ITHACA, N.Y. — A couple of weeks separated the last meeting between Cornell and Clarkson. But in between Clarkson played a couple of games, while Cornell, banged up for a while, rested. And it showed.
“We’re the most rested we’ve been this season,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer.
The Big Red came out flying from the drop of the game, and blitzed Clarkson, 5-1, Friday night at Lynah Rink to take Game 1 of the Best-of-3 ECAC quarterfinal series.
In the last meeting between the teams, the Big Red won 2-1 and dominated play, but were stymied time and again by Golden Knights goalie Dustin Traylen. Since then, Clarkson dominated two games of a first-round series at Union, while Cornell rested. This time, Traylen struggled early and Cornell pounced.
“Overall, I thought we played better tonight than in the 2-1 game,” said Clarkson coach George Roll. “The first couple goals, they weren’t weak, but they were from the outside.”
The teams had a brief feeling out period before Cornell began swarming the net. The first two goals, however, weren’t works of art, just solid execution.
To open the scoring, Mike Iggulden sprang Mike Knoepfli up the left wing, and Knoepfli unloaded as Traylen went down early. Knoepfli was able to pick the corner over Traylen’s glove hand for a 1-0 lead. Cornell went up 2-0 and Iggulden won a faceoff back to Cook, who came down the right-wing wall and slipped a short-angle shot just over Traylen’s shoulder and under the crossbar.
Cornell took a 3-0 lead during a 4-on-4, as Chris Abbott slipped down the left wing, cut to the middle, leaving a defender standing in his tracks, and whipped a wrist shot across the grain past Traylen.
“When they get an early lead, they’re tough to beat,” said Roll. “We stressed before the game, because they had the week off, we knew they’d come out with a lot of jump. They got the first two and really shut us down.”
Things settled down in the second period, but Cornell added to the lead on its first power-play of the game. Clarkson got caught up ice, and when Cook joined the rush, a 4-on-2 was created. A pretty tic-tac-toe play set Knoepfli up to bury his second of the game.
The game started to get chippy in the second period as well, as frustration crept in for the Golden Knights and Cornell tried to stand up to it. But it never got completely out of hand.
“I was disappointed in one incident with the goaltender,” said Roll. “I told the guys ‘Don’t get frustrated.’ We don’t do those things. That’s not what Clarkson hockey is about.”
Cornell padded the lead in the third, as a 2-on-1 developed, and Byron Bitz fed Knoepfli, who completed a hat trick. Clarkson snapped David McKee’s sixth shutout bid with a late power-play goal from Jay Latulippe.
Some ugliness ensued late. Cornell winger Paul Varteressian took exception to a pair of two-hand whacks from Clarkson defenseman Matt Nickerson, who had been embroiled in a few extra-curricular incidents throughout the night. Varteressian tried a roundhouse punch to Nickerson, but missed. He then followed Nickerson into the Clarkson zone, and dropped his gloves. Nickerson didn’t follow, but Varteressian proceeded to land three blows and tear Nickerson’s helmet off. Varteressian was given a major, a minor and a game disqualification, meaning he will miss Game 2. Nickerson got just a double-minor for roughing.
“It was the right call [by the referee],” said Roll. “Matty didn’t throw a punch. … He was basically protecting himself. We need him on the ice.”