ESTERO, Fla. — After the Big Red beat the Buckeyes 6-5 in overtime, Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said what everybody was thinking.
“It was a really weird hockey game.”
Eleven goals and a lead that changed hands more times than laundered money. Twice the teams exchanged goals 50 seconds apart. A goal waved off that would have given the Buckeyes another tie early in the third. A freak fall into the boards that broke Greg Hornby’s arm and dislocated his shoulder.
And in the end, it was David Kozier’s goal after Sam Paolini’s sweet centering pass from behind the net that gave Cornell the 6-5 win 1:38 into overtime, sending the Big Red to the championship game of the Everblades College Classic, where they will face Maine Thursday.
“I’m sure both teams probably aren’t very pleased with how they played,” said Schafer. “It’s hard for the coaches because you expect something out of your team, but we’ve been off for three and a half weeks, and it’s just not there. It’s not there for both teams.
“Everyone’s in the same situation. There are plays and goals that just don’t happen in a normal hockey game. It’s a tough way to play hockey for a coach.”
Ohio State head coach John Markell echoed Schafer’s sentiments. “I thought all four lines played well, but you could tell that some guys were rusty, hadn’t played for a while. You could also tell they didn’t have much juice because they hadn’t been skating. You don’t skate for ten days, and you’re inactive, it’s hard to bring it back in one practice.”
Miguel Lafleche gave the Buckeyes their brief one-goal lead at 15:52 in the first period, capitalizing on Chris Olsgard’s rebound. But 50 seconds later, Scott Krahn tied it for Cornell, assisted by Hornby and Mark McRae.
Five minutes into the second period, the Buckeyes had regained the lead and added a cushion on goals by Daymen Bencharski at 1:32 and Jaisen Freeman at 5:05, but the second half of the second stanza belonged to the Big Red. Sam Paolini and Denis Ladouceur made the best of Big Red power plays at 10:24 and 14:56 to tie the game at 4-4 going into the third.
When the third period was less than a minute old, Cornell again took the lead with Doug Murray’s goal at :33, but four minutes later Doug Andress again tied the game on the Buckeye power play.
At 9:34, Stephen Baby gave Cornell yet another lead, which of course was negated by Ohio State’s Paul Caponigri at 10:24.
Then Kozier’s goal — after a spectacular glove save by Mike Betz — put an end to the madness earlier than anyone expected in the first overtime.
“I’m disappointed. I thought we played well enough to win that game,” said OSU head coach John Markell. “We didn’t play our best game, but at points we dominated — and at points they took it to us pretty good — but a couple of goals suspect, but we have to live with it, and try to regroup.”
One such goal was called back at 1:38 in the third, just after Doug Murray’s go-ahead goal for Cornell, when Bencharski charged Big Red goaltender Matt Underhill. Bencharski had appeared to put the puck into the net, but it was actually Mike McCormick who popped the puck behind Underhill as Bencharski hit Underhill in the crease.
Officials signaled a goal and not a penalty, but the goal was waved off and Bencharski went to the box.
“I understood it after he explained it, but I think Mike McCormick scored the goal after the penalty,” said Markell. “We just thought Mike McCormick scored the goal, then he [the official] blows the whistle. It was just confusing.”
The Buckeyes were without their two top centermen, rookies Dave Steckel and R.J. Umberger, who are playing with the U.S. National Junior Team in Russia. Senior captain and standout defenseman Andre Signoretti was also missing from the lineup, academically ineligible for perhaps the rest of the season.
Now the Big Red will be without Hornby for the remainder of the season because of a freak accident late in the game. Hornby was racing toward the boards near the right circle in the Buckeye end when he became tripped over Buckeye Scott May’s stick. The blade of May’s stick caught in the blade of Hornby’s skate, and the Cornell rookie went airborne, shoulder-first into the boards.
Although the Big Red looked tired for the final five minutes of the third period, Schafer said going into overtime he thought his team had the momentum. “Both teams were battle-weary. We were down three-one, and our guys were really down low, and we got really good jump from our fourth line and we got back into it, got ahead, gave up the lead — it was all over the place.”
Cornell (6-3-2, 4-1-1 ECAC) advances to the championship game to face Maine, while Ohio State (10-6-1, 7-4-1 CCHA) takes on Clarkson in the earlier consolation match.