ITHACA, N.Y. — David Kozier’s overtime goal lifted Cornell to a 3-2 victory over Princeton in the first game of a best-of-three, first-round series. Princeton and Cornell will play Game 2 of the series Saturday at 7 p.m.
Cornell won the faceoff to the right of Princeton goalie Dave Stathos. Sam Paolini slid a pass to Kozier, and his backhander at 7:25 of the extra period went high over Stathos’ blocker as the Big Red erased the Tigers two-goal, third-period lead.
David Schneider and Shane Campbell scored early third-period goals less than two minutes apart as Princeton took a 2-0 lead, but a pair of Ryan Vesce power-play goals forced overtime.
Campbell gave Princeton a two-goal advantage with a gorgeous move that beat two Cornell defenders. Cornell goalie Matt Underhill tried in vain for a poke check, and Campbell put it into an empty net.
But, shortly thereafter, Princeton started a parade to the penalty box, with a combination of some tight calls and ill-advised Princeton plays. Vesce took advantage as his centering pass from the right faceoff circle deflected off Schneider’s leg and behind Stathos.
Midway through the period, senior captain Kirk Lamb took a double-minor penalty, and it marked a huge shift in the game. Lamb had been battling with 6-foot-5-inch Cornell forward Stephen Baby throughout the shift, and when Lamb finally took his man down, he was called for a penalty. Then, as Underhill was coming off for an extra skater, Lamb ran into him and was called for an extra roughing penalty.
Vesce then made the Tigers pay again. This time the freshman winger took a pass from Larry Pierce at the Tiger blueline and skated around a defenseman before sliding a shot past Stathos.
“I took a penalty and it was stupid,” said Lamb. “The guy was on top of me and I stood up and tripped him. And Underhill was skating to the bench and I hit him, and I guess he [the referee] has to call it. I can take the criticism, I took stupid penalties.”
Lamb acknowledged he was a marked man all game, but said it should be no excuse.
“I’ve been getting that all year and I don’t take eight minutes in penalties every game. The penalty killers bailed me out twice, but the odds are against me they’re going to score. I knew going in they’d be on me.
“I’m a leader of a team and I know when I make mistakes. For three periods and overtime we played fantastic with the exception of 10 seconds when I took two penalties. It’s part of the game, but to take eight [minutes] is unacceptable.”
Stathos played well, stopping 31 shots, but once again the Cornell power play proved to be the difference. The Big Red has scored seven goals in three games this season against the Tigers, five have been with the man advantage.
After two scoreless periods, Schneider broke free just 26 seconds into the third period when took a pass from George Parros, cut to the slot and put a backhander behind Cornell goalie Matt Underhill.
Less than two minutes later Campbell broke up the Cornell play at the Tiger blueline and skated untouched up ice. His forehand move fooled Underhill and Princeton held a 2-0 lead.
Despite not scoring through the first 40 minutes, both teams had quality opportunities. Lamb, back in the lineup after sitting out the final weekend of the regular season with an injury, had perhaps the Tigers’ two best two chances in the first. Midway through the period he couldn’t quite kick the puck to his stick while at the left of Underhill, and later his backhander from the slot slid just wide of the left post.
Late in the first period freshman Sharam Fouladgar-Mercer forced a turnover and drove to the net, crashing into Underhill and he was switching from his backhand to his forehand. The senior goalie smothered the puck as Fouladgar-Mercer cut across the crease.
Stathos was tested on several occasions in the first, stopping all 11 shots that he faced. Cornell’s two best chances were by defenseman Mark McRae, who walked down the slot early in the period and later had a prime scoring opportunity on the power play.
Early in the second period Stathos robbed David Francis on the power play, one of his 13 saves in the period.
Underhill was equally impressive at the other end of the ice. He made a sprawling save when Scott Prime attempted to put home a Lamb rebound at 7:34 of the second with the Tigers on the power play. Later Campbell led Tigers on a three-on-two break.
Underhill stopped Campbell’s initial shot and somehow kept out George Parros’ rebound attempt from the crease. The Tigers continued to pressure the Big Red as Underhill stopped Chris Corrinet from the goalmouth with four minutes remaining in the second period, and moments later the Big Red netminder made a right pad save off a shot from Brad Parsons.
Skating with four-on-three advantage, Stathos twice stopped Kozier in the second period. Stathos became entangled with congestion in the crease and was knocked down but made glove save on Mark McRae with 1:30 remaining in the period to preserve the scoreless tie.
Princeton killed off five penalties through two periods, and Ethan Doyle and Neil McCann blocked several shots in a penalty-killing role. In the third period, however, the Cornell power play was the difference.
“You’ve just gotta forget about it,” said Lamb. “It’s such a cliche, and it’s impossible really. But we have to go to bed and come back and give it a shot. We’re playing our best hockey right now, and we played with them every step of the way tonight.
“I was emotional — but as a leader of a team, you have to keep that in check and focus it in the right direction. There’s no excuse for it, everyone’s emotional right now.”