Looking for its first win against Harvard since December 2019, Cornell men’s hockey (11-4-3, 6-4-1 ECAC) visited the Harvard Crimson (3-12-3, 3-7-3 ECAC) at the Bright-Landry Hockey Center with revenge on its mind on Saturday. The Red would come out victorious, as two first-period goals were all the team needed to upend the Crimson.
Cornell’s defense got the job done, highlighted by its perfect performance on the penalty kill. Harvard was 0/2 on power plays in the game despite entering the contest with a 29 percent success rate, which ranked at fourth-best in the nation.
The stout defensive performance was led by junior goaltender Ian Shane, who made 17 saves in his second shutout of the year.
Cornell got its first power play when Harvard’s Jack Bar was sent to the box after a big hit on freshman forward Jonathan Castagna. Cornell was able to sustain some offensive zone time, but the one shot put on net was batted away by Harvard netminder Derek Mullahy.
It was Cornell that secured the game’s first goal, when a precise pass by junior forward Kyle Penney found junior forward Jack O’Leary with some space at the right circle. O’Leary’s hard shot beat Mullahy, breaking the ice 12 minutes into the game.
Cornell continued to apply pressure throughout the first, slicing through Harvard’s forecheckers and testing Mullahy early and often. Harvard’s counterattack was merely invisible, and the numbers loomed large: the Crimson mustered just one shot in the opening frame as opposed to Cornell’s.
Cornell’s offensive prowess was evident under four minutes after the game’s first goal. An odd-man rush for Cornell saw a sequence of skillful passing, and it was junior defenseman Tim Rego who fired a hard one-timer over the glove side of Mullahy. Penney notched his second assist of the night on Rego’s tally, doubling Cornell’s lead.
Cornell then received another power play opportunity but was shut down by the Harvard penalty killers. The 2-0 score would hold as time ticked down on the first.
Harvard upped the pressure in the second period and began to mix it up after the whistle. 90 seconds into the second frame, Shane was tasked with his first high-danger scoring chance of the evening, when a big rebound was nearly scooped up by a Harvard attacker after a hard shot. Shane beat the skater to the puck and covered it up to stop play.
Before the halfway point of the second, freshman forward Tyler Catalano was sent to the penalty box, putting Harvard’s exceptional power play to the test. Cornell stood strong on the penalty kill, aided by a few stellar saves by Shane.
The third time wouldn’t be the charm for the Red, as it failed to convert on a power play that came with around seven minutes left in the second. Special teams were a big focus for Cornell leading up to the weekend, per head coach Mike Schafer ’86, but the Red’s power play struggles persisted on Saturday against the Crimson.
Sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft got Cornell’s best chance of the period with four minutes left in the second, taking advantage of space on top of the crease. His shot was snagged by the glove of Mullahy, who was rock solid in the second period.
Not long after, Shane made arguably the best save of the game from either goaltender, robbing Harvard’s Joe Miller with the left pad. The win saw Shane’s save percentage rise to .918, and he now leads the country in goals allowed per game with a mere 1.70.
Bancroft got robbed again less than a minute into the third, but the miss ignited a flame beneath the Red and furthered its offensive push. Cornell rattled off a few shots immediately after Bancroft’s chance but couldn’t solve Mullahy, who was solid after allowing two goals on 12 shots in the first.
Harvard’s lethal power play was put to the test once more five minutes into the third, when freshman defenseman Hoyt Stanley was sent to the box for cross-checking. Cornell’s defense stood tall, however, making courageous blocks and dives, all while carried by a couple of solid Shane saves.
There weren’t many stoppages after that in the third, as the pace of play increased and the game opened up. Harvard pulled its goaltender with just under three minutes to play. The Crimson established some time in its offensive zone but ultimately couldn’t find the back of the net as time expired.
With the win, Cornell is now up to 20 ECAC points. Out of town, Colgate won in overtime against Dartmouth, also amounting the team to 20 points. Clarkson earned another three points (23 total) in its 4-1 win over St. Lawrence, while Quinnipiac (now with 32 points) narrowly overcame Yale, 1-0. The end of the weekend will provide a clearer picture of the current ECAC playoff picture..
Cornell will look to complete the sweep Saturday night against Dartmouth. Puck drop in Hanover is slated for 7 p.m.