ITHACA, N.Y. — In a seesaw battle that required overtime for a decision, the last place Brown Bears gave second place Cornell a tough challenge en route to the Big Red’s 10th win in their last 12 games. After a stunning and timely save by Cornell goaltender Dave McKee, senior Chris Abbott took a pass from freshman Tyler Mugford and scored the game-winner in sudden death, capping off a gritty comeback for Cornell. Friday night’s loss was Brown’s second overtime disappointment against Cornell this season.
“It’s kind of a microcosm of our season,” said Brown coach Roger Grillo. “It’s a little frustrating for us, but I was pleased with how our guys battled at the beginning.”
Despite the exiting finish, Cornell coach Mike Schafer was not pleased with his team’s struggle against a last place opponent.
“I’m not very happy with the way we played,” said Schafer. “It’s only character building if they come back tomorrow night and they’re ready to execute.”
Penalties proved costly in the first period. After Brown junior Sean Dersch drew a two-minute penalty for contact to the head early in the first, Cornell showcased its top power-play unit. One minute into the power play, Cornell forward Byron Bitz connected with captain Matt Moulson for the Big Red’s first goal of the night. Moulson craftily controlled the puck through traffic in front of the Brown net before beating goalie Adam D’Alba. Moulson’s 11th power-play goal of the season added to his ECACHL lead in power-play goals and points (19). On the score, Bitz and Topher Scott tallied their 11th and 14th power-play assists, respectively.
The Bears tied the score when senior defenseman Pete LeCain found the back of the net on the last of three-consecutive Cornell penalties. After goalie Dave McKee could not control the rebound on Matt Vokes’s shot, LeCain crashed the net to tie the game.
The second frame, a four-goal affair that saw a handful of strange plays and wild momentum shifts, ignited the Lynah Rink crowd. Brown took the lead a minute into the period when freshman Eric Slais scored on an odd man rush in even-strength play. After Slais skated in for a shot on McKee’s right, McKee blocked the initial bid but gave up a rebound across the center of the crease in front of an open Cornell net. Skating towards the play, Cornell senior Jon Gleed accidentally hit the puck with his skate, redirecting the rubber across the line for the go-ahead goal.
Nearly seven minutes into the period, Brown hustled for a brief two-goal lead. In an odd sequence that found McKee down on the ice, Brown’s David Robertson and Slais passed the puck behind the net to Jeff Prough who finished off the scoring play. Both McKee and Schafer seemed to argue that a Brown player knocked down McKee.
“One [goal] was a lucky bounce: I think their defenseman slid in and knocked it in. Mine was just a scrum. I just hit it right in the open net,” said Prough. “Those just come out of hard work. Sometimes you earn those.”
Down two goals, Cornell seemed to “wake up” with a vengeance. Cornell defensemen Sasha Pokulok and Ryan O’Byrne ripped a combined 12 shots at goalie Adam D’Alba in the period. Pokulok converted on one of his many slap shots, beating the screened D’Alba to bring the Red back within one.
Cornell tied the game when forward Daniel Pegararo threaded a pass from the goal line across the middle to forward Mitch Carefoot, who was skating in and poised to shoot.
While Chris Abbott’s overtime goal finished the comeback in style, the play of the game may have belonged to the Cornell netminder McKee, on a night when he set the Cornell record for minutes played by a goaltender (5,225). With overtime just underway, McKee slid left to right across the crease for a spectacular save on a Jeff Prough one timer.
“I came through a couple defenseman and I just one timed it as hard as I could. He’s a great goalie. I don’t know how he got over there in time,” said Prough.
“That game’s not a win for us if Dave doesn’t make that save,” said Byron Bitz.