Courtesy of Cornell Athletics

Cornell only fired 14 shots in the game and had trouble getting to the net.

March 25, 2023

Men’s Hockey Drops Regional Final to End Season

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MANCHESTER, N.H. – Men’s hockey fell to Boston University, 2-1, on Saturday, ending its NCAA Tournament run in the quarterfinals. 

With the loss, Cornell ended its season one game short of the Frozen Four. The team has lost six regional finals since its last Frozen Four appearance in 2003.

“As a coach, I’ve only been in the Frozen Four once and it stings not to get there,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.

The Terriers scored the first goal, and Cornell never generated enough pressure to mount a comeback. The Red only fired 14 shots, many of which B.U. goaltender Drew Commesso tracked without issue.

In a tight game, the Red was not able to overcome a few sloppy plays against a B.U. team with fluid-skating forwards and rock-solid defenders.

Cornell got off to a hot start in its regional semifinal on Thursday against Denver, but was more tentative on Saturday. The Terriers controlled the pace of the first few minutes and challenged sophomore goaltender Ian Shane early. 

Notably, BU’s Quinn Hutson collected a Jack O’Leary turnover and got a partial breakaway before O’Leary hustled back to break it up. Shane also came up with a couple of saves on the ensuing offensive zone possession by the Terriers.  

The Red started to apply more pressure midway through the period. A long shift resulted in a few good looks at the net, but Commesso made a series of saves to keep the game scoreless.

The second half of the period featured the game’s first special teams action. Each team took and killed a penalty. First, freshman forward Winter Wallace was called for tripping with just over four minutes left. The Red extended its consecutive kill streak to 18 before Luke Tuch went off for roughing. Cornell came up empty on its first power play.

Unlike in its win against Denver two days ago, the Red was unable to get on the board quickly, and thus could not dictate play as it would with a lead. The teams went to their locker rooms after a scoreless first period.

“In hockey, it gets to that point in time, you know how important that first goal is,” Schafer said. “We scored against Denver first and we were able to do some things differently.”

The Terriers’ pressure and fast-paced play finally paid off not long into the second frame, when Wilmer Skoog received a nifty pass from the far corner and one-timed it past Shane. The pass was the result of a Cornell turnover and blown coverage on Skoog.

Cornell’s penalty killers were put to the test once again when senior forward Zach Tupker went off for a crosscheck in the offensive zone. Despite a few quality chances from the Terrier power play unit, Shane and the Red penalty kill successfully fended off its 19th straight kill.

Once again, the Terriers followed their power play with a penalty of their own, this time for having too-many-men on the ice. The Red generated more chances on its second power play of the game, but could not get the puck past Commesso. The majority of the Red’s shots were taken from the perimeter, allowing Commesso to see them all the way.

“We made a mistake, they capitalized on it,” Schafer said. “We had a good power play to try and make it 1-1.”

Commesso got a lucky break when a puck deflected off a stick in the lane and went past his helmet before hitting the crossbar and bouncing the other direction.

“You look back and wish you could’ve done things differently throughout the game, like bury that chance or not hit the post,” said senior defenseman Travis Mitchell.

Later in the period, puck luck was in the Red’s favor – a turnover at Cornell’s offensive blue line led to a breakaway by B.U.’s Quinn Hutson, who fired a shot that rang off the post.

The Red entered the second intermission down 1-0.

“You go in the third period, you got to try and stay the course,” Schafer said.

Cornell was much better at defending a lead than chasing a deficit this season. The Red went 19-0 when leading after two periods but entered Saturday 2-10-2 in games where it was tied or trailing heading into the third period. Before B.U.’s second period goal, the Red had not played from behind since Feb. 18.

“Cornell is a very good team when they have a lead, so I think it was important for us tonight to get that first goal and see if they will press a little bit,” said B.U. head coach Jay Pandolfo.

It took nearly half the period for either team to get a quality look in the third, as both forechecks prevented zone time on either end. However, it was the Terriers that eventually broke through when Ethan Philipps buried his own rebound to give B.U. a 2-0 lead. 

Cornell received a third power play opportunity not long after but was once again blanked and unable to generate much meaningful offense. The Red went scoreless on six power plays across its two NCAA Tournament games.

From there, Cornell’s offense was shut down by the Terrier defense. The Red had difficulty getting passes through Terrier sticks and failed to generate chances in front of the net. Cornell only put three shots on target in the third period. The Terriers blocked 21 shots during the game.

Shane was pulled with just over two and a half minutes remaining in the game, giving the Red one final opportunity to eat at B.U.’s lead. Cornell was able to establish some zone time, but the Terriers complicated things by creating turnovers and firing attempts toward the empty net.

Cornell made things interesting when freshman forward Dalton Bancroft flicked a puck toward the net and it bounced in off a B.U. skate to bring Cornell within one with 28 seconds remaining.

However, it was too little too late. Mitchell had a look at the net with just seconds remaining but shot it wide and Bancroft’s attempt on the rebound was blocked.

The loss marks the end of the road for Cornell’s 2022-2023 campaign and the last time its seniors will don the carnelian and white.

“These kids are what it’s all about,” Schafer said of his seniors. “I’m so proud of them. Covid canceled their season, they didn’t blink… First class integrity, character, never quit. Proud coach.”