ITHACA, N.Y. — One of the best offenses in the ECAC met one of the best defenses in the ECAC Saturday night at Lynah Rink. The defense won.
Cornell (5-3-2, 4-1-1 ECAC) used physical play and great special-teams to subdue the Tigers of Princeton (4-3-3, 3-3-2), 3-0, before a raucous, sellout Lynah crowd. The win gave the Red a four-point weekend and moved it atop the ECAC standings for the first time this year. The shutout was the first for senior goaltender Ian Burt and the first by an ECAC team against the Tigers in 118 ECAC contests.
Princeton, which had scored seven goals the night before against Colgate, could get nothing going offensively for the majority of the game. The Tigers only mustered four first-period shots, none taken in the slot. Meanwhile, Cornell heaped the pressure upon junior goaltender Dave Stathos of Princeton, who played a solid first period to keep the Red off the scoreboard despite numerous good chances right in front of his net.
Cornell finally cracked Stathos at the 14:54 mark of the second period, on its first power play of the evening. Sophomore defenseman Doug Murray unloaded a slapshot from the blue line that missed the net, but bounced off the boards to freshman Ryan Vesce, who slammed it home past a diving Stathos.
Meanwhile, senior goaltender Burt was having a relatively easy evening. Princeton managed only six second period shots, as it continued to have trouble carrying the puck into the zone and around the stifling Red defense.
“Princeton is very good offensively, they’re very dangerous,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “I thought we did a good job of containing them.”
“I thought the whole team played awesome tonight,” the netminder said. “They gave [Princeton] nothing all night.”
Despite the relative dominance of Cornell the first two periods, the Big Red remained only one goal up after the first 40 minutes. That changed quickly at the 1:24 mark of the third, when sophomore Matt McRae was on the end of hard work in the corners from his linemates, Vesce and sophomore Stephen Baby. Vesce and Baby won the battle for a puck in the corner, then found McRae in the slot, who skated around Stathos and put the puck in the back of the net.
Princeton had a chance to get back in the game when Cornell’s Greg Hornby and Shane Palahicky took back-to-back penalties, giving Princeton 1:40 of five-on-three power-play time at the 3:53 mark of the third. Princeton saw some of its best chances on the evening during that stretch, and though Cornell was unable to clear the zone, the Tigers were unable to put it home thanks to brilliant goaltending from Burt and tight defense.
“I thought Ian [Burt] did a tremendous job during the five-on-three,” said Schafer. “[The kill] was the turning point of the game.”
With the Red again on the power play at the 12:05 mark in the third, Murray got the goal that had barely eluded him in the second when he took a nearly identical slap shot from the blue line that beat Stathos high glove side.
From that point, Cornell simply ran time off the clock and kept the Tigers’ big scorers at bay.
Burt described the win as the most complete the team had posted all year.
“Every game we’ve played this year we’ve played like that for a bit of the game, but we’ve never put a full game together,” the senior said. “Tonight we just came out and put everything together.”
Princeton has only two victories at Cornell since the 1980-81 season.