This story has been updated.
It was a homecoming of sorts for Ithaca-native goaltender Jack Parsons who returned to Lynah Rink as a member of the U.S. National Under-18 Team (USNTDP) to play his hometown Cornell men’s hockey, who took down the USNTDP in overtime, 5-4. Composed of potential draft picks and some of the most elite under-18 players in the U.S., the national team player’s skills combined with a big Cornell first period weren’t enough to get past the Red. Cornell came out to a flying start in the first period with four goals, however, the national team responded with four more of their own, tying the game and sending it to overtime.
“We’re gonna have some highs and lows…high is getting off to a good start, low is letting them climb back into [the game],” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “It’s gonna be a roller coaster as we begin to develop our identity…seeing [us] face that kind of pressure, that angst on the bench when we let it slip away, I think that’s a probably more valuable lesson for us, than it was to make it 5-1 [or] 6-1.”
It was the second straight game where the Red couldn’t find the back of the net in the third period, despite numerous opportunities.
“I think [in terms of] capitalizing on our scoring chances, I didn’t think we did a good job,” Schafer said. “In the second period, we had some great looks offensively…we had wide open nets and offense, but it goes like that once in a while.”
In a game marked by 11 minor penalties, the Red had quite a few scoring chances thanks to the number of power plays it was awarded, but also had to go on the penalty kill just as much.
“I was happy with our discipline, but there’s still things on the penalty kill that we really, really need to work on,” Schafer said.
While USNTDP received the first power play opportunity of the contest, it was Cornell who struck first. Freshman defenseman George Fegaras went off for hooking just under six minutes into the game, but high pressure by the Red penalty kill allowed junior forward Jack O’Leary to force a turnover in USNTDP’s defensive zone. The puck landed on the stick of senior forward Kyle Penney, who lifted a nifty backhand over the shoulder of Parsons.
From there, it was all Cornell. Its stingy defense prevented any offensive zone pressure for USNTDP, and didn’t allow the U.S. a shot until seven minutes to go in the period. USNTDP got itself on the first period box score with its penalties, including a roughing call just under a minute after the Red’s first short handed tally, allowing 4-on-4 play.
Another U.S. penalty by Charlie Pardue not much later presented Cornell with a five-on-three power play opportunity, which it didn’t put to waste. Sophomore forward Nick DeSantis gave a nice feed to freshman forward Jacob Kraft, who then buried it to double Cornell’s lead.
The Red didn’t stop there: with another minute on the power play, Cornell kept its foot on the gas pedal in the offensive zone. This time, it was freshman forward Ryan Walsh notching a goal to give the Red a commanding 3-0 lead.
Cornell extended its lead to four goals just three minutes later, after a pass from senior forward Gabriel Seger found DeSantis right in front of the net.
With almost two minutes left, USNTDP had a close opportunity to get on the scoreboard, but junior goaltender Ian Shane quickly deflected it to the corner. Although he wasn’t tested a whole lot in the opening frame, Shane made three sharp, calm saves. Cornell outshot the U.S. Team by a 15-3 margin.
The USNTDP came out stronger in the second, keeping the puck mainly in Cornell’s defensive zone. Just about five minutes into the period the USNTDP was awarded a power play after Cornell was called for having too many men on the ice. Forward Cole Eiserman capitalized on the power play, after the shot was under review, getting Team USA on the board.
Not long after Eiserman’s goal, sophomore forward Sean Donaldson’s breakaway chance was denied by Parsons to keep it a 4-1 game. It was the Red’s best chance since the opening minute of the frame, after a dominant stretch of USNTDP play where Cornell struggled to get pucks out of its end and connect on its passes.
Just about halfway into the second period, Cornell made a change in goal, swapping Shane out for sophomore Remington Keopple.
Shortly after, USNTDP’s Dakoda Rheaume-Mullen received a slashing penalty, giving the Red yet another opportunity on the power play. Despite the man-advantage, Cornell was unable to convert as the two-minutes ran out.
Minutes later, a scrum ensued in front of the net, with freshman forward Luke Devlin and Logan Hensler receiving simultaneous roughing penalties. The 4-on-4 play didn’t last long, however, when Team USA’s EJ Emery was nabbed for holding just over 30 seconds into the roughing penalties. Again, the Red still couldn’t find the back of the net.
With just about two minutes remaining in the second period, Cornell had another big scoring chance coming right in front of the net. A shot from the blueline was tipped past Parsons, but bounced just over the crossbar and the top of the net.
In the final minute, Team USA’s Teddy Stiga went to the box for hooking, giving Cornell the man-advantage as time dwindled. Despite some good chances, the Red couldn’t cash in before time expired.
With time remaining on Stiga’s penalty, Cornell opened the third period on the power play, but wasn’t able to establish any significant offensive zone time. With the U.S. team applying more pressure offensively the Red were forced to take its fourth penalty of the night, when Seger went off for tripping a U.S. skater going to goal. The USNTDP had some quality possession but didn’t get its best chance until power play time was nearly expired, when Keopple came out to smother a loose puck in his crease.
Keeping offensive pressure on the Red, the USNTDP was able to cut the deficit in half just under halfway through the third with a goal by Team USA’s Luke Goukler. The national team was able to get back in control after junior defenseman Hank Kempf went to the box on an interference call, giving Team USA its fifth power play. However, Keopple and the Cornell penalty killers were up to the task, keeping the USNTDP off the board for the two minutes.
The final frame of the third period saw the national team increasingly pressuring the Red, keeping the puck in the Cornell defensive zone and finally pushing through when Stiga found the back of the net, cutting the Red’s lead to 4-3.
With just under three minutes remaining in the game, Team USA opted to pull the goaltender in favor of an extra attacker. With the 6-on-5 advantage, the USNTDP was able to tie up the game with two minutes remaining, sending the game into overtime.
The Red continued to dominate the possession in overtime, with some silky movement and passing on the perimeter of its offensive zone. Ultimately, it was a freshman that saved the day. A beautiful passing sequence led to the puck on Fegaras’ stick, deking Parsons and shoveling it over his pads for the gritty game-winner.
“It’s obviously a great feeling, it’s good to [help] secure the win there,” Fegaras said
Although it won’t count towards Fegaras’ stat line, scoring in overtime and in front of the passionate Lynah Faithful, was an added bonus.
“It’s surreal, you walk out for warm-ups and going on for the first period, it’s a little bit of a rush for sure… it’s such a great feeling, being with all the guys, having the Lynah fans and how passionate they are cheering you on.”