Make that 11.
Men’s hockey ventured to the Capital District with an inclination to extend its 10-game unbeaten streak. The Red made it look easy on Friday night, dismantling RPI by a 4-1 score.
With the win, Cornell eclipses the 30-point mark in the ECAC. Out of town, Colgate –– which had previously trailed Cornell by just one point in the standings –– was upset by Union. Perhaps the more surprising result was Quinnipiac –– the conference leader with 38 points –– losing in regulation to St. Lawrence. Cornell is now within striking distance of the Bobcats for Cleary Cup contention.
It was a marquee Cornell victory, featuring stifling defense, great saves by its goaltender, and hard-fought goals from right in front of the net.
The Red (14-4-4, 9-4-2 ECAC) wasted no time asserting its dominance over the Engineers. Four minutes in, a quick spurt of offensive zone time led to an RPI turnover which the Red quickly recovered. The puck popped out to freshman forward Jonathan Castagna, who fired it into a vacated net as the RPI goaltender was off balance.
The goal came on a delayed penalty on RPI, meaning Cornell would receive the ensuing power play. Despite the advantage, the Red couldn’t convert.
RPI took the successful kill as fuel for fire, retaliating with a handful of prime opportunities of its own. Reliable once again, junior goaltender Ian Shane preserved Cornell’s early lead, making 10 saves in the first period.
The first period was also highlighted by a pair of aggressive penalty kills by Cornell, each of which saw a shorthanded breakaway –– the first by junior forward Jack O’Leary and the second by junior forward Sullivan Mack, whose shot hit the pipe.
Late in the period, with Cornell applying offensive pressure, a brief lapse by RPI led to another tally for the Red. Another first-year –– this time freshman forward Luke Devlin –– got on the board for Cornell, as Devlin emerged from behind the net and lifted the puck it over the shoulder of RPI’s Jack Watson to double the Cornell lead.
Entering the second period up by two, Cornell looked to maintain its offensive prowess and attenuate any Engineer come-back attempts.
However, issues with staying out of the penalty box persisted in the second period. After just one call against Cornell in the opening frame, three penalties –– seemingly one after the other –– were taken against the Red.
The third kill ended up being the sinker for Cornell. With just seconds remaining in the man-up opportunity for RPI, Austin Heidemann found the answer to Shane to halve Cornell’s lead.
While RPI failed to muster more offense in the second, the middle frame was trademarked by a resilient Engineer defense. Largely attributable to RPI’s defensive stand-off was Jack Watson, the netminder, who made a few eye-opening snags on point-blank Cornell opportunities.
Watson concluded the game with 28 saves, 12 of those coming in the second period.
Not without lack of trying, however –– O’Leary, despite not registering a goal on the final box, was relentless in the offensive zone. O’Leary garnered three one-on-none breakaway attempts, and was snuffed by Watson multiple times at the top of the crease. O’Leary led the team with four shots on goal in the game.
Watson was stellar after the two goals surrendered in the first. The junior, who has been the starting goaltender in all three of his years with the Engineers, notched 28 saves in the game.
On the other end, Shane concluded the contest with 19 saves, including a pair of stellar grabs with 11.7 seconds left in the second to maintain the one-goal lead.
The third period saw much of what was seen in the first two –– hard shots, stellar saves, and O’Leary breakaways.
Cornell was much more disciplined in the final frame, as it stayed out of the box for the final 20 minutes. Shane continued to come up big when needed, while the Red’s defense quickly fended off the desperate attempts of the RPI skaters.
Looking to open the game up further, Cornell finally got its answer. It was another goal from right on top of the crease, as senior forward Gabriel Seger cleaned up a rebound and slid the puck by Watson. RPI challenged the call for goaltender interference, but the goal was ultimately upheld.
Cornell seemed to have an answer for everything after Seger’s tally. The Red got on the board once again later in the third, as junior forward Ondrej Psenicka roofed a beautiful backhand shot to extend Cornell’s lead to 4-1 with eight minutes to go.
That score would hold as time ticked down, giving Cornell another hard-fought conference victory. Considering Quinnipiac’s and Colgate’s regulation losses on Friday night –– the two teams sandwiching Cornell in the ECAC standings –– the three points acquired in the Red’s win are of particular significance to maintain the Red’s high standing.
Cornell will be right back at it Saturday night, making the short drive to Schenectady, New York to take on Union. Puck drop is slated for 7 p.m. and will be streamed on ESPN+.