ITHACA, N.Y. — After Saturday’s 5-3 win over Princeton, this year’s edition of the Big Red goes into the exam break with a perfect 7-0-0 record at Lynah Rink, a stark contrast to the 1-2-4 home record Cornell had last year at this point.
Cornell (7-2-2, 4-1-1 ECACHL) took control thanks to timely goals in the final minute of both the first and second periods.
In the first, Princeton’s Jesse Masear wristed the puck through traffic during a power play, and the Tigers looked to take their 1-0 lead with them into the first intermission. However, with 34 seconds left in the frame, junior forward Chris Abbott deflected a shot by Mitch Carefoot to tie the score at 1.
“Even though we played a pretty good period, we were down 1-0,” said Abbott. “Mitch came down the left side and tried to force it to the net. I just happened to be in front and tipped it by the goalie.”
“That’s the hardest-working Princeton team we’ve seen in a while, and we needed to step up and take control,” added Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “The goal at the end of the first was huge for us.”
In the second period, Cornell took a 2-1 lead after freshman Raymond Sawada knocked in the loose puck that sat right behind Princeton goaltender Eric Leroux.
After Princeton’s Dustin Sproat tied the game at 2-2 after his shot deflected off a skate and eluded goaltender David McKee, Big Red sniper and leading scorer Matt Moulson gave Cornell a lead it would never relinquish.
After receiving a pass from defenseman Sasha Pokulok, Moulson fired a one-timer that fluttered through a screen and over Leroux’s right shoulder.
Princeton head coach Guy Gadowsky commented on Cornell’s hard, gritty work in front of the Princeton net.
“They’re a big, strong team,” said Gadowsky. “They controlled the corners in our defensive zone very well and were able to get chances. They certainly do an excellent job down low.”
“We always want to hit teams and wear them down,” said Abbott. “It’s a concentration of our game, to keep the puck down low and control it. You’re always going to get chances if you wear them down.”
With the period winding down once again, the Big Red struck. Senior forward Paul Varteressian, known more for his physical presence and grinding role, took a shot from an odd angle, almost on the goal line, and slid the puck beneath a surprised Leroux for a 4-2 Cornell lead.
“It’s always huge to get momentum going into an intermission,” said Varteressian. “You try for hits and physical play to get momentum, and if you get a goal, it’s an extra bonus. I got a chance to shoot the puck, and I took advantage of it.”
“You don’t want to give one up on the first shift of a period or the last shift,” said Gadowsky. “Their goal at the end of the second was the turning point. They’re very well coached, and they’re a tough team, but I was proud of how we fought until the end.”
An opportunistic shorthanded goal — the first allowed by Cornell this season — by Tiger forward Landis Stankievech cut the Big Red lead to 4-3. However, junior forward Cam Abbott put the game out of reach when he scored a highlight-reel breakaway goal on a power play, faking a shot and then drawing the puck around a sprawling Leroux before firing it into the upper corner.
Saturday night marked just the second time in their Cornell careers that the Abbott twins scored a goal in the same game.
Cornell, which outshot Princeton 35-21, boasted 10 different goal-scorers on its 11 goals this weekend.
“Our team’s pretty deep,” said Varteressian. “Every line can contribute, every defenseman and every forward, and guys that are role players are stepping up too. Everyone is playing well within their roles, and we have really good leadership.”
“It’s nice that a lot of people have been contributing,” said Schafer. “Tonight’s game ebbed and flowed, but we got on track through the course of the game. I’m pleased in the direction we’re headed.”
That direction is south, but not in a bad way. After a break for exams, Cornell travels to Florida to take on Boston College in the Florida Everblades Classic on Dec. 28. The last time the two teams met, the Big Red defeated the Eagles 2-1 in a double-overtime thriller to send Cornell to the 2003 Frozen Four.
Until then, the Big Red, known for being perfectionists in the defensive zone, still look to improve after allowing three goals in a game Saturday night for the first time this season.
“It’s much easier going into break with a win,” said Cornell defenseman Jeremy Downs. “We strive to be the best defensive team we can be. We’re going to tighten things up, especially as far as breakouts go. There are always things to work on.”
Meanwhile, Princeton (4-7-1, 4-6-0 ECACHL) will look to get back on track with a pair of nonconference games at Merrimack next weekend.