ESTERO, Fla. — Four years of futility came to an end Sunday for Cornell in the championship game of the Everblades College Classic.
Senior Greg Hornby’s dramatic goal 2:30 into overtime gave the Big Red a 4-3 victory over No. 11 Ohio State at TECO Arena. It was the Buckeyes’ first finals appearance in perhaps its last visit.
For No. 15 Cornell (6-2-5), it meant finally getting to see its name on the Ned Harkness Cup, which is awarded to the tournament champion. Last-place finishes in 2001 and 2002 and a loss to Maine in the inaugural final left a bitter taste in the Ivy League school’s mouth.
“Every year is so different and it’s a tournament that has been disappointing to us in the past,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said. “And this is a pretty solid win for our guys with the kind of effort they gave.”
The victory came on the same rink where Hornby suffered a devastating shoulder injury as a freshman in 2000 against the same Ohio State team. So for him to get the game-winning goal seemed like poetic justice.
Hornby ripped a shot past Ohio State senior goalie Mike Betz from the slot after taking Chris Abbott’s pass from behind the net. Cam Abbott drew the second assist.
“Personally, it was really nice for me to score a goal against them in this tournament where I got hurt,” Hornby said. “I’ve waited four years to get our name up there (on the championship banner) and that was one of our goals at the start of the year.”
Ohio State jumped out on top seven minutes and 48 seconds into the game on Kenny Bernard’s power-play goal and took the 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Head coach John Markell saw his team nearly blow a 3-0 lead the night before to Maine so he knew the potential for a comeback was there.
“In a tight game like this it comes down to a bounce,” said Markell, whose team will host its own tournament next year with Colorado College, Miami and Minnesota State.
And the Big Red responded in the second period behind two goals by tournament MVP Mike Iggulden — his first two of the season.
He scored first at the 7:56 mark off assists from Mark McCutcheon and Ben Wallace, and buried a rebound of Charlie Cook’s shot at the 13:20 mark past Betz.
“It’s nice to have this game be the one to break it out,” Iggulden said. “You could sort of feel the energy pick up a little after the first goal and it’s a credit to my linemates for setting me up.”
But the Buckeyes answered back moments later when Paul Caponigri beat David McKee unassisted on an odd-man rush at the 15:10 mark to tie it at 2-2.
Cornell’s Matt Moulson cleaned up his own rebound and lifted a shot up high over Betz into the back of the net at 17:00 to restore the one-goal lead.
Ohio State, playing without one of its best players in senior Dave Steckel (shoulder) did not give up, coming hard in the third period.
It paid off at the 10:21 mark when Matt Waddell wristed a high shot on McKee from the left circle off assists from Andrew Schembri and Bryce Anderson to tie the game again at 3-3.
A costly 10-minute misconduct penalty on Caponigri in the final five minutes of the game put the Buckeyes at an even further disadvantage, and only a highlight-reel save by Betz of a snapshot by Cam Abbott with 2:13 left in regulation even allowed the game to go into overtime.
McKee finished with 20 saves on 23 shots, giving him 47 saves on 50 shots for the tournament.
The win also meant putting a smile on the face of tournament organizer and Cornell alum Craig Brush, the president and general manager of the ECHL’s Florida Everblades.
“What it represents to Ned Harkness (who coached Brush at Cornell and won the national championship in 1970) is special,” Schafer said. “Ned has done so much for a lot of Cornell graduates that played for him and I know (Craig) takes a lot of pride in Cornell’s name being on that trophy.”
Notes: With Ohio State not returning next year, there will be two new teams in the fifth Everblades College Classic. Boston College and St. Cloud State will join Cornell and Maine … This was the fourth overtime game in tournament history but the first one in the finals … Saturday’s crowd of 7,255 for both games was a tournament record. … Joining Iggulden on the All-Tournament team were Moulson, Caponigri and Cornell’s Mike Knoepfli at forward; Prestin Ryan of Maine and Nate Guenin of OSU on defense; and Notre Dame’s Morgan Cey in goal.