ITHACA, N.Y. — If you could take every Cornell (15-11-5, 13-8-3 ECAC) victory from the past season and wrap them up into one package, the Red’s 2-1 victory over Princeton (10-16-5, 9-11-4) to clinch a spot in the ECAC’s final five would be it.
The game featured everything a Cornell victory could want to have, great special teams play, hard work, solid goaltending and a raucous crowd at Lynah Rink cheering the Red to its second straight appearance at Lake Placid and fifth in six years.
“It feels great [to be going back to Lake Placid],” said Cornell’s head coach Mike Schafer. “That’s what you work hard all year for.”
It was that work ethic that led to the first Cornell goal on the evening. With Denis Ladouceur holding up his man on the forecheck, Sam Paolini skated in and blindsided the Princeton player for a sandwich check. When the dust settled, the puck had dribbled loose and onto the stick of Ladouceur, who buried it five hole on Princeton’s Dave Stathos.
The Princeton players seemed ill prepared to deal with Cornell’s physical play for a second night in a row and found themselves checked off the puck repeatedly in the first period. Cornell would finish the frame with 16 shots compared to Princeton’s six.
Keeping Princeton in it was Stathos, who was on his way to having his second straight incredible game. The Princeton netminder once finished with 35 saves on 37 shots, and really kept the game close, especially during the first period.
“Stathos played great,” said Schafer. “We had opportunities to go up on them more than 2-0 and he stood tall.”
Cornell kept its momentum in the second period by drawing its second power play opportunity of the game. With the Tigers’ Peter Zavodny in the box for slashing, Paolini found the net himself this time, redirecting a slap shot from the recently returned Doug Murray.
With a 2-0 lead, Cornell seemed to then switch to cruise control, a dangerous decision against a speedy team like the Tigers. Princeton made the Red pay later in the period, as Shane Campbell scored his second goal in as many games when he jammed the puck through the pads of a previously impenetrable Matt Underhill. The goal was a combination of a Cornell defensive let down and a great individual effort by Campbell.
The third period opened with an obvious feel of desperation for the Tigers. Cornell had not lost this year when leading after two periods, but Princeton seemed determined to break that jinx. Cornell was on its heels for the first minutes of the period, but the team regained its composure quickly after that.
“They came out pretty hard [in the third period], but they had to, they were fighting for their lives,” Underhill said. “I thought we responded pretty well.”
The Tigers fired shot after shot at Underhill, who hadn’t seen too much action on the night until that point. He was as solid as a rock in the third period however, turning aside all 15 Princeton shots (for a total of 31 saves) en route to becoming the game’s no. 1 star.
“Matt Underhill played a great game,” said Schafer. “He did a real solid job of covering up rebounds as they were crashing the net hard.”
Lost in the shuffle was the fact that the victory marked the 100th career win for Schafer. He becomes the fourth Cornell coach to reach that milestone.