ITHACA, N.Y. — Rensselaer gave its all in its ECAC tournament quarterfinal-round series against Cornell. But the talent of the Big Red proved to be too much for the Engineers to overcome.
Cornell got goals from all of its forward lines, and goalie David LeNeveu increased his team record for shutouts with his eight as the top-seeded Big Red eliminated the 11th-seeded Engineers from the postseason with a 4-0 Game 2 victory Saturday at Lynah Rink.
The Big Red (26-4-1), the second-ranked team in the nation, advances to the ECAC final four next weekend at Pepsi Arena. They will play in the first semifinal game at 3:30 p.m. Friday. Their opponent will be determined on Sunday.
The Engineers conclude their season at 12-24-3, their worst record since 1995-96, when they were 10-22-3. First-line center Ryan Vesce, third-line left wing Mike Knoepfli, fourth-line left wing Cam Abbott and second-line right wing Shane Hynes scored the Cornell goals.
The Big Red outshot the Engineers, 59-35, in the series.
“They’re a good hockey team,” RPI coach Dan Fridgen said. “It’s not so much talent as is they’re pretty deep all the way through. They’ve got four lines that play real strong.”
“Territorially, they do what they normally do. They put a lot of pressure on you. They sustained that pressure, and they feed off their forecheck,” he added.
Cornell coach Mike Schafer said having four quality lines has been a reason for the team’s success.
“I’ve always said we built this team with playoffs in mind,” Schafer said. “You always want to get home ice, and you want to wear a team down. A strong, physical team can do that.”
RPI almost scored the game’s first goal with 9:30 left in the first period during a power play. Nolan Graham, stationed to the right of the net, slid a pass to Ryan Shields skating down the slot. Shields quickly fired, but goalie LeNeveu got his right pad on it and smothered it.
“It was a good chance,” Shields said. “I thought I had a chance at it. At the last second, a [Cornell defender] got a stick on me. I got a little bit of wood on it, but not enough.”
The Big Red grabbed a 1-0 lead late in the first. Stephen Bby fired a shot from the right circle that goalie Nathan Marsters stopped. The rebound bounced into the slot, where Vesce and RPI’s Danny Eberly went after it. The puck hit off of Vesce’s skate and rolled into the net at 18:39.
Cornell made it a two-goal lead on a gorgeous play at 4:42 of the second period. Knoepfli carried the puck down the right wing into the RPI zone. He then made a pass to Daniel Pegoraro in the slot. Pegoraro carried the puck to the net, and had the Engineers overpursuing him. That left Knoepfli open on the right side. Pegoraro gave the puck to Knoepfli, who fired it into the open net.
“In our end, at times, we got puck watching a little bit and didn’t sort things out,” Fridgen said. “The guy [Pegoraro] made a good play to the open man off the flank.”
Cornell increased its lead to three at 3:59 of the third period. Greg Hornby forced RPI defenseman Scott Basiuk to turn the puck over in the Engineers zone. Abbott picked up the puck and fired it past Marsters’glove 3:59 into the third period. Hynes scored off of a scramble midway through the third.
“I’m proud of these guys,” Fridgen said. “They worked real hard. They didn’t throw the towel in. They continued to shoot the puck, and get the puck deep and work on what we wanted to try to execute as a team.”
Notebook: RPI assistant coach Ivan Moore’s wife, Marta, gave birth to the couple first child Saturday morning. They had a boy, and named him Andrew. . . . Cornell finished the season 15-0 at Lynah. It is 23-0-1 in its last 24 home games. . . . RPI’s 25 losses are a team record. The Engineers played in 40 games this season, also a team high.
Ken Schott covers college hockey for The Daily Gazette in Schenectady, N.Y.