ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell knew it was good. How good? That’s a question it is still finding out.
But even the most optimistic supporters probably didn’t expect a 9-2 weekend manhandling of No. 11 Boston University.
Cornell (8-1-0, 5-1-0 ECAC) closed out a sweep of the much-anticipated weekend series with a 5-1 win at Lynah Rink on Sunday afternoon, using five different goal scorers and 25 saves from Dave LeNeveu. The Big Red are undefeated at home this season, 6-0, and, remarkably, have not won by fewer than three goals in any of the games.
After a hard-fought 4-1 win on Saturday, the Big Red looked even more impressive Sunday, continually outworking Boston University and thoroughly dominating the area around both nets.
“I think it was men playing with boys, both nights,” said BU coach Jack Parker. “I think they physically dominated us, they killed us in special teams, and all in all, we may have had some opportunities, some time in their zone during the two games, but for the most part it was all Cornell.
“And most of it had to with how hard Cornell played. They just beat us to every puck, pounded us when they had to, they defended us in front of their own net better than we’ve seen teams do against us, and we didn’t do any of that stuff. We didn’t compete anywhere near what we’re supposed to.”
Each night, Cornell led 3-0 after the first period. But unlike Saturday, when the opportunistic Big Red used two power-play goals to get three scores while being outshot, 9-4, it was a much more convincing 3-0 edge on Sunday. Cornell had a 14-8 shot advantage after the first period, and scored at even strength, 4-on-4, and the power play.
Ben Wallace won a battle along the boards as he pinched in, and set up Shane Hynes, who made a move to the net and buried his second of the weekend for a 1-0 lead. The second goal came 4-on-4 off a faceoff, as Matt McRae won the draw to Sam Paolini, who kicked it out to Jeremy Downs, and Downs put a shot up high through a screen, past BU goalie Sean Fields.
Late in the period, the power play struck, as freshman Dan Pegoraro made a great hustle play along the boards to take away what seemed like a sure clear, and got it to the net. He just missed the goal himself, but Stephen Baby used his strength to fight off a check and bury the rebound.
“We just smothered them,” said Pegoraro. “We were all over them, worked hard in the cycle down low, we got the puck to the soft spots where we needed to get it, and that was the key.”
LeNeveu made some of his best saves in the second period, and never allowed BU back in the game.
Later in the period, Parker, who was unhappy with the play of his defense on Saturday, had more reason to be upset when a turnover at center ice led to a 2-on-1. Cam Abbott set up Greg Hornby, who put a backhander over Fields and under the crossbar for a 4-0 lead.
“The opportunity the goalie gave me was that side, and I took it, and I was on my backhand, and put it in the empty net,” said Hornby, who has four goals this season after scoring just four all of last year.
“I set a goal for myself to increase my point production at the beginning of the year, so I guess it’s paying off.”
Parker said he wasn’t expecting his team to be outworked so badly.
“It was unexpected because we’re used to playing real good teams and playing hard,” said Parker. “I don’t think we were intimidated by the crowd or building, we just didn’t play well. And the gap between how little effort we were making, and how much of an effort Cornell was making — it could’ve been a 7-1 or 8-1 game.”
LeNeveu was barely denied a shutout for the second straight night. Already with three this season, he allowed only a controversial power-play goal on Saturday. In this game, Doug Murray lost a puck in his skates during a power play, and Mark Mullen got a shorthanded breakaway. Mark McRae hurried back in the play and appeared to bump Mullen off the puck at the last second, but Mullen followed up and slid a backhander through LeNeveu’s legs.
BU (7-5-2, 4-3-0 HEA) barely sniffed the net, however, in the last eight minutes, and Cornell added some icing on the cake when Pegoraro made another strong play on the boards, and helped set up Mike Knoepfli for a goal in front.
“I don’t think there was any way we were looking by Cornell thinking they weren’t that good a team,” Parker said. “We had a tough series at home against them last year, we saw them play the Harvard game [last week], we thought they played real well. … It was a matter of us not being willing to compete as hard as Cornell was. It was ‘Oh, they’re going to play this hard?’ That’s almost the way we played it.”
Said Hornby, “We knew they were a good team. It was just one of our goals to get on their ‘D’ as hard as we could, make them cough up the puck. It was all our job getting on top of them.”
Excluding two empty-netters to Dartmouth, the Big Red have allowed just 10 goals this season in nine games. They have outscored opponents 41-12, including 28-6 at home, and 39-7 in their eight wins.
Cornell travels to Western Michigan, where Schafer was once an assistant coach, for a pair of games next weekend. The Big Red don’t play another league game until early January, and not another home game until Jan. 24.
BU returns to league play next weekend, trying to regroup with a home-and-home series against Massachusetts.
“We’ve just got to play more games and practice harder, and got to get more guys in the lineup who want to play a little harder,” said Parker. “Give different guys more ice time on the power play and penalty kill who want to play harder. We have guys with reputations, but they haven’t lived up to those reputations.
“Our freshmen played real well. You’d think they’d be intimidated, [but] all our freshmen played real well. The upperclassmen are the ones that let us down, especially the forwards. I don’t think we got decent play out of three forwards all weekend other than the freshmen — [David] VanderGulik and [Brad] Zancanaro.