PROVIDENCE, R.I. — A matchup of the ECAC’s top two goaltenders proved as good as expected Saturday.
Brown, behind Yann Danis’ 31 saves, topped Cornell 2-1 in overtime, handing the Big Red its first conference loss. Junior forward Mike Meech stepped up, netting the game-winner with just 1:30 left in overtime.
Meech, a scrappy, talkative member of Brown’s top line, typically leaves his mark on the game. Saturday was no exception. Early in the overtime, Meech was whistled for his second crosschecking penalty of the night on a play in the Cornell end.
On the power play, Big Red captain Ryan Vesce fired a shot from the right side that looked ticketed for the upper corner. But Brown’s marquee goaltender, Danis, got a piece of it with his left shoulder. The Bears and Meech were given another life as the penalty expired and Meech’s line came back on for a last shift.
On the game-ending goal, a three-on-two developed out of Brown’s end, with Les Haggett and Brent Robinson, who assisted on both of Brown’s goals, leading the puck up-ice. Meech took a drop pass from Robinson, skated through the zone, and fired a low shot past Cornell’s David McKee to win it for the Bears.
“Everyone out there knew it was going to be one of those tough games decided by a bounce here or a bounce there,” Meech said. “When I got the puck, I tried to cut back across and didn’t have much a lane for a shot. I was lucky to slip it between his pads.”
Danis showed why he is a Hobey Baker candidate by keeping Brown alive. He made several big stops on Vesce and handled rebounds especially well, stuffing second and third chances from the Big Red forwards.
But his best save exemplified the economy of motion he uses in net, as he moved quickly to his left to glove down a shot from Matt Moulson — who scored three times at Harvard last night — late in the third.
McKee, a freshman showing promise to be the next great Cornell goaltender, also came up big to send it to overtime. Late in the third, he sprawled out to get in the way of a shorthanded opportunity for Brown’s Sean Dersch and Nick Ringstad, and made a spectacular save on Vince Macri just minutes later.
Cornell was on top first, unlike the early December game in which the Big Red came back from a 3-1 deficit to tie. After a rush at Danis, the shot went off the back boards and bounced right back out to the slot. Greg Hornby was there to make it 1-0.
The Bears played an energetic game in the Cornell end and never let up on McKee. Late in the first, freshman phenom Brian Ihnacak found himself in the right place again for a power-play goal to tie it at 1. Haggett, on the doorstep, slid it across to Ihnacak, who wasted no time firing it in the net.
The Bears converted one of their three power plays, while Cornell was 0 for 6.
“This is the best 60 minutes of hockey we have played all year against a really good team,” said Brown head coach Roger Grillo. “We played our best hockey in the third tonight. We stepped it up a notch there and really put the pressure on.”
The Big Red, coming off another emotional bout with Harvard, had more than enough chances to pull out the win, but put fewer and fewer pucks on Danis as the game went on, getting outworked in its own end.
Cornell head coach Mike Schaefer agreed that his players might have overlooked the ECAC-leading Bears.
“If you told me before the season we would go 5-1-2 in our first eight conference games, I’d say great,” Schaefer said. “But obviously this was a tough loss. Brown is a first-place team and they played like it tonight. One thing our guys who talk about playing in the NHL need to learn is that over a season, even 84 games long, every game counts. We have to be ready to play every night. Tonight we weren’t.”