ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell was sick and tired of “The Streak” already when it went to Dartmouth in November. They realized then that being fed up with it wasn’t enough; they had to play well, too. As a result, the winless streak against the Big Green reached eight games in a 5-2 loss.
Friday at Lynah Rink, the Big Red finally channeled it all together — the emotion of the home crowd, their strong play in general, and their desire to get the proverbial gorilla off their back. The result this time was a 6-1 domination, as Cornell outshot Dartmouth, 45-20, and kept pace with Harvard for first place in the ECAC with a game in hand.
“I can stand here and tell you we didn’t have anywhere near our ‘A’ game, but that’s disrespectful to Cornell,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. “Cornell had their ‘A’ game, and we couldn’t match up. … they were better than us in every single facet of the game.”
Freshman Matt Moulson scored his first career hat trick — one goal in each period — capping it off with a spectacular series of moves, around and between two defenders, before finishing it off with a shot that got by relief goaltender Darren Gastrock.
“It was a great pass by [Ryan] Vesce. He found me wide, and I was actually thinking of going wide,” said Moulson. “I guess instincts took over. I got caught up in the guy’s legs, I was looking and he was looking, and luckily I came out with it, and I just threw it on net, to tell you the truth. It probably looked better than I planned it to be.”
Gastrock was thrown to the wolves in the third period, after starter Nick Boucher was roughed up for four goals in the first two. Boucher, a senior, had been there for most of that 7-0-1 streak against Cornell, and the Big Red were more than pleased to finally break his spell.
“He’s definitely had our number, he’s done a great job against us for the last three and a half years,” said Cornell senior defenseman Mark McRae. “So it was really nice to have him out of the net. …. It was nice that we’d gotten by him. It seemed like we played him before, and he made saves off his head, off his butt, off of everything.”
It seemed evident right away that things would be different this time. Highly-touted Dartmouth freshman Hugh Jessiman, the ECAC’s leading scorer, took a penalty just seven seconds into the game and was a non-factor the rest of the way. That led to a 1-0 Cornell lead, as the vaunted No. 1 power-play unit broke a recent scoring drought.
“Our power play had been struggling a little,” McRae said. “We’d been getting a lot of chances, we just having been putting it in. So it was nice for our power play to step up for us right away.”
Cornell went right back on the power play, but couldn’t convert, and it appeared that the Big Green had gotten themselves back into the game. They put 11 shots on net in the first period, and tested Big Red goalie Dave LeNeveu, only to be repeatedly denied.
When Cornell took a 2-0 lead later in the first period, the game already appeared well in hand.
“We had a lot more aggressiveness right off the bat,” McRae said.
The second period just emphasized Cornell’s control of the game, as the Big Red had a 16-5 shot advantage and scored two more times. The first came from Doug Murray just 1:10 into the period, as he followed up a scramble in the slot, jumped into the play, and buried a shot from between the circles. Moulson followed, just as a penalty had expired, putting in a rebound of a shot from Dan Pegoraro.
“It’s more what they did, rather than what we didn’t do,” Gaudet said. “I wish we had a little bit more defensive intensity and posture in our end, a little more poise with the puck. We’ve had very few games, even in our losses, where we didn’t have that, and again, I think that’s more a credit to them.”
Moulson capped off his hat trick early in the third to make it 5-0.
“It’s pretty easy to play well when you have two great linemates,” said Moulson. “Vesce and [Stephen] Baby have really taken me under their wing this year, this was kind of a breakout game for me.
Dartmouth wound up with its only goal from Chris Snizek at 11:50 of the third period, which didn’t come without controversy. A bad clear led to a shot towards the Cornell net, that deflected up in the air. As LeNeveu jumped up to grab it, he fell — or was knocked down, depending on who you ask — and Snizek was able to bang it in after the puck fell to the ice. Cornell also contested that it was played with a high stick.
Either way, LeNeveu saw a shutout come to a tough-luck end once again. He’s allowed just one goal in six games this season, and in four of those games, the only goal allowed has come in a bizarre or controversial fashion. LeNeveu is sitting on five shutouts, one short of the Cornell single-season record, set by Ken Dryden in 1967-68.
Cornell answered Dartmouth’s goal with one of its own, just 32 seconds later, from Chris Abbott, closing out the scoring.
A few minutes later, the relief and jubilation of finally bumping off Dartmouth was complete, especially for the seniors, who were getting their last chance.
“You don’t want to hear the stories again,” said Moulson. “It was finally time for someone to end it. I don’t want that streak going for my years, so it was about time it ended.”
From Dartmouth’s perspective, it was just another tough road loss, compared to a great home win against the same team.
“The one in Hanover was in Hanover. That’s the biggest difference,” said Gaudet. “It doesn’t look it tonight, but we’re a better team than we were in Hanover earlier in the year.
“It’s a funny game. home ice means a lot in hockey, and this [Lynah Rink] is a tough place to play, and this is a very tough team. This is a team that can win the national championship. I’ve said that from day one … some people think I’m crazy. And it’s not because I’m biased with the ECAC league-wise, I’ve seen this team play. And I told Mike after the game, his team plays hockey. They play hard, they beat us to pucks, they beat in every area of the game, and they deserved to win.”