ITHACA, N.Y. — Excuse Vermont for not feeling sorry for Dave LeNeveu.
The Cornell goaltender, having already shut out Vermont once this season, lost another shutout bid in the game’s closing minutes Saturday night. It was the only blemish in the otherwise complete manhandling by the Big Red, 8-1, at Lynah Rink.
It was the third straight game in which LeNeveu — the nation’s leader in goals against average at 1.16 — allowed just a single third-period goal in a Cornell win. As a result, he still remains one shy of Ken Dryden’s single-season school record of six shutouts, set in 1967-68.
After the late power-play goal snapped the shutout, LeNeveu gave a bemused look of exasperation.
“I’m really upset for him,” said Cornell forward Shane Palahicky. “The guy works so hard and plays so well. He keeps us in the start of the game, and the least we can do is play strong defensively. But it was just a bad bounce.”
Nevertheless, the win put Cornell two points up on idle Harvard, each with six games to play, including next Saturday’s contest against each other in Cambridge.
The Big Red showed no letdown after Friday’s big win over Dartmouth, and for the second straight night they jumped on an early power play, getting a goal from Mark McRae at 1:37 of the first period. Cornell coach Mike Schafer could tell things were going well early.
“I think those guys have learned their lesson very, very well,” said Schafer. “Especially this weekend, we were very thorough, and we were very disciplined.”
Cornell had only just begun to unleash its fury, overwhelming Vermont with an 18-2 shot edge in the first period and two more goals. Palahicky made it 2-0 on a deflection of a point shot, and Matt McRae put in a rebound after Shane Hynes had paved the way with a power rush down the left wing.
“I didn’t have a lot of room,” said Hynes. “I was right on top of the goalie, which is pretty much why I ran him over. There was a pretty big rebound and Matty put it home.”
As if Vermont was not already up against it enough, early in the second period saw a parade of penalties which led to two consecutive 5-on-3 power plays for Cornell. The result: two 5-on-3 goals, plus another goal on the ensuing 5-on-4 power play.
Stephen Baby and Sam Paolini scored the 5-on-3 goals, basically uncontested in front of the net. At that point, Vermont starter Shawn Conschafter — who, really, played well, believe it or not — was pulled in favor of freshman Matt Hanson.
The third goal of the power-play sequence, which made it 6-0, came off a tremendous one-time pass out of the right-wing corner, from Mike Knoepfli to Shane Hynes. Knoepfli fired a perfect pass along the ice to Hynes at the top of the crease, and Hynes somehow put it in the top shelf.
“We’ve been working that pass a long time in practice,” said Hynes. “It’s been working the past week in practice. Before [Knoepfli] even got the puck I yelled, ‘Net,’ and he didn’t even look; he knew I was going to be there. He just one-timed it there.
“Both goalies aren’t very big, and you know you have to go upstairs on those goalies. And they’re butterfly goalies, they go down in a hurry. So I just tried to get underneath it as much as I could, and it just went underneath the bar.”
Late in the period, Matt Moulson tacked on another power-play goal, using Hynes as a screen. It was Moulson’s fourth goal of the weekend, and 11th of the season.
The Cornell power play finished 5-for-7.
Palahicky added his second of the game midway through the third period, off a gorgeous give-and-go with Dan Pegoraro.
“Pegoraro made an unbelievable play,” Palahicky said.
Tim Plant scored the power-play goal for Vermont, as his shot got a piece of a defender and went in the top left corner.
Schafer then replaced LeNeveu with freshman Louis Chabot for the final 2:58. Chabot made one save in his first official varsity action.
During a late power play, Palahicky had a couple great chances for a hat trick, including one where he just missed a wide open net. The Big Red almost had hat tricks on back-to-back nights (Moulson did it Friday), after not having had one previously since November 1998.
“Peggy [Pegoraro] made a great play in front, shot the puck, and I went to the net,” Palahicky said. “And I have no idea what happened. I was getting mugged, there was like three guys on me. I was just trying to get my stick on it. I thought it went in, I was about to raise my hands, but unfortunately, it just didn’t pop in the net.”
The third period also saw an all-out fight, between Greg Hornby of Cornell and Jamie Sifers of Vermont. Hornby — whose 90 penalty minutes is 22 shy of Cornell’s single season record — landed numerous rights before it was all over. He received a 5-minute major for punching and a game disqualification, while Sifers received 2 for roughing, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct, but no DQ.
An amused Mark McRae said of Hornby, “I can’t really get into his head for you, I don’t think many people can. … I guess he had some sort of tiff with the guy early in the game, but something deifnitely snapped there.”
NOTES: Former U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno (class of ’60) was at the game, as was another alum, NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, whose son is a freshman at Cornell.