ITHACA, N.Y. — The Cornell Big Red started slow, but found their goaltender as they opened their season by defeating the Robert Morris Colonials 4-1 in their first meeting ever. Competing against his former college coach, Robert Morris head coach Derek Schooley had his team in the game till the very end, when Cornell closed the night out with two goals in the final minute.
“[Cornell] just grinds you down,” said Schooley.
Schooley credited his goaltender, Christian Boucher, for keeping the game within reach until the final moments. However, Schooley was frustrated with the Colonials’ lack of offensive production.
“Our Achilles heel is not being able to score goals.”
Cornell coach Mike Schafer also praised Boucher, as well as Cornell goaltender Troy Davenport, who appears to have cemented his role as the Cornell starter.
“The biggest thing is that going into the season everyone had questions about [our] goaltending,” said Schafer. “I think that Troy Davenport clearly answered that question here tonight.”
Overcoming four penalties and a 16-5 shot deficit in the first period, the Colonials held tight and left the ice scoreless after their first period of play at Lynah Rink. Robert Morris managed to frustrate the Red in even-strength play, blocking eight Cornell shot attempts.
“That’s the way we’ve always played,” said Boucher. “We take pride in blocking shots.”
With 18 more shots in the second period, The Red solved Boucher and tallied two scores, while Davenport continued to appear deserving of his role as a starter. In the first half of the period, the tempo was fast and Boucher and Davenport exchanged impressive saves. At the end of a Cornell power play, Boucher followed one highlight-caliber save by sliding to his left in a split position to stop a shot off the rebound.
The Robert Morris defense finally gave in to the Red attack 10 minutes into the period. Sophomore Evan Barlow skated the puck into the right corner of the Colonials’ zone and dished to Michael Kennedy, who flipped a shot over Boucher’s glove hand for his fourth career goal.
“I rushed the net hard, and Barlow had a great pass — threaded the needle,” said Kennedy.
Following a Robert Morris penalty later in the period, the puck found freshman Blake Gallagher as Cornell worked it around in the Colonial’s zone on the power play. Gallagher controlled the puck in the right circle, appearing to look for a pass.
In a quick, fluid motion, Gallagher pulled back and snapped a wrist shot through the air to find back-netting and his first career goal. Freshman forward Brendon Nash also recorded his first career point on the play.
“Its just fun to finally be here and get a chance to play here. To score is just kind of a bonus,” said Gallagher.
Robert Morris clawed back into the game three minutes into the third period, when junior Joel Gasper broke up Davenport’s shutout bid. Gasper shot from the left side circle and Davenport appeared to have the save, but the puck slid out to his back right and slowly crossed the goal line. Gaspers’ linemates, Jason Towsley and Tom Biondich, assisted on the play.
The Red did not allow the Colonials a chance for last-minute heroics. Senior Mitch Carefoot collected the rebound from a Nash slapshot, and put in the third Cornell goal with 47 seconds remaining. Seconds later, Tyler Mugford capitalized on a nice pass from captain Byron Bitz and put the icing on the cake with an empty-net score on a drive from the neutral zone.
In spite of the final count of 4-1, The Red were hardly content with their opening performance.
“Every first game reads the same: anxious to play, tentative, sloppy at times, did a lot of good things, but did a lot of bad things,” said Schafer. “That’s what first games are all about.”