BURLINGTON, Vt. — The word “juggernaut” may be loosely thrown around, but it’s starting to get awfully darned appropriate for the No. 9 Cornell Big Red.
Cornell got goals from eight different players, and Dave LeNeveu posted his second straight shutout, as the Big Red steamrolled past Vermont, 8-0, at Gutterson Fieldhouse on Friday. With the win, the Big Red improve to 4-0 (3-0 ECAC) and are the only unbeaten, untied team in the nation.
The Big Red have outscored opponents 20-3 this season, including 17-2 in ECAC games, and are best in the league in offense, defense and special teams.
The back-to-back shutouts were the first recorded by Cornell since 1975-76, and lowered LeNeveu’s goals against average to 0.75 overall. He needed to make just 13 saves, however, as again the Cornell defense smothered an opponent.
Vermont was 0-for-5 on the power play, making the Big Red penalty killing now a perfect 11-for-11 in ECAC play this season. The win was also by far the largest margin of victory in Cornell-Vermont history, dating back 29 years.
“In the second period — and even the first — we came out strong, we hit well, we played positionally well, good breakout,” said Vermont coach Mike Gilligan. “Strategically things were going pretty well. Then there was a couple of unnecessary opportunities. It’s been killing us for three games now.”
Cornell scored five goals in the first 14:18 of the game, and chased freshman goalie Travis Russell from the game. Russell was coming off a 52-save loss that tied the Vermont school record. Jeremy Downs and Greg Hornby got things started with goals 33 seconds apart, and Mark McRae, Stephen Baby and Daniel Pegoraro added first-period scores.
Gilligan then switched to another — though little-used — freshman Matt Hanson, who escaped the rest of the first period unscathed. However, the Big Red padded the lead in the second, with a goal from Matt McRae at 1:12, and a power-play effort from Sam Paolini at 19:33.
The Big Red coasted home.
“We really talked about eliminating their chances, and not getting selfish on the ice,” said Schafer, “and trying to go for goals rather than stay in our system, and eliminate them from getting any scoring opportunities at all.”
The story was the same for the Big Red throughout the night. Get bodies in front of the net, cause chaos, create screens, and let the shooters pick corners. On the other end, Vermont was never able to get its legs going, as the Cornell defense had every avenue smothered.
“We score a lot of goals with traffic in front of the net, and sometimes they go in like that,” Schafer said.
Said Gilligan, “We obviously need some size. They were really strong on their sticks, great along the boards. They just pushed us off the puck. Our scoring opportunities were limited. We didn’t get an inside shots or good opportunities.”
It was textbook Cornell, with more of this season’s improved skating thrown into the mix.
“They can play a couple different types of games,” said Gilligan. “I don’t know if they’re as good as UNH from what I’ve seen right now, but that’s a great team.”
Cam Abbott added a third-period goal. Highly-touted Freshman Matt Moulson saw his first action of the season, and had an assist. Shane Palahicky added three assists for Cornell.
Once Cornell had gotten the big lead, Schafer was happy the game didn’t deteriorate.
“Sometimes, games like this tend to get out of hand,” Schafer said. “I really give credit to coach Gilligan for his team staying disciplined.”
Vermont will try to bounce back Saturday night against Colgate at home.
“They bounced back well after a tough UNH game [a 10-0 Vermont loss],” Gilligan said. “I think if we just put this behind us, we’ll be OK tomorrow night.”
The Big Red face nemesis Dartmouth on Saturday, a team they are 0-6-1 against in the last seven meetings.