ITHACA, N.Y. — Returning to Lynah Rink for the first time in 48 days, the Cornell Big Red scored on their first two power play opportunities of the game and held on for a 3-1 win, their third victory in a row. Cornell is now 8-0-0 when playing at home.
Cornell (12-4-2, 8-2-1 ECACHL) took advantage of an early lack of discipline by Dartmouth. With sophomore forward Tanner Glass in the box for a tripping penalty taken in the Dartmouth offensive zone, Big Red freshman defenseman Sasha Pokulok banged in a loose puck in the crease to give Cornell the 1-0 lead.
“When the puck was down low, I just crashed the net,” said Pokulok. “Bitz took a few whacks at it, and I just saw it lying there and took a whack at it myself.”
Cornell is now unbeaten in 10 games this season when scoring the first goal of the game. Head coach Mike Schafer was pleased with the early power play efficiency.
“They moved the puck quickly, and caught Dartmouth in some rotations,” said Schafer.
Less than 2 minutes after Pokulok’s goal, Cornell converted on yet another power play opportunity. Topher Scott fed Big Red sniper Matt Moulson, who fired a shot over the left shoulder of Dartmouth goaltender from the left faceoff circle. It was Moulson’s ninth power play tally, and team-leading 20th point overall, of the season.
“Moving the puck quickly [on the power play], being intense out there, and getting our shots on net has always been our strength,” said Moulson, who now has a 5 game point-scoring streak. “And we have big guys in front of the net to create screens.”
The 2-goal deficit would prove too large for Dartmouth to overcome.
“They have a really good team,” said Dartmouth head coach Bob Gaudet. “They played well, and I thought we did too. They just capitalized on those first two power plays, and that was the difference in the game.”
The Big Red added to their lead midway through the second period when freshman defenseman Doug Krantz scored his second goal of the season, beating Samuel with a low shot that trickled underneath his pads and into the net. After giving up the goal, Samuel was pulled in favor of senior netminder Dan Yacey who held the Big Red scoreless for the remainder of the contest.
A late power play goal by Dartmouth cut the lead to 3-1 and ended Cornell goaltender Dave McKee’s shutout streak of 155:29. It was also the first power play goal allowed by Cornell in its last 30 penalty killing situations.
“We did a really good job on our penalty kill clears tonight,” said Schafer. “Every time they forced it in, we did a good job getting it out, and David made some timely saves, as he always does.”
Boasting the most recent ECACHL Player of the Week and Rookie of the Week, not to mention one of the league’s most prolific scoring lines, the Dartmouth Big Green ran into a stifling Cornell defense that has now allowed only 5 goals in 5 games thus far in 2005.
Friday night, the Big Red defense frustrated the Big Green offense that scored a combined 14 goals in its two victories last weekend against two nationally ranked teams, New Hampshire and Vermont.
“You have to keep on skating with them and make sure they don’t get behind you,” said Pokulok, who, along with Charlie Cook, saw plenty of ice time against Dartmouth’s number one line of Lee Stempniak, Mike Ouellette and Nick Johnson. The trio has accounted for 49 points thus far this season.
“It was important to contain them and hit them.”
“For the most part, I thought our defense did a great job,” added Schafer. “All three of those kids can handle the puck, and they have good size. They’re a tough line to handle. Our guys did a good job moving their feet and not taking penalties.”
Dartmouth (8-8-2, 5-6-0 ECACHL) will look to get back on track Saturday night as they play their fourth nationally ranked team in a row at Colgate, the current ECACHL leader. Returning to the lineup will be junior forward Eric Przepiorka, who had been disqualified for Friday’s game against Cornell.
“He’s a fiery guy, and he’s a really good player for us,” said Gaudet. “We had to move guys around, and it was tough not to play with him. He gives us a lot of energy.”
Cornell now looks ahead to Saturday night, when it will play host to the Vermont Catamounts in the final regular season meeting between the two teams before Vermont shifts from the ECACHL to Hockey East next season.
“Our guys played pretty solid tonight,” said Schafer. “We have to evaluate our performance and get ready to come back for a big game tomorrow.”