ITHACA, N.Y. — With a balanced attack that included nine different point-scorers, the Cornell Big Red were too much for the Princeton skaters on Friday night, defeating the Tigers 4-1 in Ithaca. The victory was Cornell’s third in a row, moving it to 7-3-1 (4-2-1 ECACHL), while Princeton drops to 3-8-0 (2-7-0 ECACHL).
With this win, Cornell goaltender Dave McKee recorded his 50th career victory and tied Brian Cropper ’71 on Cornell’s all-time list. McKee and Cropper are second only to Ken Dryden ’69, a six-time Stanley cup winner with the Montreal Canadians.
“I am very happy with our mental approach coming into the game,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer.
The Big Red came out gunning, as they propelled themselves to a 2-0 lead with a 20 shot first period effort. The Tigers managed only to log two shots against goaltender Dave McKee in the period.
“If your not ready to play in this arena against this team, you’re going to be in big trouble,” said Princeton’s head coach Guy Gadowsky.
Cornell entered Friday night’s game having converted on 19 percent of their power-play opportunities this season. The Red continued their power-play proficiency two minutes into the first period with the game’s first man-advantage. The Red moved the puck around on the power play before Ryan O’Byrne’s slap shot missed the net wide left, then bounced off the boards right back towards the crease. Junior forward Byron Bitz was in good position to take the friendly bounce and knock it by Princeton Goaltender Eric Leroux.
“I just saw it bounce out and I banged it,” said Bitz. “I was ready for it, and got some good wood on it.”
The second Cornell goal also came off a feed from behind the net. This time, it was power forward Raymond Sawada who delivered the puck to freshman Tyler Mugford from behind the Princeton goal. Leroux blocked Mugford’s shot attempt, but Chris Abbott was well positioned to take care of the rebound and put the Red ahead 2-0.
“It’s huge getting the first couple of goals,” said senior Chris Abbott. “It’s been a trademark of our team for the last few years.”
Trying to climb back from their two-goal deficit in the second period, the Princeton players spent more time in the penalty box than on the attack. Cornell was able to take advantage of a Princeton holding penalty and extend its lead midway through the period. On the power play, junior forward Mark McCutcheon took a pass along the left side boards from sophomore Sasha Pokuluk. With pinpoint accuracy and timing, McCutcheon thread a pass all the way across to the far side of the goal and to senior Daniel Pegoraro. Pegoraro handled the puck in stride and blasted it by Leroux from short range.
“It was something we had been practicing a lot this week. I thought it would be a good time to give it a shot,” said McCutcheon, who remained red hot, recording his third point in as many games
A mere nine seconds after the third period face-off, Princeton’s Darrol Powe kept the Tigers in the game by taking a pass from senior Brian Carthas and beating McKee to net his team’s first goal. Unfortunately for Princeton, Powe’s score was not enough to spark a comeback. The Tigers doubled their shot count in the third period, but McKee was more than up to the task on the night of his 50th career win. Tyler Mugford’s empty net goal finalized the dominating 4-1 home victory for the Red.
“The bottom line is, you got to be there mentally, ready to compete. We were there tonight. We got to be there tomorrow night.”