ITHACA, N.Y. — After a night of outplaying Clarkson, but repeatedly being denied by standout goaltending, Cornell finally figured out a way to get the game winner by Dustin Traylen: Land on him.
Whether Shane Hynes was knocked into Traylen, intentionally knocked him over, or was just slow to get up was all a matter of contention, both during and after the game. But all that mattered when it was over was that Cornell’s Matt Moulson deposited another power-play goal midway through the third period, giving the Big Red a season-ending 2-1 win over the Golden Knights.
“[Hynes] fell into our guy, and [the referee] says he was pushed,” said Clarkson coach George Roll. “He was making no effort to get off Dustin either.”
The win kept Cornell ahead of a pack of teams just behind them and in second place, where it gets a first-round bye in the ECAC playoffs. A loss would have meant fifth place in the tightly-congested standings, and no bye.
“We worked extremely hard and it showed in our approach from the first shift on,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “It’s huge [to get the bye]. We have a lot of guys that can use the time off.”
Meanwhile, Clarkson’s loss dropped it to ninth, as Union pulled out a game in overtime to jump into eighth. Those two teams will meet in Schenectady in a best-of-three series next weekend. It will be Clarkson’s first ECAC playoff series on the road since 1988 when the Golden Knights went to Lynah Rink.
“To come in to this weekend and having to sweep [to get home ice], that was a tough chore,” said Roll, whose team defeated Colgate, 1-0, Friday night. “Where we really lost it was in that six-game losing streak.
“It will be a great experience for our guys. …We’ll lick our wounds, and we’ll be ready for next weekend.”
Cornell, already up 1-0, dominated a second period in which it outshot Clarkson, 16-8, including many great chances. And the 16 shots did not include two of the best chances — a breakaway by Mike Iggulden in which he made a backhand move that beat Traylen, only to miss the wide-open net; and on a power play, Ryan Vesce’s chance into an empty side of the cage that he lifted too far, hitting the crossbar.
Meanwhile, Traylen made at least another three acrobatic saves to keep the game tied, including one on a wide open Charlie Cook where he stacked the pads and shot up his left leg to stop the puck from going into the top shelf.
Amid all that, Clarkson used its only power play of the period to even the game. Freshman Nathan Beausoleil’s shot from the right point found its way through a screen and off a Cornell defender before sneaking past goalie David McKee. It was Beausoleil’s first collegiate goal.
Later in the period, Clarkson thought it took the lead when it banged in a rebound after the puck sat in front of McKee’s pads. But referee Dan Murphy had blown the whistle before it was banged in, thinking the puck was frozen up.
In the third, both teams came out with a lot of energy, knowing all that was at stake in the ECAC standings. Although the shots were lower, the chances were there, and the hits were hard.
Moulson’s game winner came after he deked two men up high, leaving him wide open in the slot. With the goaltender down, there was no way Cornell’s resident sniper was going to miss the open half of the cage.
Said Moulson, “I was winding up for a slapper, but a guy dove out to block it, so I went around and look up again and Hynes is there, and I look up and no one is in the net. I just flipped it in.”
Clarkson played with a lot of energy the rest of the way, and buzzed around the net at times, but never consistently tested McKee, as Cornell held on.
Moulson also scored the first goal of the game on a power play. On that one, he again picked a corner with a nice wrist shot. The two goals give him a team-high 18 on the season.
“Lately we’ve had a lot of power-play chances and couldn’t score,” Schafer said. “Tonight we got a lot of even-strength chances and couldn’t score, but we got the power-play goals.”
Cornell finished the season 7-1-0 and fell short of first-place Colgate, which swept Cornell during a 1-5-1 stretch in January, by one point.
“That’s our whole goal,” Schafer said of his team’s strong finish. “It’s our responsibility as a team and a coaching staff. It’s not a sprint. The only time you can win a championship is at the end of the year.”