ESTERO, Fla. — Second-ranked Maine scored three third-period goals, including an empty-netter, to stave off Cornell, 3-2, in the first round of the Florida Everblades Classic, improving its unbeaten streak to 15 games (13-0-2).
In the process, the No. 3 Big Red saw a six-game winning streak snapped, as they lost a third-period lead, and allowed three straight goals, for the first time this season.
“We’re really disappointed,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “I don’t know how many times in eight years we’ve lost a game where we had the lead going into the third. The mental mistakes we made cost us — a bad line change, a mistake within our system, ended up costing us.”
Todd Marr, making his first career start with Dave LeNeveu at the World Junior Championships, made 22 saves in the loss. Maine was also without No. 1 goalie Jim Howard and forward Greg Moore, who are at the World Juniors playing for Team USA.
“I was a little nervous. It was exciting to be out there, and I was thankful for the opportunity to step out and play,” said Marr. “I just wish we could’ve gotten the win.”
After controlling the first period, but failing to score, Cornell (10-2) finally got on the board with a power-play goal in the second period. Stephen Baby set up Doug Murray for a one-timer from the blue line, and Murray ripped it under the crossbar and in.
“It’s frustrating we didn’t bury [more of] our chances we created in the first and second period,” Schafer said.
Maine coach Tim Whitehead knew his team was lucky to escape down just one goal.
“We were thoroughly outplayed in the first — thoroughly, in every aspect of the game,” Whitehead said. “I thought [Maine goalie] Frank Doyle was the difference; he kept us in the game when we shouldn’t have been in it. We didn’t even know what rink we were in. It was embarrassing.
“Then, the second and third period, to the guys’ credit, we fought hard to get back in the game. We started competing again.”
Maine started to turn things around thanks to three straight power plays, and although it failed to score, that allowed the Black Bears to get on a roll. By the end of the second period, they had taken a clear territorial edge.
Early in the third period, that paid off with the equalizing goal. Cornell was caught on a bad line change, and Martin Kariya set up Lucas Lawson for a shot in front. Marr made a great stop on the initial shot, but Lawson squeezed the rebound just inside the short-side post, past Marr’s right skate.
“He just picked the side,” Marr said. “I just didn’t come over in time. I just missed it. It was a great shot.”
Maine took the lead midway through the period, when Robert’s Liscak’s centering pass went off the leg of Cornell backchecker Matt McRae and in.
“They were well-rested after the first,” Whitehead quipped about his team. “Then we started competing. And then it was just a bounce either way that could have been the difference.”
Neither of the two goals were the fault of Marr, who played a solid game in a his first outing.
“Todd definitely gave us a chance to win the hockey game,” Schafer said. “He did a tremendous job. It’s got to be disappointing for him not to get a victory, just like the rest of us are.”
The Black Bears added an empty-netter with 57 seconds remaining, but it wasn’t over yet, as Cornell continued to pressure, and got a goal when Cam Abbott put one off Doyle’s leg and in from behind the net with 27.1 seconds remaining.
“We’re disappointed in how we played, and they probably aren’t too happy with some of their mistakes,” Schafer said. “But we didn’t capitalize on our chances when we created them, and that came back to bite us.”
Cornell had a last-gasp try in the closing seconds, as a 4-on-2 developed. Ryan Vesce sent one in front as three teammates went to the net, but Doyle calmly gloved it off the ice through the mess of bodies.
“I was really impressed with Cornell,” said Whitehead. “They’re legitimate in every way. So we feel very fortunate to come out of this game with a win. We’re fortunate we weren’t down three or four-nothing.
“It was a great game, with a lot of swings in momentum. There was a little bit of everything, a couple crazy power-play shifts for both teams, and hard-working hockey.”
Kariya played Saturday’s game despite the sudden death of his father, Tatsuhiko, late Friday night at his home in Vancouver. No details are yet known.
Maine plays Massachusetts in the championship game on Sunday.
Cornell tries to regroup against Ohio State in the consolation game, a team it defeated to open the season. Last season, Cornell lost a tough game the first night, then never got going the second night, in a game Schafer called his team’s worst of the season.
“It’s a frustrating way to lose. I thought we deserved a better fate than we got,” Schafer said. “But you’ve got to use that as a learning experience. And especially coming back tomorrow. We can’t do what we did last year. Guys got to come back in a hurry, [even though] they’re disappointed and our staff is disappointed.”