This story has been updated.
HAMILTON, NY – Fresh off a Red Hot victory at Madison Square Garden six days prior, Cornell embarked on a sea of white in Hamilton, NY, to take on bitter upstate-NY and ECAC rival, Colgate.
Interjecting chants of “Let’s go Red!” and “Let’s go ‘Gate!” bellowed throughout Class of 1965 arena as Cornell hung on in a penalty-ridden affair, edging the Raiders 4-2. Senior forward Gabriel Seger had four points.
“For the most part, I thought we played a pretty complete game,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86.
The crowd was sparse at puck drop aside from the whited-out students behind the net of junior goaltender Ian Shane, banging relentlessly on the boards. Shane, clearly unphased, made his first save of the night just a minute into the game, a casual left shoulder pad save that ricocheted into the netting.
The Red gathered itself and began a series of fast breakouts, seamlessly slicing through Colgate’s forechecking forwards. There would be many, many forwards for Cornell to take on Friday night, as the mysterious scratching of defenseman Pierson Brandon forced the Raiders to line up with 14 forwards and just five defensemen.
“They’re a good hockey team, they [have] some really good players,” Schafer said.
Just under three minutes into the period, sophomore forward Nick DeSantis exploded out of the Cornell zone, putting his head down and barrelling into the offensive zone. Dangling through a Colgate skater, he was tripped up on the play and lost control of the puck. Without missing a beat, Seger gathered the loose puck and buried the puck in the back of the net, putting the Red up 1-0.
Fueled by getting the first goal of the game, something Cornell had done five times in its previous nine contests entering Friday nights contest, the Red continued its fast-paced puck-handling, hitting the tape consistently on its passes and possessing the puck well in its offensive zone –– something it wasn’t able to do so much against Boston University last Saturday.
Cornell peppered Colgate netminder Carter Gylander from then on, but he was up for the task after surrendering the first shot he saw. Gylander proceeded to rob junior forward Kyle Penney with the glove and woke up at around the 11-minute mark, playing aggressively out of his crease and smothering loose pucks.
En route to another offensive zone push, the Red earned its first power play opportunity when Colgate’s Ben Raymond tripped a Cornell skater in the neutral zone.
Optimistic after earning its long-awaited power play goal last Saturday, Cornell looked to ride that momentum to double its lead. The Red looked rejuvenated on the power play, holding possession in its offensive zone for nearly 1:45. Freshman defenseman Ben Robertson hit the crossbar and fellow first-year forward Ryan Walsh was robbed by Gylander from the slot, but the Raiders cleared the puck for the first time with just 14 seconds remaining in the man advantage to close it out and keep the score 1-0.
With around five minutes remaining in the frame, junior forward Sullivan Mack was all alone in front of Gylander with the opportunity to extend the lead once more, but was robbed by the skate blade of the Colgate goaltender. Amped by its goaltender’s impressive stop, Colgate fired right back, firing a bouncing puck at Shane which he bobbled before trapping it in his pads, making for another close-call save in the waning moments of the period.
“I think everybody upfront and on the blue line played a lot of minutes, and I don’t think anyone in particular was overused tonight,” Schafer explained when asked about the back-and-forth momentum shifts, largely attributable to the surplus of penalties between both teams in the game.
The score would hold into the second period thanks to Gylander, who stopped nine straight Cornell shots. Shane stopped all six that the Raiders fired toward him.
Cornell’s offensive prowess began to show in the second, as well as its chippy forechecking. Not long into the period –– just 1:35 in, to be exact –– it was the Red’s puck possession that helped to draw a Raider penalty, awarding Cornell with its second power play opportunity of the night. The Red struggled to get into its offensive zone, as Colgate skaters met Cornell with aggressive sticks and checks at the blue line. However, with time expiring on the man advantage, Gylander came to the Raiders rescue once again with a sprawling pad save on Seger, looking to complete the hat trick.
It was Cornell’s turn to play hard, using its signature pesky forechecking to frustrate the Colgate skaters. One word to describe the forecheck? Relentless.
“It’s [a] five-guy effort,” Seger said. “My linemates –– [I] played a lot with [Penney], and then a little with [DeSantis] and [Ondrej Psenicka] –– they did a great job on the forecheck and work together, so it was definitely a team effort, line effort.”
However, just under seven minutes into the period, one Raider was able to squeak by the Cornell pressure. An as-per-usual dumped puck into the zone made a weird bounce on the back boards to the left of Shane, ricocheting right in front of the Cornell netminder. Shane couldn’t cover it and the puck popped out to Colgate’s Ryan McGuire, who nearly whiffed on the shot, but the puck slowly creeped past the goal line, knotting the game at one goal apiece.
The Red proceeded to use this as fuel for its fire. Just over a minute later, the resilient Cornell squad burst into its offensive zone. A shot from Penney was blocked in front of Gylander, who then shot into an upright position. Seger then collected the rebound and shoveled it through the legs of the Colgate goalie before he could fall back into butterfly. The Raiders only led for 1:09 as Seger spoiled the home crowd’s fun with his second of the night.
Seger’s two-goal performance was not the only bright spot of the Swedish center’s game on Friday –– Seger dominated at the faceoff dot, a critical part of both his individual game and Cornell’s recipe for success.
“It’s something we’ve worked on and emphasized a lot,” Seger said, attributing his success on faceoffs to his linemates. Seger won nearly 70 percent of his taken faceoffs Friday, going 19 for 28 on the night.
As if life couldn’t get any better for the Red at 12:11 of the second period, Colgate’s Alex DiPaolo was immediately sent to the box for interference. Given its third power play chance of the night, the Red looked to separate itself from the Raiders.
The power play was aggressive but still appeared to be snake bitten. Cornell got some clean passes off, but the shot selection –– with a majority of shots coming from closer to the blue line –– was not ideal and Gylander was able to make a handful of routine stops.
“I thought we showed impatience on our power play,” Schafer said.
A key momentum-gaining moment came from a mainstay in the Cornell defensive corps with around seven minutes left in the second, as junior defender Michael Suda deterred Colgate odd-man rush with a silky poke check.
Cornell took that and ran, retaliating after Colgate’s offensive spurts with its own. A penalty by the Raiders’ Tommy Bergsland sent Cornell to its fourth power play of the night.
Fourth time would be the charm: an impressive keep in by the body of Seger allowed him to dish the puck to a leading Robertson, who then distributed it flawlessly to sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft, made good use of his power play real estate by firing a beautiful one timer past Gylander.
With both teams chipping away in a 3-1 game, Cornell found itself shorthanded in the waning moments of the second period. Shane made a couple of key saves for Cornell, including an off-balance left pad stop, to keep the Raiders off the board.
The two-goal lead for Cornell carried them into the third period, where they were given an eye-opening fifth power play opportunity.
The Colgate penalty killers found a new life in the third period, aggressively keeping the Red at bay. This ignited the sea of white behind Shane, with Colgate students retaliating with cheers of their own after the visiting Cornell band tried to empower its team on the man advantage. Seger, near-perfect in all other aspects Friday, took an unfortunate hooking penalty just as time expired on the scoreless Cornell power play.
“It was a great atmosphere,” Seger said. “It was kind of bumping [when Colgate scored], but something we’re used to.”
With the crowd behind them, Colgate and its 32nd ranked power play sought to eat at Cornell’s two-marker lead.
Shane had other ideas.
If there was a save of the year award in college hockey, Shane would’ve won it easily. After some seamless Colgate passing, a quick pass turned one-timer found Shane making a superman-esque dive across his crease –– in the air –– to rob the Colgate man advantage.
“Ian [Shane] saved the day there. It was an unbelievable save. ESPN worthy,” Schafer said about his goaltender.
Unfortunately, Cornell would force Shane to undergo another tough test, as Bancroft was nabbed for holding to put Colgate on its third power play of the night, and second consecutive man-up try. The third time would be the charm for Colgate, as they were able to shovel a puck past Shane to cut Cornell’s lead to 3-2.
“We kind of lost track of the bumper on the power play,” Schafer explained.
From there, it was neck-and-neck. Both goaltenders flashed their leather –– including Gylander on a breakaway to snub Mack –– and kept it a tightly contested game. The game seemed to simmer down as both teams refrained from taking potentially costly penalties, but tensions remained high as Colgate’s desperation grew.
Cornell, despite this, outchanced the Raiders. The Red finished the game with 33 shots to Colgate’s 25.
“In the third, we generated so many chances,” Schafer reflected. “But, I think we hit three posts tonight, maybe a crossbar.”
Cornell nearly cushioned itself a 4-2 lead when Mack fired a one-timer, eager for his first of the year, but hit the iron. Colgate, earning itself a whistle and offensive-zone faceoff after they took the puck the other way, called a timeout with around three minutes remaining.
With two minutes and change left, Gylander made a break for the Colgate bench. With the extra attacker, Colgate was firing on all cylinders, hitting the crossbar with a minute and a half remaining.
After a scrum behind the net, Seger skated out with the puck with junior forward Ondrej Psenicka to his left. Just one goal away from a hat trick, Seger dished the puck to Psenicka and let him take the open-net goal. Seger’s selflessness gave Cornell a 4-2 lead, ultimately holding to crown the Red victorious.
As the only senior in the starting lineup, Scahfer explained how his tenacious play and leadership is sacred.
“It’s really fun to see a guy like that take that step on his own,” Schafer said. “Every situation that we have, he rose to the occasion.”
Cornell returns to action on Saturday night at Lynah Rink, as they look to close out the first half by sweeping the Raiders. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m.
“Going home, seeing the crowd, getting back at Lynah Rink –– I know our guys are excited to finish off the first semester,” Schafer said.