ITHACA, N.Y. — Comebacks, buzzer beaters and intensity welcomed the 2006 playoffs to Ithaca as the Cornell Big Red overcame a third period Clarkson rally and two disallowed overtime goals to beat the Golden Knights, 4-3, in double overtime. The win gives Cornell a 1-0 lead in the best of three ECACHL quarterfinal playoff series.
Sophomore Raymond Sawada scored the game-winner off a face off in the second overtime, firing the puck into the top right corner to end the 84 shot affair after 88:30 minutes of play.
“I think that is pretty much the biggest goal I’ve scored ever,” said Sawada.
“It was a tough battle tonight,” said Clarkson sophomore Nick Dodge. “We’re going to regroup, get some liquids in us; it was a long game.”
The Big Red held one goal edge at the end of the first period. Midway into the period, Cornell freshman Evan Barlow took a pass from fellow freshman Michael Kennedy and skated into the right side circle of Clarkson’s zone. Barlow wound up and fired a wrist shot of goaltender David Leggio’s leg pad, before collecting his own rebound and skating behind the goaltender to net the second goal of his career.
“It was a great lift, personally,” said Barlow. “A great confidence booster heading into the rest of the playoffs.
“This is the playoff time. This is where kids can really step up, and Evan did that tonight,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer.
Clarkson responded to knot the score just one minute into the second period. In the neutral zone, Clarkson sophomore Shawn Weller passed to forward Steve Zalewski, who raced Cornell defender Sasha Pokulok into the Big Red’s zone and had a shot blocked by McKee. Right winger Shea Guthrie trailed on the play and skated towards the goal just in time to hammer home the rebound for his ninth goal of the season.
The equalizing goal seemed to reenergize Cornell, as it regained the lead almost immediately. Daniel Pegoraro hit junior Mark McCutcheon with a pass at the point and McCutcheon shot past Leggio for his second point of the night. Cam Abbott also assisted on the goal.
Seven minutes into the period, Cornell defenseman Dan Glover kept the puck in the Knights zone at the right side of the blue line. Trying to beat the rush of a defender, Glover released a shot but got hit and knocked to the ice on his follow through. Glover’s shot traveled through the defense and appeared to deflect off a Clarkson player before it flew by the screened Leggio for the goal.
Facing a two-goal deficit against the seventh-ranked team in the nation, the Golden Knights clawed their way back into the game in the third period, forcing overtime at Lynah against a team known for its efficiency when leading after two periods.
“We didn’t really change anything up,” said Dodge. “We got a couple opportunities, we buried them twice. So that’s the only difference really. We buried our chances.”
Dodge sparked the turning point midway through the third, when he looked to create some action by pressuring the Big Red puck handlers as Cornell set up its offense behind McKee. Jumping on a pass from Big Red senior Byron Bitz, Dodge intercepted the puck right in front of the net and slid it past McKee.
The Big Red still appeared in control with under five minutes remaining in regulation, but Clarkson was not finished. With four minutes left, Weller took a strong shot from the right side circle, forcing McKee to slide to his left and save the puck with his left leg. However, McKee could not stop the second attempt, as Zalewski lifted the puck over McKee for the game-tying score.
The first overtime period opened with a bang, as the team’s traded scoring chances in the first minute. Cornell had a disallowed goal 17 seconds into the period and McKee made a diving save to prevent a tipped Clarkson shot from ending the game. Cornell went on to carry play for most of the period and tallied a 10-4 advantage in shots, but the most exciting moment of the overtime period occurred with less than one second remaining.
With time winding down, Cornell scrambled in the offensive corner to get one last scoring opportunity and the puck came to captain Matt Moulson above the left side circle. Right before the buzzer, Moulson ripped a shot that clanged off the inside of the upper left post and into the net. The Cornell players stormed onto the ice in celebration and the arena erupted, but the referee waved the goal off, claiming it went in after the buzzer. Replay showed that the puck went in with .1 seconds remaining, but the referee’s call could not be reversed-setting up a second period of overtime.
“We’d love to have instant replay, and right now we don’t have that ability,” said Schafer.
The Cornell team rendered the missed call irrelevant by outshooting Clarkson in the second overtime and surmounting the Clarkson comeback on the shoulders of Sawada’s goal.
“We’ve been in this position before,” said Clarkson coach George Roll. “It’s still upbeat in the locker room.