This story has been updated.
Men’s hockey took the first game of its quarterfinal series against Clarkson, riding stingy defense and penalty killing to a 2-1 win.
Coming off a bye, Cornell looked like the better-rested team in the first period. The Red got off to a sharp start, outshooting Clarkson 11-2 and winning 15 of 20 faceoffs in the first period.
The Red’s strong start led to the game’s opening goal. Five-and-a-half minutes into the game, Clarkson’s Luke Mobley cross-checked sophomore defenseman Michael Suda in the helmet, drawing a five-minute major penalty.
Cornell’s power play, after only converting on one of 11 tries against the Golden Knights in the regular season, looked crisp in its first action of the night. A series of clean passes led to a Gabe Seger one-timer in the slot to give Cornell an early 1-0 lead.
“I wish we would’ve moved the puck like that again on the power play,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
Despite the quick goal 30 seconds into the major penalty, the Red could not add on. Cornell also came away empty-handed from a power play opportunity late in the first period.
After being outpaced in the opening frame, Clarkson was able to challenge the Red out of the locker room. The Golden Knights outshot Cornell, 6-4, in a back-and-forth second period.
After a very disciplined first period, Cornell took a pair of penalties later in the second, both by senior forward Matt Stienburg in his first game since Dec. 29. Clarkson was able to apply pressure on its power plays, but sophomore goaltender Ian Shane and the Cornell penalty killers kept the Golden Knights off the board.
The Red’s best chance of the frame came shorthanded when senior forward Kyle Penney gathered a mishandled puck from Clarkson goaltender Ethan Haider behind the net and attempted a wraparound that hit the side of the net.
“I thought he was one of our better players tonight,” Schafer said. “I thought he was strong on the penalty kill, was strong on his battles. Did a good job.”
After the scoreless middle frame, Cornell quickly extended its lead in the third period. Suda scored his first career goal, gathering his own rebound and burying a wraparound just over a minute into the period. Clarkson argued that the puck went into the Cornell bench earlier in the play, but the goal stood.
“It felt awesome. To be honest I kind of blacked out after it went in the net,” Suda said. “My heart was racing a bit when they were reviewing it.”
The Golden Knights pulled back within one with just under 15 minutes left in the third. Clarkson’s Matthieu Gosselin scored on a delayed penalty, but the Red prevented Clarkson from equalizing on the ensuing power play.
“I was disappointed in the goal that they scored,” Schafer said. “To take a penalty and get scored on was kind of a momentum changer.”
Cornell went back on the kill a few minutes later when freshman forward Nick DeSantis was nabbed for tripping, but the Red killed its fourth penalty of the game.
“[The kills] were huge,” Schafer said. “Some good blocked shots, Ian made some good saves, we made some good clears. We made a few mistakes, but when we did Ian was there.”
Shane kept Cornell in front with two huge saves with just over six minutes left. He snapped a Clarkson scoring chance out of the air with a highlight-reel glove save, and then trapped a quick wrist shot a few plays later. Shane finished the game with 20 saves.
“That’s just coming up clutch when your teammates need you,” Suda said.
The Golden Knights pulled their goalie with just under two minutes left in the third. Cornell made a few tries at the empty net, including a near miss by senior forward Ben Berard.
Clarkson gained its zone with ten seconds left looking for a last second equalizer. Senior forward Travis Mitchell blocked a slapshot with under three seconds left to seal the game for Cornell. It was the second time in about a month that Mitchell took a big block in the final seconds of a game. He got in the way of an RPI shot to preserve Cornell’s two goal lead in a win on Feb. 3.
“I joked with him after, saying that’s kind of his job now, making those big blocks at the end of the game,” Suda said. “It’s a game saver, because you never know what could happen if that shot gets through.”
Clarkson collected the loose puck after Mitchell’s block and fired it behind Shane and into the net right after time expired. The Golden Knights celebrated as if they beat the clock, but a review determined that the puck crossed the line a second too late. Schafer said that his players heard the horn and stopped playing, and that Clarkson did not shoot until after time expired.
Cornell will look to close out the series on Saturday night.