“I like shooting the puck a lot,” said sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft.
It would take a lot of shooting and a lot of scoring for Cornell to overcome the Quinnipiac Bobcats on Saturday, who entered the game as the reigning national champions and sitting in first place in the ECAC.
Bancroft led his team with four shots on goal, but it was his latest that rang off the post and into the back of the net that lifted Cornell men’s hockey (10-4-3, 5-4-1 ECAC) past Quinnipiac (15-6-2, 9-2-1 ECAC) in overtime, 3-2. The game-winner was Bancroft’s second goal of the game.
“It was just a good college hockey game,” said head coach Mike Schafer ’86. “We had nine freshmen in the lineup tonight, which was crazy.’”
Cornell was coming off a big win over Princeton on Friday, cruising to a 6-2 victory. Quinnipiac, however, came out with an edge after dropping its first regulation conference loss to Colgate, 2-1.
It was a notable game even before puck drop: Quinnipiac center Zach Tupker made his first appearance at Lynah Rink since last March, albeit this time as a member of the Bobcats. Tupker, who played three seasons with Cornell and registered 21 points in his career with the Red, is already up to 14 points with the Bobcats this season.
While Cornell came out of the gates flying against Princeton on Friday, the faster team to begin Saturday’s game was Quinnipiac. Junior goaltender Ian Shane was sharp, making sound saves and assuring no rebounds went too far from his crease.
It was the Red that struck first with just 1:34 remaining in the first period. Off a hard shot from the point by freshman defenseman Hoyt Stanley, Bancroft masterfully deflected the puck down and through the five-hole of the Quinnipiac goaltender, the puck slowly trickling into the net as Lynah erupted. The goal gave Cornell a 1-0 lead heading into the second period.
The second started well for the Red, as it was given a quick power play chance 49 seconds in when Cooper Moore was nabbed for cross-checking Bancroft. Quinnipiac’s Sam Lipkin made two stellar blocks, and goaltender Vinny Duplessis made a pair of saves on the Red’s extra-man chance.
Cornell earned yet another power play chance at 11:19 of the second period. The Red had a couple of extended stretches in Quinnipiac’s defensive zone, but a turnover at the blue line by freshman defenseman Ben Robertson led to a two-on-one shorthanded rush by the Bobcats.
It was a familiar face converting for Quinnipiac, as Tupker finished a CJ McGee cross-crease pass for the shorthanded tally.
With the game tied at one apiece, Cornell still had 30 seconds left on its power play.
And boy, did the Red make that count.
29 seconds after the Quinnipiac goal, freshman defenseman George Fegaras wristed a shot from the point. Junior forward Ondrej Psenicka deflected the puck past Duplessis for the go-ahead goal, a practical mirror image of Bancroft’s score. It was reminiscent of Friday’s game against Princeton, where Cornell retaliated 41 seconds after Princeton had tied the game.
“We wanted to shoot pucks and get eyes in front of the goalie, and we did a good job of that with two deflection goals,” Bancroft said.
A costly moment later in the third occurred when a hard shot hit Shane and rebounded out, causing commotion in front of the net. Shane made another save off a quick wrist shot, but that rebound ricocheted off of junior defenseman Hank Kempf. Kempf dove into the crease and covered the puck with his hand, robbing the Bobcats of a goal.
Quinnipiac successfully challenged this play, as a skater covering the puck in the crease warrants a penalty shot to the attacking team. Alex Power converted on the penalty shot attempt, a hard wrist shot that snuck under Shane’s glove.
Quinnipiac was rolling, with the score evened and the Red’s lead quickly erased. A big hit by sophomore forward Nick DeSantis sent him to the box –– elbowing the call –– but not after an unsuccessful coach’s challenge for a major penalty.
Shane shut the Bobcats down, making quality save after quality save. The junior netminder made four saves on the back-to-back penalties to end the third, each more impressive than the last. Shane finished with 11 second-period saves.
“In the second period, we were definitely on our heels a lot, “ Bancroft said. “We knew coming back out that we had to step up our game. I think we did that. We started hitting again. We started playing on the forecheck, but obviously good defense leads to good offense.”
Not long into the third, Penney –– nowhere near where the puck was being played –– was elbowed hard in the head. Upon review, no penalty was called, and Cornell lost its timeout following a coach’s challenge.
However, Quinnipiac was later called for a penalty, where McGee was called for hooking during a Cornell offensive zone push. Two hard one-timers were fired by Bancroft, but Quinnipiac penalty-killers made three straight blocks and steered the Red away.
“[Bancroft] was frustrated on the power play. They had a couple of great shot blocks,” Schafer said.
Cornell’s power play opportunity was cut short, as Fegaras was sent off for a questionable interference call, allowing 0:48 seconds of four-on-four play to commence. Neither team converted on that stretch, and the Red killers held off the dangerous Bobcat power play once again.
“We had some big penalty kills in the third. I wasn’t really happy with the interference call, but I thought we overcame that call on the penalty kill,” Schafer said.
With the score still knotted at two goals apiece, neither team pushed particularly hard offensively with the worry of giving up that costly go-ahead goal. O’Leary was robbed by Duplessis on a two-on-one accredited to junior forward Sullivan Mack’s hustle, which preceded a breakaway chance by freshman forward Ryan Walsh that ricocheted off the post.
“Walsh had a great breakaway opportunity. Came in and rang it right off the post,” Schafer said.
Quinnipiac’s Christophe Fillion was sent off with 1:54 left in the game for slashing, giving Cornell a power play for the remainder of regulation. Despite some good looks, the Red could not cash in, and the game would go into overtime.
Quinnipiac controlled possession as three-on-three play began, even getting a couple of grade-A chances, but couldn’t solve Shane. The Cornell netminder made three saves in the overtime period, culminating in a total of 22 saves on 24 shots.
Shane has allowed the six-least goals in the country and has not fallen outside the top five in goals against average all season.
“[Shane] is just really consistent in everything he does. He’s 100 percent all in on everything,” Schafer said. “So, that allows him to step up and be that consistent goaltender and person.”
With just under two minutes left in overtime, a good rush was started by Robertson, controlling the puck in the offensive zone. He then slipped it back for Bancroft, who broke towards the net, capitalizing on the open space.
His second goal of the game, Bancroft’s hard wrist shot beat Duplessis far side, giving Cornell the weekend sweep. Bancroft said post-game that the goal was the first overtime goal of his career.
With both prior Cornell goals being deflections up close to the net, and considering the stingy defenses on both sides, it was almost surprising that a hard wrist shot was the deciding tally.
“It’s always nice [in] three-on-three, you get a lot more space. And as soon as guys start backing up, you have chances to cut to the middle,” Bancroft said. “So, I knew when he had his feet turned I had a chance to shoot far side on him.”
With the victory, No. 14 Cornell (16th in Pairwise) will certainly see a jump in the standings after defeating the No. 3 Bobcats (seventh in Pairwise).
“I’m really excited about us. I think we can really grow even from here. Take some lessons from this weekend and come back even better,” Schafer said.
Cornell will hit the ice once again next weekend, as they travel east to take on Harvard on Friday and Dartmouth on Saturday.
“The big thing now is just to keep pushing ahead, win all of our next games and get a good seat going into the playoffs,” Bancroft said.
Puck drop for both games is slated for 7 p.m.