ITHACA, N.Y. — Another Harvard-Cornell affair. Another one-goal game. Another classic. Same outcome.
Shane Hynes scored a power-play goal early in the third period and freshman David McKee made 21 saves to lead the Cornell Big Red (4-2-5, 4-0-2 ECAC) to a 1-0 victory over the Harvard Crimson (5-4-1, 4-4-1) — its first shutout of its bitter rival since December 1967, a span of 89 games.
“It was a great college hockey game,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “Both goaltenders and specialty teams played very well.
“These two teams never let the fans or the media down.”
The teams were renewing acquaintances for the first time since Cornell defeated Harvard in overtime for the 2003 ECAC tournament championship last March.
A scoreless, but action-packed first 40 minutes featured stellar goaltending.
The Big Red had their first significant scoring opportunity playing four-on-four when sophomore Cam Abbott moved in on the Crimson’s Dov Grumet-Morris only to be stopped with a quick pad save. Seconds later, McKee returned the favor making a series of point-blank stops on Tyler Kolarik, who had seven of the Crimson’s shots.
“He made some saves he didn’t make the other night,” Schafer said about his netminder. “I challenged him this morning. I told him that there was no way he could play that way and he rose to the occasion.”
Less than three minutes after the flurry, Grumet-Morris slid across his crease and stacked his pads to deny a Hynes one-timer. The netminder then received help from teammate Andrew Lederman near the end of the period when the junior slid in front of a Cornell shot that was ticketed to the open net.
In the middle frame, fans witnessed more of the evening’s goaltending clinic with McKee turning aside a tricky shot that was redirected by Kolarik. Grumet-Morris followed suit with a windmill glove save midway through the period that was reminiscent of one of Dominik Hasek’s patented moves.
“Dov played the way you have to have a goaltender play,” said Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni, “in order to be at the upper echelon. Both goaltenders were outstanding.”
Cornell finally broke through at 5:03 of the third period with the game’s lone tally. The Big Red won the offensive-zone draw and moved the puck back to the point where sophomore Matt Moulson riffled a shot toward Grumet-Morris. Hynes, positioned alone in front of the Crimson netminder, was able to get his stick on the puck and tip it into the net.
“We had the feeling going into the third period,” said Schafer, “that the next goal would be the winner.”
From there, it was a typically strong defensive effort by the Big Red as they killed off Harvard power plays and blocked shots to the tune of just five shots allowed.
The Crimson, plagued by a struggling power play for most of the season, went 0-for-6 with the man-advantage. Cornell was 1-for-3.
“They got the puck through on the power play,” said Mazzoleni, “and we didn’t and that was the difference. We say all the time that the team that wins the specialty teams play wins the game.
“We’re just not generating a lot of shots and you’re not going to win games when you get 21 shots on goal. We keep telling the guys, but sometimes you need to be kicked in the teeth before you get it.”
Cornell, despite their struggles at home — this was its first win of the year in Lynah — is in prime position in the ECAC heading into 2004. The next league game for both teams is Jan. 9 against each other in Boston.
“It was a great win,” said Schafer. “How much sweeter could it get? To go into exams 4-0-2 in the league is where we want to be.”