ITHACA, N.Y. — For almost a period and a half, Cornell and Yale were locked in a defensive battle. But eventually, the Big Red rolled, scoring five goals in a span of 9:53 in the second period en route to a dominating 6-2 victory.
With six goals Friday night against Yale, Cornell matched its offensive output from its previous four games combined, a stretch over which the Big Red struggled to a record of 1-2-1. Now, playing within the friendly confines of Lynah Rink, the Big Red have won two in a row, with timely offensive outbursts in addition to their trademark stifling defense.
Cornell (6-2-2, 3-1-1 ECACHL) dominated the opening minutes of the game and seemed poised to carry over the momentum of last weekend’s victory over Canisius. However, despite controlling the play in all three zones, Cornell’s inability to convert on two early power plays kept the patient Bulldogs in the game.
“I was encouraged by the way we played in the first period,” said Yale head coach Tim Taylor. “We knew we had to deal with Cornell’s grinding game, and we probably played our best period of the year.”
However, as the pace of the game picked up in the second, Cornell’s grinding game wore down the Yale defensemen. With Yale freshman forward David Germain in the penalty box, Big Red forward Matt Moulson’s shot from between the circles hit the post. The puck was batted around in the crease, before the diminutive but persistent Topher Scott knocked the puck past the sprawling Yale goaltender Matt Modelski. It was Scott’s first career collegiate goal.
The Big Red never looked back.
“Our guys stuck with it,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “We moved the puck around really well on the power play, and on the penalty kill, I don’t think we gave them a whole lot.”
Taylor agreed, saying, “We began to take some penalties that Cornell forced us to take. Our penalty killers got tired, and there was that 12-minute span in the second period when the roof caved in.”
“We gained confidence throughout the game,” said Cornell junior forward Shane Hynes. “We got a goal, and the floodgates started to open.”
Less than five minutes after Scott’s power-play goal, Big Red defenseman Jeremy Downs received a pass from senior captain Mike Knoepfli at the top of the left faceoff circle before wristing the puck past Modelski to put Cornell on top 2-0. This goal seemed to be the backbreaker.
“The key is, if you don’t get the first goal, you can’t let a team like Cornell get the second,” said Taylor. “The second one deflated us. It was the result of us not being able to clear the puck out of our zone. It never should have happened.”
The Big Red didn’t stop there. With Cornell on the power play once again, Knoepfli, who missed a glorious chance seconds earlier, received a pass from defenseman Charlie Cook and fired a one-time shot into the back of the net.
“We moved the puck around very well,” said Knoepfli. “Cook controlled it and slid it back to me. It was a nice pass, and all I had to do was put the puck in an empty net.”
The Cornell offense proved insatiable, as Moulson found junior forward Shane Hynes alone at the top of the crease for Cornell’s fourth goal of the period. Thirty seconds later, Mitch Carefoot, returning to the lineup after suffering an injury three weeks ago at Michigan State, kept the puck on a two-on-one and slid the puck beneath the pads of Modelski.
The last time Cornell scored five goals in one period was November 15, 2002, a game in which it scored five second-period goals against Vermont.
As the game progressed, the dominance and size of the Cornell forwards seemed to wear down Yale. Both coaches pointed to the line of Moulson-Byron Bitz-Hynes, which combined for seven points Friday.
“They did a great job capitalizing on their chances,” said Schafer.
“On the third goal, Moulson was working hard behind the net and found my stick,” added Hynes. “We wear teams down so much. We’re so deep that we get a couple cycle shifts in their zone, and they get tired. We keep coming at them.”
Matt Moulson scored his team-leading seventh goal and 13th point of the season in the third period for Cornell’s sixth goal of the night. Meanwhile, sophomore David McKee, the Big Red starting goaltender for the 42nd consecutive game, made 22 saves for the win, allowing two inconsequential goals in the third period by a gritty Yale team which seemed determined to come away from the game with something positive.
Yale (1-10-0, 1-8-0 ECACHL) will look to use its third-period performance as motivation at Colgate Saturday night.
“I was very proud of our third period,” said Taylor. “A lesser team would have packed it in. It’s been a very difficult year for us, so hopefully we can build upon that.”
Yale captain Nick Shalek added, “We won the third period. We can take a lot of positives from that. It’s always tough to play in here.”
Cornell, meanwhile, will look to carry over its momentum into its game with Princeton on Saturday night.
“We played well both offensively and defensively tonight,” said McKee. “We’re playing well right now.”