ITHACA, N.Y. — Despite a 6-2 win Friday night, Cornell wasn’t happy with its third-period defensive letdown that led to two late goals. But the stingy defense turned in a more typical performance, and helped earn sophomore goalie David LeNeveu the shutout that eluded him a night earlier.
Ryan Vesce scored twice and added an assist as Cornell defeated Princeton, 3-0, on Saturday at Lynah Rink. Freshman Cam Abbott added a goal and an assist, and LeNeveu needed just 16 saves for the whitewash.
“It’s always been a good sign of our team to learn by mistakes, and the third period [Friday] night was a mistake for us,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “To give up two goals was unacceptable. And we came back tonight and got the lead and totally shut them down.”
After a scoreless first period in which Cornell (3-0-0, 2-0-0 ECAC) outshot the Tigers, 8-1, the Big Red finally broke onto the scoreboard thanks in large part to the work of 6-foot-5 forward Stephen Baby. Baby used his size, strength and wingspan to fend off the Princeton defense, and eventually got free for a shot. Princeton goalie Trevor Clay made the initial save before Abbott knocked in the rebound.
Princeton continued to play solid and smart, and did not fold under the Cornell pressure, but still couldn’t muster much of an offensive threat on LeNeveu. And in the period’s closing minute, Abbott made a move down the wing, and after it was poke-checked off his stick, Vesce hopped up and buried a perfectly-placed wrist shot from the left-wing circle for a 2-0 lead.
The shots after two periods were 21-9, Cornell.
“Defensively, it was a well-played game,” said Princeton coach Len Quesnelle. “They limited chances, limited attempts, and we had a hard time getting to the front of the net.”
The third period was much of the same, punctuated by Vesce’s second goal of the game, again from the left-wing circle.
“He played great,” said Schafer of Vesce. “He has worked so hard in the summer to improve his skating, and he just played a different tempo tonight. … We look for big games from a lot of our guys as they go through our program. … Now he’s a junior, and he represents that. He’s a much better hockey player this year than he was last year.”
Clay, in line to rotate time with Nate Nomeland this season after playing just three games during his freshman year, ended up with 26 saves.
“I was happy with Trevor’s performance,” said Quesnelle. “I thought he really battled hard. He came up with some real big saves, he was able to get on loose rebounds and cover them up in timely situations.
“I didn’t think we played all that bad, [but] I think we played a little careful. If we’re going to be successful in this league, we’ve gotta stick our necks out there and take more risks, and get involved. And Cornell is a tough team to get involved against because they really do a good job neutralizing you.”
The only minor blemish for Cornell was the inability to score a power-play goal on three chances, including a lengthy 5-on-3, during which Doug Murray had numerous open point shots. He kept blasting away, but couldn’t hit the net.
“That’s what you want,” said Schafer, not the least bit concerned about it. “I hate being cute. You just gotta keep shooting the puck. Dougie did that and so did Charlie Cook.
“A lot of those shots went through and out the other side, but those things are gonna happen. It drives me crazy on a 5-on-3, you pass it around and kill it yourself, and we didn’t do that. It was a shooting gallery down there and that’s what you want.”