Cynthia Tseng/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

Men's hockey celebrates a goal in its 4-1 win over Harvard in game two of the ECAC quarterfinals at Lynah Rink on Mar. 16, 2024.

March 16, 2024

Men’s Hockey Sweeps Harvard, Advances to Lake Placid

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This story has been updated.

After game one of the ECAC quarterfinals saw men’s hockey amass a 4-0 lead, and then slowly watch it deteriorate, head coach Mike Schafer ’86 had one clear message for his team.

Play a full 60 minutes.

On Saturday, the Red made sure not to disappoint its coach. Cornell completed the quarterfinal sweep of Harvard with a 4-1 win on Saturday night, advancing it to ECAC championship weekend in Lake Placid. 

“We had better attention to detail for 60 minutes. We were hard to play against, and we were patient, disciplined and all the things that we talked about [after] last night. ” Schafer said. “I feel really proud of how they’ve come back, and they were ready to play.”

Whereas on Friday, Cornell jumped out to an early multi-goal lead, Saturday’s contest was much more tightly contested. Cornell tested Harvard goaltender Derek Mullahy in rapid succession, but were denied multiple times on solid pad stops. 

Mullahy slotted into the lineup after Aku Koskenvuo –– the victorious goaltender in Harvard’s opening round shutout of Princeton –– allowed four goals in Cornell’s Friday night win, including two on his first four shots. Mullahy finished the game with 21 saves on 23 Cornell shots.

The Red scored two goals on Mullahy before compiling two empty-netters to seal the sweep.

“It [was] just an unbelievable effort from all the guys,” said senior forward Gabriel Seger, who notched two goals and two assists for four points on Saturday.  

Cornell outdid the Crimson in shot attempts by a 24-4 margin and held an 8-2 edge in shots on goal in the first period. Though the final two periods were closer, Cornell outshot the Crimson 25-22 in the game.

An opportune moment arose in the first when a lengthy review resulted in the ejection of Harvard’s Merek Hejduk after a high hit on Seger. Cornell was awarded a five-minute major power play and the opportunity to break the ice.

It was a nearly perfect power play for the Red –– Cornell sliced passes through the Harvard penalty killers and garnered nine shot attempts on the man-advantage, including two on goal.

Key word –– nearly. The Crimson stayed composed on the elongated kill and deterred the Red’s major power play chance. 

Though Cornell was unable to cash in on its first opportunity, it made the most of its second try. The Red went back to the power play with just under six minutes left in the period, and freshman defenseman Ben Robertson capitalized –– the first-year broke to the net and lifted a backhander up over Mullahy for the game’s first goal.

“I thought we came right back out [after the major penalty], and then on the two minute minor we executed on the line-rush to score a goal, something that we talked about going into the weekend,” Schafer. “That was a great, great shift.”

Robertson, a member of the Ivy League All-Rookie team and All-ECAC third team, broke an 11-game goal drought on the opening tally.

“[Our young players] were ready to play. They were ready to execute, ready to compete [and] do all the little things that make a difference in a hockey game,” Schafer said.

Holding a 1-0 lead after 20 minutes, Cornell looked to continue its consistent game after getting away from its signature style in the latter half of Friday’s game. Harvard pressed hard and accumulated more chances than it did in the first, but junior goaltender Ian Shane came up big when needed.

Shane was stellar on Friday, making many highlight-reel stops, but was a calm and reliable presence for the Red on Saturday. Though no save was as dramatic as his stops in Friday’s final minute, Shane made few mistakes in game two, making 21 saves on 22 shots.

Mullahy surrendered many costly rebounds throughout the night, and Cornell made him pay. An ensuing scrum in front of Mullahy caused the puck to pop out to Seger, who wasted no time in burying it past the sprawling goaltender. 

The goal came with just over five minutes left in the period, a part of a late-period push by the Red to give it a 2-0 lead, bringing Cornell some breathing room as the team prepared for the third.

Physicality persisted in the third, with Cornell continuing to finish each and every hit and check. Harvard began to grow frustrated as time ticked down, but Cornell maintained its composure.

“To control your emotions [on the penalty kill] in a playoff game shows how much we’ve grown as a hockey team,” Schafer said. 

Cornell went two periods without taking a penalty, but a Seger high sticking infraction in Cornell’s defensive zone gave Harvard an opportunity with the extra-attacker, which it did not pass up. Ian Moore fired a clean wrister off a cross-crease pass to halve Cornell’s lead 7:01 into the final frame.

Tasked to kill the ensuing penalty, Cornell came up big, disrupting Harvard’s passes while junior defenseman Tim Rego made two crucial blocks to keep the Crimson at bay.

“Huge kill at the very end of the game,” Schafer said. 

Harvard upped its attack, ultimately pulling Mullahy for the extra skater with two minutes left. However, it wouldn’t be enough.

Robertson, after collecting the puck from Shane’s pads, fired an empty netter halfway down the ice to make it a 3-1 game, ultimately sealing the game. Seger joined in on the fun just 12 seconds later to make it 4-1, which would hold as the final buzzer sounded off.

The Lynah Faithful rejoiced in what would conclude Cornell’s home stand for the 2023-24 season.

“I don’t think you can script it any better,” Seger said, reflecting on his final game donning the Carnelian and White at Lynah Rink. “[A] sweep against Harvard at home [with] that crowd –– it’s just unbelievable.”

The Red will take on Dartmouth next Friday in the ECAC semifinals at Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid, NY. 

“[If we] keep playing like we did tonight and maybe adjust a couple things here during this week, I like our chances,” Seger said.