Julia Nagel/Sun Photography Editor

Cornell struggled on the power play, going 0-5, including a 5-on-3 chance.

November 11, 2023

Harvard Hands No. 7 Cornell First Loss of the Season

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This story has been updated.

In a highly anticipated matchup, No. 7 men’s hockey (4-1-1, 2-1-1 ECAC) earned its first loss of the season against Harvard (1-1-3, 1-1-3 ECAC). The 3-2 loss was highlighted by special teams struggles and errant penalties that cost Cornell the opportunity to remain undefeated on the season.

“Special teams let us down [tonight],” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “[And] that’s been a real strength for us all year long.”

Highlighted by the traditions of this historic rivalry, fish were flying, chants were shouted and Lynah was packed. 

Despite being on the receiving end of flying fish, Harvard came out strong, scoring just a minute into the game.

Already 1-0 up, the Crimson mostly dominated possession, however, Cornell had the first power play opportunity minutes later after Harvard’s Kyle Aucoin went to the box for high-sticking. Despite not being able to convert on the power play, the man-advantage gave Cornell some life. 

The Red began dominating with some good chances. However, Derek Mullahy made critical saves to keep Cornell off the board. The Red got its second opportunity on the power play after Aucoin went to the box once again, this time for hooking. 

Cornell was once again unable to cash in, but just minutes after the penalty expired, Luke Devlin snuck one right past Mullahy to get the building shaking. It was the freshman forwards third goal of the season, and his first in front of the raucous Lynah Faithful. 

It was right back to work for Cornell as sophomore forward Winter Wallace was called for hooking, forcing the Red on the penalty kill less than a minute and a half later. 

Harvard’s Alex Gaffney scored on the power play to give the Crimson the 2-1 lead. 

Cornell earned its third power play of the night in the dying seconds of the first period when Harvard’s Christian Jimenez went to the box on an interference call. 

With time remaining on the Jimenez penalty, the Red opened up the second frame on the man-advantage. The 5-on-4 didn’t last long as freshman forward Ryan Walsh got called for two simultaneous penalties, one for hooking and the other for indirect contact to the head. Harvard had 2:38 on the man advantage remaining after the Jimenez penalty expired. 

Shane and the rest of the PK unit stood firm, blocking shot after shot, including a close one that just got in and barely crossed the goal line before being kicked out by Shane. 

After successfully killing off the penalty, it was all Red, playing physically and keeping the puck almost exclusively in the Harvard defensive zone. While both teams had good chances, neither were able to find the back of the net. 

With about seven minutes remaining, junior forward Kyler Kovich was called for slashing, putting Cornell’s PK unit to the test once again. 

The Red was able to kill it off, but momentum shifted in favor of the Crimson who began to dominate in the Cornell defensive zone. 

Harvard had an opportunity to add its lead on a breakaway, however, Shane made a big pad save to keep the Crimson from finding the back of the net. 

With time winding down in the second, both teams had great chances, but Mullahy and Shane stood firm, not allowing any to pass through.

The Red found the equalizer less than two minutes into the second, when freshman forward Jacob Kraft found an open net for his first collegiate goal. 

Cornell had an opportunity to take its first lead of the game when a shot by Castagna hit the post and bounced out. 

In another penalty-heavy night, junior defenseman Michael Suda was called for slashing, giving Harvard its fifth power play of the night. 

Gaffney once again cashed in on the power play, giving the Crimson the 3-2 lead. The Red attempted to challenge the goal on goaltender interference, however, it was unsuccessful, resulting in a loss of a Cornell timeout. 

Shortly after, the Red had an opportunity to strike after Ben MacDonald went to the box on a slashing call. Fifteen seconds into the 5-on-4, Jimenez was also called for slashing, resulting in a 5-on-3 advantage for the Red.

Cornell once again was unable to capitalize as time expired on the power play. 

“I thought the power play for the first time this year got selfish,” Schafer said. “[They] didn’t really move the puck around and open up seams and lanes … all they wanted to do is just solely shoot pucks.”

In one final push to tie it up, with 1:30 remaining, Cornell opted to pull Shane in favor of an extra attacker. 

The Red was unable to find the equalizer despite the man-advantage, and the clock ran out to hand Cornell its first loss.

“Guys wanted to win tonight, but overall, we didn’t play as a team,” Schafer said. “[It was] a big game [with] a lot of pressure and they wanted to win bad tonight … we couldn’t stay focused at the job at hand and that was to play together as a team.”