For a second night in a row, Cornell and Niagara battled down to the wire in a contest decided on the power play, and the Big Red were victorious by a 5-3 score.
The Big Red took advantage of a late interference call, as defenseman Ryan O’Byrne sent a low slap shot past Purple Eagle goalie Scott Mollison to score the game winning tally for Cornell.
Niagara connected on two power-play goals to tie the score 3-3 in the third, but Cornell did not let its lapses on the penalty kill rattle them in the decisive final moments of the game.
“It’s uncharacteristic for our team to give up a two-goal lead on consecutive nights,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “But I’ll give our freshman line (Evan Barlow, Michael Kennedy) a lot of credit. They played absolutely awesome tonight. It was a good sweep. Niagara played hard and they have a great power play. Our power play stepped up in the end and got it done.”
Niagara jumped to an early lead after pressing Cornell with deep throw ins and an aggressive forecheck. Niagara co-captain Jason Williamson continued his gritty play after he centered the puck from behind the Cornell net to Matt Carruana, who one-timed a wrist shot past Big Red goalie David McKee.
Momentum swung midway through the first after Niagara killed off a Cornell five-on-three advantage. The Big Red started to cycle the puck down low and Niagara’s defense had trouble clearing. The Big Red dictated tempo and territory leading, to their first goal when Evan Barlow roofed the puck past Mollison on the short side.
Cornell erupted for two goals in the second period. After a generous Mollison rebound, Ryan Kindret walked around the Niagara net and snuck in a goal behind the Purple Eagle goaltender’s pads. Then, on the power play, Michael Kennedy crashed the slot and was able to deflect a Sasha Pokulok shot from the point to push the Cornell lead to 3-1.
The Big Red appeared to be in firm control of the game as the third period evolved, but Niagara struck on consecutive man advantages. Vince Rocco and Justin Cross scored for the Purple Eagles, and suddenly the game was knotted at 3-3.
“I was proud of the way our guys battled back,” Niagara coach Dave Burkholder commented. “That is one of the most respected programs (Cornell) on the other bench. It’s just unfortunate that we lost it on the penalty kill with three minutes to go in a very good college hockey game.”
In the final anxious moments, Cornell regrouped and began cycling the puck low again. Niagara defenseman Armando Scarlato was called for interference after contacting a Cornell forward into the Niagara net. The Big Red scored 0:27 seconds into the power play for the game winner.
Matt Moulson added an empty netter for the final Cornell score with a minute remaining.