ITHACA, N.Y. — For the second straight night, Western Michigan stunned the raucous Lynah Rink crowd by taking a two-goal third-period lead. This time, the Broncos finished the job.
After taking a 3-1 lead early in the third period, Western Michigan goalie Scott Foster faced 15 shots in the final period, stopping all but one in the final minute. It was too late, however, for Cornell to stage any more dramatics.
“It was a solid team effort,” said Western Michigan coach Jim Culhane. “We haven’t had a lot of success on the road. Tonight and this weekend in one of the toughest places to play in college hockey … hopefully this could be a good step for our hockey program.”
The loss for the Big Red was their first at home since Jan. 11, 2002, a span of 25 games.
“For probably half of our team it’s their first loss at Lynah, so it leaves a sick feeling in your stomach,” said Cornell junior defenseman Jeremy Downs. “But we also realize that it’s a different team than we’ve had the last three years, so it might take longer to get where we want to get, and it’s a different road. … It’s the beginning of the year, we’ve made some little mistakes, but we’ll definitely get back to the drawing board and figure this out.”
Cornell (0-1-1) opened its season Friday with an uncharacteristic defensive performance, tying 5-5. Cornell did not allow more than 3 non-empty-net goals all season during last year’s Frozen Four run.
The defense clamped down more Saturday, but were done in by a shorthanded goal, and a missed assignment in the third period.
“I thought we played better tonight than we did last night,” Schafer said.
Texas-born freshman David McKee was in goal for the second straight night for Cornell, stopping 22 shots.
Cornell’s special teams struggles continued. It had three power-play chances in the first period it could not convert on. The Broncos followed that up with three straight power plays of their own, and finally converted on a the last one on a slap shot by Ryan Mahrle through a screen. It was the second goal in two nights for the freshman defenseman.
“Ryan has had a good start to his freshman campaign here. Along with the other freshman on the blue line, Kyle Bushee,” Culhane said. “And I thought Michael Jarmuth played well back there for us. And I give the guys a lot of credit. Brian Pasko is coming off an injury, Matty Ponto is coming off an injury, [Reid] Yantzi was banged up, so there’s a lot of grit back there with those guys, especially with the size of this Cornell team.”
Cornell started the second period with another power-play opportunity, but instead allowed a shorthanded goal. Right point man Dan Pegoraro cheated in looking for a back-door pass, but the pass was behind him and sprung a 2-on-1 the other way. Pat Dwyer converted for a 2-0 WMU lead.
“It’s a tough team to play your first two games of the season against,” Downs said. “They’re a transition team, they’re fast. They don’t allow for a lot of little mistakes at the beginning of the year, when those mistakes happen.”
The Big Red got another power play soon thereafter, and this time converted when Cam Abbott found Shane Hynes cutting in on the opposite side.
Cornell received three more power-play opportunities for a total of five straight in the second period, but could not tie the game. Jeff Campbell’s goal made it a two-goal game again early in the third.
The win was the first of the season for Western Michigan (3-3-2) on a Saturday this season.
“We talked about doing the things that we can control — our work ethic and the execution of our systems, and not getting distracted by anything,” Culhane said. “I think [Friday] night, we put too much focus on things we can’t control late in the game, and tonight we did a better job handling that.”
Cornell opens its ECAC schedule with games at Yale and Princeton next weekend. Western Michigan plays a pair of CCHA games at Alaska-Fairbanks.