This story has been updated.
LAKE PLACID, N.Y. –– After 27 days, No. 17 Cornell men’s hockey (6-4-2, 3-4-1 ECAC) returned to action, facing off against No. 11 University of Massachusetts (11-4-2, 4-3-1 Hockey East) in the first of two games in the inaugural Adirondack Winter Invitational.
A couple mistakes on both sides factored into the scoring, and Massachusetts turned on the pressure in the third frame, but Cornell was able to overcome all of that in its shootout victory over the Minutemen.
“For coming and only having two practices before coming up here, we had good spurts and sloppy spurts,” said head coach Mike Schafer ‘86.
“I was pretty happy we didn’t give up a power play goal,” Schafer said.
Cornell came into the game being the third least penalized team in the nation, but it was the Red that took a penalty in the first two minutes. Freshman defenseman Hoyt Stanley was nabbed for hooking, sending the Red to the penalty kill against the 13th ranked power play in the nation. A couple big blocks early on paved the way for a successful kill by Cornell.
While Massachusetts came up empty offensively, the Minutemen hammered the pressure on: It took some time for Cornell to get used to the high pressure forecheck Massachusetts implements, oftentimes taking 15-20 seconds to find a stretch pass or an outlet into its offensive zone.
When it did, though, Cornell looked fast and relentless. A couple of marquee shifts by sophomore forwards Nick DeSantis and Winter Wallace made the Minutemen look uncomfortable in its own zone.
“Playing a fast team coming off the Christmas break is a little tough, but I think we did a really good job of staying above them all game and they didn’t get too many chances,” said sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft.
Cornell looked anything but timid in its pursuit for loose pucks, laying down heavy hits and getting their sticks on almost everything.
Senior forward Gabriel Seger, who has had the hot stick as of late, nearly gave Cornell the lead when he was streaking down the left side with junior forward Kyle Penney at his wind. The two-on-one chance was wide open for Seger, but a miscommunicated pass across to Penney, who didn’t react, prevented Cornell from getting a shot.
The halfway point of the period saw Cornell trailing 6-1 in the shot department, but it didn’t feel that way. Cornell did a good job disrupting the flow of Massachusetts’ game and had some solid zone time, but they struggled to get pucks on net, largely attributable to the relentless pressure by the Minutemen defensemen.
Massachusetts was quick off the rush, but Cornell seemed to expect this quick game and in turn hustled to limit chances. Junior goaltender Ian Shane was up for the task, notably making a big pad stop off a hard slap shot with just over six minutes remaining in the frame.
While momentum swings weren’t largely evident for the majority of the first, Massachusetts swung it its way in the waning minutes of the period. The puck took a big ricochet over the shoulder of Shane landed on the top of the net, but a weird bounce and a scrum in front later and the puck was called in. However, Cornell reviewed the play for a high stick prior to the goal. The challenge was ultimately successful, keeping the score at zero.
That zero-zero score was erased in no time once the puck dropped on the second period. A strong shift in the offensive zone by Cornell led to a flurry of shots. The puck eventually found Stanley, who took a strong wrist shot from near the blue line and beat the Massachusetts goaltender cleanly. It was Stanley’s first goal of his collegiate career.
“Everyone stepped up and played key roles today to get the job done,” Bancroft said.
The goal triggered a sudden shift in momentum, and it was all Cornell from there. The Red successfully threaded through the Minutemen forecheck and opened up the ice, getting a couple of high danger chances right in front of the net. Cornell reverted back to what it does best: wreaking havoc in front of the net and creating opportunities. Wallace earned a couple of prime chances, searching for his first of the season.
However, just one mistake ended up being quite costly for the Red. A big hit and miscommunication led to a turnover behind Cornell’s net, and the puck slipped out to a wide open Michael Cameron. The Massachusetts top-line winger buried the puck past Shane, knotting the game at one goal apiece.
Despite a strong period leading up to the goal, Cornell fell back onto its heels after the Minutemen tied it up. Shots began to accumulate, forcing Shane to make save after save. Not long after the equalizer, he made a sprawling save with his chest that led to an odd man rush for Cornell, where Wallace and O’Leary created yet another prime scoring opportunity that did not go.
Shane came up big again minutes later, making a flashy glove save, before sprawling on the rebound off the ensuing faceoff. Shane, who has made rebound control a primary focus of his game, looked very strong and alert despite the hard shots fired against him. Any rebound he gave up was quickly recovered by Cornell defense or sprawled upon by the netminder.
Massachusetts went back onto the power play around halfway gone in the period, when Bancroft was called for interference. Cornell had been holding its breath minutes earlier, when Bancroft took a hard hit against the board and went down on all fours. He skated back to the bench, after attention from Cornell’s athletic trainer, not putting weight on his right foot. Though not ideal to be back on the penalty kill, Bancroft in the box was a welcome sight and sign that he wasn’t too badly hurt. Despite the penalty (and the injury), Bancroft was a productive player Friday night.
“I thought he was solid,” Schafer said of Bancroft. “I thought all our guys, including him, had some really good, shining moments, but at times they struggled.”
Massachusetts looked threatening on its second man advantage opportunity of the game, but Cornell was able to kill it off. The Red went a perfect three-for-free on the penalty kill tonight, shutting down a Massachusetts power play among the best in the nation.
“We did a really good job of not letting them get set up,” Schafer said.
It wouldn’t be until just over five minutes left in the second period that Cornell earned its first power play opportunity of the night, when the Massachusetts netminder was caught hooking a Cornell forward beside the net. With the Red-hot Seger at the faceoff dot, the puck was cleanly won and found freshman defenseman Ben Robertson at the point, who took a nice wrister that hit the goaltender, Cole Brady. A scrum ensued in front of the net, and Walsh eventually found Bancroft, who fired the puck into a wide open net as Brady was sprawled out. Bancroft’s sixth goal of the season, coming just seven seconds into the power play, put Cornell up 2-1.
“A rebound just popped out to me on the power play, which was obviously nice,” Bancroft said post game.
“You just have got to continue to get technically better, and tonight I thought we did a good job, especially on that second power play,” Schafer said.
The power play has been a rather sore spot of Cornell’s game thus far and something they are looking to chance. Tonight’s goal marks its eighth power play goal on 49 attempts, shooting Cornell’s PP percentage up from 13 percent to 16 percent.
It was a successful period for the Red, chock full of dangerous scoring chances. In the first period, Cornell was rather tentative with its shots and took over half of attempted shots from outside the slot. That quickly changed in the second period, with Cornell quadrupling its shot totals. A vast majority of its shots were taken from close quarters, including five high danger scoring chances –– including Bancroft’s tally –– coming from within a few feet of the crease.
The puck dropped for the third period with Cornell up 2-1. The Red got an early power play opportunity on a Massachusetts tripping penalty but struggled to establish zone time and came up empty handed.
After an initial 40 minutes dominated by even strength, both teams caught the penalty bug early in the third. Just around a minute after Cornell’s power play expired, Wallace was sent to the box for holding, putting Cornell’s PK unit to the test once more. Strong penalty killing by Cornell held Massachusetts off the board.
The best chance of the Massachusetts power play, in fact, came from Cornell: A picked pocket by Seger gave him a one-on-none breakaway chance. He pulled a good move, going from his forehand to his backhand effortlessly, but his attempt to slip it past Brady was smothered by the netminder. It was the result of impressive forechecking by the Red, which gave the Minutemen problems all night.
“We’re trying to emphasize that a lot right now,” Schafer said when asked about his team’s pestering forechecking. “Getting back to the fundamentals, aggressive hockey.”
From there, it was the Ian Shane Show. The Cornell netminder, though sound in the first two periods, was remarkable in the third frame. Cornell’s lead in shots began to dwindle with Massachusetts upping the pressure, but Shane showed no signs of fatigue as play stretched for long periods of time without an interrupting whistle. His highlights included flashing the leather and multiple pad stops, including an outstretched beauty of a save on the dangerous Ryan Ufko of Massachusetts with just over five minutes left in the game.
Shane finished the game with 23 saves on 25 shots, raising his save percentage ever so slightly, from a .915 percent to a .916 percent. Massachusetts’ Brady stopped 24 Cornell shots, including ten in the second period.
Cornell finally regained some momentum with four minutes remaining. A big play by freshman forward Luke Devlin found an open Red skater in front of the crease, who shoveled it past Brady. The puck was trickling toward the back of the net, but a debatably premature whistle stopped play before it could do so.
“I thought we’d be at 3-1 where there was a quick whistle. That would’ve been a huge difference in the game,” Schafer said.
Massachusetts immediately retaliated off of the next faceoff, creating itself a two-on-one opportunity that was broken up on a diving play by junior defenseman Hank Kempf.
Massachusetts pulled Brady with 2:25 remaining in the game, with the momentum on its side. Off the faceoff, Massachusetts established immediate zone time, passing the puck seamlessly around the Cornell skaters. After a long shift in the defensive zone, a big rebound given up by Shane landed on the stick of Massachusetts’ Ryan Lautenbach, who buried it into an open net with 2:02 remaining.
Massachusetts continued to apply pressure, but that score would hold, ultimately sending the game into overtime.
“On six-on-five, we made a mistake. But we didn’t collapse back to the net, we stayed out,” Schafer said.
As the 3v3 overtime period began, it was Cornell that got the first few chances. Massachusetts did a good job holding the Red to the perimeter, limiting the dangerous opportunities. The Minutemen had impressive speed off the rush, however, earning itself a couple of prime chances. Shane looked calm and collected and Cornell’s defense fended off the eager Massachusetts forwards. With just under a minute remaining in the overtime period, Shane made his best stop of the night, an impressive glove save while off balance.
Seger had a good chance in the waning seconds, as Robertson led one final rush with 15 seconds left. The puck found Seger all alone, but he shot the puck high and wide.
It was after the buzzer sounded on the overtime period, however, that things got messy. Massachusetts’ Scott Morrow was ejected after he laid Seger into the boards much after play had been blown dead. He received a minor penalty for boarding, but that would not matter as the game would go to a shootout.
Bancroft went first and buried it after a deceptive headfake. Aydar Suniev had the first shot for Massachusetts, but Shane got a piece of it to keep the puck out.
Seger had the second shot for Cornell and wristed it past Brady with ease. With the game on Massachusetts’ stick, the puck was shot wide, and Shane was swallowed by his teammates.
“Glad we were able to get the win — even if it is a shootout, it’s still a win for us,” Bancroft said.
Though it goes into the record as one point and a tie, Cornell moves on to the championship game Saturday night.
“This time of year, it’s harder, that second game,” Schafer said. “Guys are tired, and they’re not used to that. But I’m happy, and we’ll bounce back and do it again tomorrow.”
Cornell will play the winner of Clarkson v. Arizona State on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Herb Brooks Arena.