Ming DeMers/Sun Assistant Photo Editor

Jonathan Castangna '27 at the men's hockey game vs Harvard at Lynah Rink on November 11th, 2023.

November 18, 2023

Men’s Hockey Suffers Last-Second, Heartbreaking Loss at Princeton

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No. 10 men’s hockey (4-3-1, 2-3-1 ECAC), facing a hot goaltender and combining that with continued power play struggles, was unable to tap into its offense in a 2-1 overtime loss against Princeton (3-2-1, 3-2-1 ECAC). The Tigers scored the winning goal with six seconds remaining in overtime.

Perhaps one of the biggest headlines was one that came before puck drop, when it was announced that sophomore goaltender Remington Keopple would get the start in net for Cornell. It would be the first non-Ian Shane start in nearly a year, dating back to Nov. 19, 2022 when Keopple made the start against Brown.

However, it was the goaltender on the other end of the ice who stole the show. Freshman Arthur Smith made his second collegiate start Saturday, stopping 36 of Cornell’s 37 shots.

Head coach Mike Schafer ’86 was not on the bench as well, so associate head coach Ben Syer took over head coaching duties against the Tigers. Another notable absence was sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft, the team’s second leading scorer, fresh off a three-point performance against Quinnipiac the night prior. The ESPN+ broadcast attributed Bancroft’s absence to him being “banged up” after the 8-4 loss against the Bobcats. 

Two new faces would enter the lineup as well: freshman forward Tyler Catalano replaced Marian Mosko as the extra skater, and junior forward Sullivan Mack took Bancrofts spot in the lineup.

It was Keopple who was tested first and made the first save of the contest, when a Princeton forward fired a shot through traffic. Cornell quickly retaliated with an odd-man rush of its own, when junior forward Ondrej Psenicka found himself all alone in front of the net but was robbed by Smith.

Play was relatively back-and-forth for the first half of the period, with both teams getting chances. Cornell had itself a close call when a turnover led to a Princeton odd-man rush, but a Red defenseman tripped and fell into Keopple, knocking the net off before Princeton could make a move.

Cornell got the first power play opportunity of the contest just over halfway gone in the frame. Despite some nice passing sequences by the Red, its power play struggles continued, and they were not able to convert.

While both teams continued to fire off shots, neither was able to get on the board. Princeton was awarded its first power play with around three minutes remaining in the first period, when senior forward Gabriel Seger was nabbed for holding. Cornell’s penalty killers were up to the task, however, blocking shots left and right and making Keopple’s job easy, only seeing one shot on the kill and making the save.

Cornell dominated zone time to begin the second period, but wasn’t able to find the back of the net. It would barely surpass the five minute mark of the period when we saw the first man advantage of the frame, as the Tigers were sent back to the power play. However, stellar penalty killing by the Red prevented the Tigers from establishing significant zone time. Aggressive forechecking and intercepted passes by Cornell kept Princeton off the board.

Finally, nearly halfway into the game, it was the Red that broke the ice. Junior forward Kyle Penney ripped a beautiful wrist shot from the left circle, going bar-down on Tiger goaltender Smith to get the game’s first goal.

While the first goal went to the Red, the momentum shifted the opposite direction. The Tigers came out roaring after the first goal, breaking up plays and beating Cornell to 50-50 pucks. Less than two minutes after Pennney’s tally, Princeton spent over a minute straight in the Cornell defensive zone, forcing Keopple to make an impressive glove save through a ton of traffic.

This outburst ultimately proved to be key for the Tigers, who finally found the answer to Keopple just over halfway gone in the frame. It was Princeton’s Adam Robbins who beat both Cornell defensemen, dancing into the zone and roofing the puck over the blocker of Keopple for the highlight reel goal. 

Knotted at one apiece, it was either team’s game. Both the Red and the Tigers exchanged scoring chances, and both goaltenders continued to make solid saves. Just over seven minutes to go in the second period, Cornell nearly took the lead back when Seger fired a hard shot right from the slot. Smith made a shaky save and struggled to control the rebound, but ultimately kept the Red off the board.

Then, as yet another call and response, Princeton nearly got itself the lead. It was a close call in the Cornell defensive zone, as the Tigers sprung out on a two-on-one rush and fed the puck to the only Princeton goal scorer, Robbins, but he was unable to control it and misfired on the shot.

It was during the waning minutes of the second period when both teams started to take more risks in their respective offensive zones. Cornell had perhaps its best spurt of offense since Penney’s goal with around four minutes remaining in the period. Good movement with the puck by sophomore forward Nick DeSantis led to a couple of prime scoring opportunities, including a near-missing wraparound attempt by junior defenseman Tim Rego. 

However, despite Cornell’s edge in zone time, the Tigers did a good job keeping the Red skaters outside and toward the perimeter, eliminating many of the close-to-the-net chances we saw in the first period. 

With 55 seconds left in the period, Princeton’s Brendan Gorman was sent off for slashing, giving the Red its second power play opportunity of the contest. The Red were able to establish offensive zone time for nearly the entire 55 seconds, but the Princeton penalty killers stood tall and suppressed any substantial scoring opportunities.

The Red opened the third period on the power play for just over a minute. However, the Cornell power play unit played a bit tentative and struggled to find shooting lanes, and time on the man advantage ultimately expired, game still knotted at 1-1.

Keopple’s best save of the contest came around five minutes into the third period, when he made a sprawling stop on a hard, one-time slap shot off a quick Princeton pass. It was one of many solid saves by Keopple in his first non-relief action in a year.

The Red got a huge opportunity with 11 minutes to go in the third, when Psenicka was hit hard by Joshua Karnish. The play was reviewed and ultimately called a five-minute major for contact to the head, giving the Red an opportunity to revive its power play.

The Tiger penalty killers were relentless, keeping Cornell to the outside and blocking shots. 

Perhaps the best penalty killer for Princeton was its goalie, Smith, who made another stellar glove save in the last 30 seconds of the power play. He was agile and alert, stopping the few shots Cornell was able to muster from the outside.

Despite some good passing sequences, the Red power play struggles continued, and they weren’t able to cash in on the five-minute major power play opportunity. 

The Red dominated possession time in the third period, partially attributable to the five-minute power play. But the Red found an aggression in their game in the third, not allowing Princeton much zone time, let alone scoring opportunities.

Psenicka, despite getting hit hard early in the period, had himself a couple of good chances toward the end of the period. With around three minutes to go, Psenicka controlled a nice no-look slip pass from junior forward Sullivan Mack, but was denied by Smith. A minute later, he found himself all alone in front but barely slipped the puck wide.

With under 30 seconds to go, Cornell rushed up the ice for one final opportunity in regulation. Penney, the Red’s only goal scorer, made a good move to buy him space in the slot and ultimately drew a hooking penalty with 12 seconds to go. Princeton won the defensive zone faceoff, allowing time to run out and allowing the Red’s power play to carry into overtime.

The overtime period opened up with four Cornell skaters against three Tigers, once again establishing zone time. And once again –– the story of the game –– the Princeton penalty killers were up to the task. Smith flashed the leather multiple times in the overtime, looking confident despite the surplus of Cornell shots. 

Cornell finished the game 0/4 on the power play. They have not scored on their last fourteen power play opportunities, dating back to last Friday, Nov. 10 against Dartmouth.

The Red appeared to be out of the clear towards the end of the over time period, holding the puck and perhaps looking to kill the clock and formulate one final rush. However, pesky Princeton forechecking led to a turnover by the Red, and a flurry of shots on Keopple, his first substantial action since the second period. Keopple made three huge saves, one with his chest and a couple with his pads. However, a big rebound was placed on the tape of Princeton’s Gorman with six seconds left. Gorman fired it past Keopple, winning the game for the Tigers in last-second fashion. It was the first victory for Tigers on their home ice against Cornell in nearly 10 years, dating back to Nov. 7, 2014.

Cornell will look to snap their three-game skid next Saturday when they take on Boston University for the biennial Red Hot Hockey at Madison Square Garden.