Men’s hockey returned to Lynah with a sound 3-1 victory over RPI on Friday night.
Cornell (14-7-1, 11-3 ECAC) only fired 22 shots despite controlling possession throughout the night, but used a solid defensive effort and three goals from defensemen to get past the Engineers (10-16, 5-10 ECAC).
“We played a solid game,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We only gave up 11 shots. Anytime you can do that you’re gonna win a lot of hockey games.”
The Red dominated possession in the offensive zone through the first few minutes, and was able to strike first. Five minutes into the first period, senior defenseman Travis Mitchell gathered up a big rebound off senior forward Jack Malone’s shot and buried it under the pads of RPI’s Brett Miller.
“It just kind of popped out to me,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes you bury your chances and that was one of them.”
RPI was quick to respond. After a Sam Malinski hooking penalty just seconds after the Cornell goal, RPI junior forward Jack Brackett knotted the score at 1-1 with an off-speed shot that trickled past sophomore goaltender Ian Shane.
Midway through the period, Malinski broke the tie with his third goal in as many games and his sixth of the season.
“Defensemen scored all three goals tonight,” Schafer said. “Those guys are always on their toes, they want to jump in on offense.”
While the Red had mostly dictated play through the first half of the period, Shane came up with a flurry of saves that kept Cornell up by one. That score would hold as the first period came to a close.
Shane finished the game with 10 saves on 11 shots.
The first half of the second period was uneventful, apart from a few scrums and big hits as tensions between the two teams rose.
The crowd came back to life midway through the period when senior forward Ben Berard took the puck up ice on an odd-man rush. Instead of firing from the right faceoff circle, Berard found Mitchell wide open streaking up the middle. Mitchell converted for his second of the night.
“We do a drill that’s kind of similar to that,” Mitchell said. “With him having such a good shot you always kind of anticipate that he’s gonna shoot, but he found me there and I had a lot of open ice and a lot of open net, so it ended up working out pretty well.”
The Red had a couple of power plays to conclude the period, but failed to extend its 3-1 lead before the third period.
Despite having back-to-back power play opportunities in the opening minutes of the third, the Red could not convert. Cornell did not score on its four power play chances in the game, despite entering tonight’s contest ranked third in the nation in PP% at 28.8 percent.
Both teams had some chances throughout the third, but neither was able to cash in. RPI had its best chance with just over three minutes remaining in the period when sophomore forward Jack O’Leary took an interference penalty. The Engineers pulled Miller for a two-man advantage. After a few looks at the empty net that went just wide and a big block by Mitchell that left the senior grimacing and holding his wrist, the final horn blew.
“You’re doing it for all the guys on the team,” Mitchell said. “Any one of them would get down and block that shot, so I’m gonna do it as well. I think it shows how much we want to win.”
Mitchell said his wrist was ok, but he will likely need to confirm that with the training staff before taking the ice on Saturday night against Union.
“That’s why he’s a captain,” Schafer said.
Out of town, Quinnipiac defeated Harvard, which allowed Cornell to move into a tie with the Crimson for second place in the ECAC.
Cornell will look to complete a six-point weekend at 7 p.m. on Saturday against Union.