ITHACA, N.Y. — It took nearly four months, but Cornell finally got a home sweep.
The Big Red were 15-0 in Lynah Rink last season, and have a history of dominating at home. But coming into the weekend, Cornell was an inexplicable 2-5-5 at home, and 8-2-1 away from Lynah.
But riding the momentum of last weekend’s road sweep and Friday’s 6-1 domination of Princeton, the Big Red closed the deal with a 2-1 win over Yale on Saturday, thanks to a late goal by freshman Mitch Carefoot and another stifling defensive performance. The win helps Cornell keep pace with Rensselaer for third place in the ECAC with four games remaining. Those two teams meet Friday in Troy, N.Y.
Cornell (12-7-6, 10-5-3 ECAC) dominated the first period, outshooting Yale 9-2, but only coming away with a 1-0 lead to show for it.
In the second, Yale calmed things down, and played a much more even period. The shots were 6-6, the power plays were one apiece, and the Elis stood up to Cornell physically. Yale also got the tying goal, on a floater from the top of the right-wing circle by Christian Jensen, a shot Cornell goalie David McKee never saw.
“We kind of got a little too comfortable with our one-goal lead,” said Cornell goalie David McKee. “And after they scored, it kind of woke us up.”
That was just about the only mistake defensively for the Big Red, however, as they limited Yale to 14 shots.
“The second period was great,” said Yale coach Tim Taylor. “I told them, we’re not going to get bigger than quicker, we just have to be quicker and smarter. We had a great second period.”
Cornell regained its dominance in the third period. Yale had a couple of good scoring chances, but the chances were limited to just six shots, while Cornell had 15.
“Coach got us going again,” said Carefoot. “He’s a great motivator. He wanted us to get it in deep and play smart, keep moving the puck down low.”
The Big Red were all over the net, but it took a break to finally get one by Yale goalie Josh Gartner.
Yale defenseman Jeff Dwyer coughed the puck up in the corner while trying to break out. Carefoot took it away and tried to feed the middle, just missing Mike Knoepfli. The puck was held in at the point, however, by Ben Wallace, who smacked one on net that Gartner sent wide, but Gartner also put himself in a bad position. Carefoot took it from behind the goal line, put it off Gartner’s pads and in.
“I knew Knoepfli would be going to the net hard, so I just tried to get out to him and get a break,” Carefoot said.
Yale (12-13-0, 10-8-0) dropped three points back of third, and two back of fifth-place Dartmouth, and stands alone in sixth in the ECAC.
“In the third, we never got it going,” Taylor said. “It was possible to hang on and hope for a lucky break, but then the goal we allowed was a stinker. We gave it away. And I don’t think Josh played it very well.”
Cornell’s first goal was scored after Shane Hynes made a power move into the zone. Hynes was held up in front, but the puck deflected back to Ryan Vesce in the high slot. Vesce cut in to his right, deked, and rolled it around Gartner for his ninth of the season.
Despite Vesce’s return to the lineup this weekend after missing three games, the line of Matt Moulson, Byron Bitz and Hynes remained intact. And though the line didn’t pick up 11 points like it did Friday, it was once again a dominant force, putting many big chances on net, especially in the first and third period.
“[Gartner] played great,” said Carefoot. “We peppered him. We needed to get lucky and keep throwing it at the net.”
Taylor was disappointed with the loss, but saw a lot of positives out a weekend road split in which his team, the worst defensively in the ECAC coming into the weekend, allowed just three goals.
“We got a lot out of it,” Taylor said. “We’ve come a long since losing 6-2 at Ingalls Rink. There’s a lot of guys who got better this weekend. We had kind of a makeshift fourth line that played real well.”
After starting the season 5-0-2 in the league, Cornell went through a 1-5-1 stretch, but has since won four straight, allowing just four goals and consistently low shot totals.
“I’m really happy with the way the guys are playing. They’re definitely making my job real easy,” McKee said.