ITHACA, N.Y. — On Friday night, the Cornell Big Red met the Dartmouth Big Green for an ECACHL and Ivy League showdown for first place. Avenging their 6-1 defeat at Hanover on November 12th, the Big Red’s 3-1 victory on Friday maintained their slim first place lead in the ECACHL, as well as moved Cornell one victory away the this year’s Ivy League title.
“I thought we had something to prove to that team. We didn’t come out the way we wanted to back in November,” said Cornell goaltender Dave McKee. “I feel like tonight we gave one hundred percent effort and everyone did their job.”
Dartmouth, who now trails Cornell by three points, remains right in the hunt for the ECACHL first place title, but lost its chance for an Ivy league title with the lose.
“You know what? It’s an amazing thing, and I might be the dumbest guy in the world, but it has no bearing on what I do. Our goal is to win an ECACHL championship,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet. “It’s not something that I’ve ever mentioned to the guys since I’ve been coaching at Dartmouth for nine years.”
“It’s important, but it’s also a byproduct of us doing a good job in the ECACHL,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “I don’t get caught up in it until, hopefully, at the end of the season we’ve won it.”
Title hopes appeared to be on the players’ minds as both teams established a physical tone early in the first period. After three successful penalty kills, the game saw its first score from Cornell sophomore Topher Scott.
Testing goal keeper Mike Devine on a Cornell power play fourteen minutes into the game, forward Byron Bitz fired a shot from the left side circle. Devine reacted quickly, sliding to his right for the block. Raymond Sawada collected the rebound behind the net and passed it to the opposite side post, where Scott found back netting for the lead. Despite his 23 points on the season, the game’s first score was only Scott’s third goal of the year and his first since November 11 at Harvard
“I think everyone who plays hockey will tell you that scoring a goal is one of the best feelings you’ll ever have,” said Scott. “Finally getting that off my shoulders is definitely something I’ve been looking forward to for a long time.”
On another power play with ten seconds remaining in the first period, Scott controlled the puck in the far corner of the Dartmouth zone. With time winding down, Scott whipped a pass all the way through the crease to the other side of the net where teammate Bitz was positioned to knock home the second Cornell goal. For Bitz and Scott, the power-play connection was the second of the night.
“We’ve worked hard all year, and kind of know where each other is going to be now,” said Scott. “We just try to feed off each other.”
Cornell appeared to be in good shape to extend its lead when it drew a power play 41 seconds into the second period. Dartmouth stayed aggressive in the penalty kill, and its pressure forced some sloppy passing by Cornell in its own zone. Dartmouth sophomore Nick Johnson hustled to win the puck and found Rob Prichard, who backhanded the puck past McKee’s glove side to put Dartmouth on the board.
With the help of a friendly bounce, Cornell regained its two-goal lead five minutes later. Attacking from the neutral zone, Big Red captain Matt Moulson worked a give-and-go with linemate Bitz. Moulson took a strong shot, but Devine blocked the puck back and to the left. Rebounding off the end boards after the save, the puck came back and deflected off the back of Devine’s left side to cross the line for a goal.
“It comes off the boards pretty lively here, and it just ended up in the net. It’s a tough one, but its part of the game,” said coach Gaudet.
Though Dartmouth challenged McKee with 11 shots and many good scoring chances in the third period, the Texan goaltender held fast to keep his team in first place and tally his 60th career win.
“They got a couple good chances,” said McKee. “It was fun to get some shots and kind of get my head back in the game, because I hadn’t had a lot in a while.”
The fish will be flying tomorrow night, as Harvard comes to Lynah Rink on Senior Night in Ithaca