talent.”
On the other end of the ice, Cornell shut down a highly potent Huskies offense. Sophomore goaltender Ian Shane was stellar in net, notching a 29 save shutout. He was assisted by some nice blocks, including a diving one by senior defenseman Travis Mitchell in the second period, and timely clears.
“I think everyone, including myself, was just kind of dialed in on the details and making sure that we were mentally focused and ready for this game,” Shane said.
The Red preserved Shane’s shutout down the stretch of the game. With just over four minutes left in the game, senior forward Max Andreev notched Cornell’s sixth goal of the game. The marker made it the second consecutive trip to the Garden that Cornell has scored six goals, after the Red defeated B.U., 6-4, last year.
The dominant victory was an important step for the Red and goes a long way to resolving questions over whether Cornell can defeat the elite teams in college hockey. The win is Cornell’s fourth in a row and should be a confidence booster for when No. 9 Harvard comes to Lynah next weekend.
“We talked about earning respect back, and to do that you have to win. We got off to a slow start playing our first six games on the road against good competition,” Schafer said. “We’ve got Harvard coming in on Friday and Dartmouth on Saturday. We’ve just got to get back to work when we get back to campus.”