ITHACA, N.Y. — Eight goals in the first two periods made Senior Night a memorable game for the Cornell Big Red, as they completed a four point weekend with an 8-4 victory over the Princeton Tigers.
Cornell was efficient, converting on nearly half of its shots in the first two periods. Seniors Byron Bitz and Mark McCutcheon led the offensive parade with two goals apiece for the Red.
“I thought our guys did a great job of getting to the net tonight,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “They showed a lot of poise around the net. Instead of just sweeping it back towards the net, they took that extra half-second. That comes with confidence.”
“They were as dangerous a team down low as we’ve seen all year,” said Princeton head coach Gadowsky.
After shutting out Quinnipiac on Friday night, Schafer insisted that Cornell was not just a defensive team, and that they were “getting there” offensively. Saturday buried that myth, and then some.
Merely 59 seconds into the game, Cornell’s first line scored the first of its five goals. Captain Byron Bitz used some shifty puck handling to evade a defender on the left side of the goal, then backhanded a pass across the crease to Colin Greening, who beat goaltender B.J. Sklapsky for his second goal of the weekend.
“There’s a lot of weight on our line, 650 pounds in that line. We are really using our size, and it’s working,” said Bitz.
The game remained 1-0 for 13 minutes until senior Mark McCutcheon connected with sophomore Evan Barlow for the 2-0 lead. Set up on the right side of the crease, McCutcheon took a pass from Blake Gallagher and found Barlow with a behind-the-back pass.
“We had a good cycle shift going down low, lots of movement,” said McCutcheon. “I could just see Barlow coming in behind me. I knew I couldn’t get a real good shot off, so I figured that he was better off trying to get his handle on it.
For Barlow, the goal was his second in as many nights, but McCutcheon was just getting started.
Three minutes later on a five-on-three power play, McCutcheon’s slapshot made its way between Sklapsky’s legs to extend the Cornell lead. Gallagher again assisted on the score.
The Gallagher-McCutcheon power-play combo was back in action one minute later on the five-on-four. Gallagher threw the puck towards the Princeton net, and McCutcheon redirected past Sklapsky in the air. Both McCutcheon and Gallagher finished the period with three points.
“You can come back from four-nothing, but with a team like Cornell it’s certainly not easy,” said Gadowsky
Princeton gave freshman goaltender Zane Kalemba a chance to slow the Cornell scoring in the second, but another four goals later, the Tigers were no better off. Twenty-five seconds into the period, Princeton got a glimmer of hope when Lee Jubinville scored off a Cam MacIntyre assist to get the Tigers on the board.
But Cornell went right back to its first-period dominance. Bitz, who added another three points to his Senior Night during the second period, scored the fifth Cornell goal by firing a rebound over Kalemba’s outstretched leg four minutes into the period.
Bitz scored his second goal of the period on a breakaway, assisted by freshmen Justin Krueger and Greening.
The captain’s junior linemate, Raymond Sawada, was not to be outdone. Midway through the period, Sawada added to the lengthy scoring sheet when he collected the rebound of a Topher Scott shot, then lifted a wrist shot for his third point of the night.
With two minutes remaining in the period Sawada and Bitz padded their stats together, as Bitz fed an assist from the corner to Sawada for the score.
Princeton eased the pain a bit in the third with three goals while holding Cornell scoreless. In the first minute of the period, Darroll Powe sniped a wrist shot that bounced off the left post for the Tigers’ second goal. Mike Moore pushed a rebound past Cornell goaltender Troy Davenport (37 saves) six minutes into the third, and Christian Reid’s goal finished the scoring with one minute remaining
Gadowsky downplayed his team’s late offensive spark, saying, “The game is won in the first period, and that’s when everything important happened.”
Bitz had a near-chance for a hat trick with a minute remaining in the game, earning a one-on-one breakaway with no one to beat but the goaltender. To the captain’s disappointment, the blade of his stick shattered in the Princeton zone, so he attempted to illegally kick the puck past Kalemba.
“I thought I’d give it a try anyway, see if they didn’t notice,” said Bitz.