ALBANY, N.Y. — It’s said good goaltending can carry a team through the playoffs. If that’s the case, then penalties are like pounds, and the Brown Bears took as many penalties as its standout goaltender Yann Danis could carry this afternoon, ultimately falling to a superior Cornell squad 2-0.
Playing in the semifinal of the ECAC Tournament at the Pepsi Arena against the No. 1 seed Big Red, the Bears took nine penalties and gave the Big Red’s potent power play eight chances with the man up. But it wasn’t the penalties that ultimately did Danis in; it was his team’s inability to give him any margin for error by scoring on Cornell. Danis finished with 27 saves on 29 shots, a strong performance under any conditions.
But the conditions in Albany included Cornell goaltender and ECAC co-Player of the Year Dave LeNeveu, as well as the best defense in the country, which allows a mere 1.32 goals per game. Those conditions, combined with a moribund Brown offense gave LeNeveu his ninth shutout of the season and Cornell a pass to the championship game. That puts LeNeveu one shutout shy of the all-time single-season NCAA record, held by 2001 Hobey Baker Award winner Ryan Miller.
For almost 40 minutes, it was a scoreless hockey game. But with 2:06 left in the second, center Chris Abbott passed the puck into the Brown zone and to his brother Cam. Cam skated in on Danis’ left, with Greg Hornby skating with him. Brown defender Gerry Burke was the only defenseman back, but he got caught in the middle of Abbott and Hornby and wasn’t in position to take the body on either when Abbott slipped a quick pass across the middle to Hornby. Hornby wristed the puck to the net faster than Danis could slide across the crease, and the ice was finally broken. The period ended Cornell 1, Brown 0.
“We were pressuring and pressuring [in the second period] and we finally got one to break the ice,” Schafer said.
Cornell’s goal came under an even-strength situation, a rare occurrence over the game’s first two frames. The Big Red had a number of prime scoring chances, including 1:14 with the 5-on-3 advantage, but Danis was equal to the task every time.
“Yann Danis played a superb hockey game,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “Danis made some unbelievable saves on that 5-on-3 power play.”
As impressive as Danis was, the Cornell defense was just as effective. The first period ended with the Bears recording a single shot on goal. And even as the shots did mount, the chances weren’t there.
“We obviously didn’t create enough scoring chances or get enough offense going,” Brown coach Roger Grillo said. “I give a lot of credit to Cornell.”
And the Big Red certainly deserved the credit; it killed off six Brown power plays and its defensemen blocked 11 shots, letting LeNeveu see less than a dozen shots all night.
“We only gave up 11 shots … that’s a pretty good smothering defense,” Schafer said.
Despite that defense, the Cornell’s victory wasn’t secured until more than halfway through the third when defenseman Travis Bell blasted a shot from just inside the blue line. Danis was screened and never saw the puck until it had passed between his legs.
After that, Cornell did what it does best, and sat on the lead until the final buzzer sounded.
With the win, Cornell improved to 27-4-1 and will play in the 7 p.m. championship game against the winner of the Harvard/Dartmouth semifinal. The Bears are relegated to the consolation game tomorrow afternoon against the loser of that semifinal.