NEW HAVEN, Conn. — Almost perfect. Cornell’s execution in a 2-1 road victory against league rival Yale was exactly that.
The Big Red crashed, banged, and held the Bulldogs scoreless for 59:55, but Yale’s Sean Backman, playing in his first game of the season, potted a goal with just five seconds left to play to erase goaltender Ben Scrivens’ bid for a second career shutout.
“I was a little upset that we didn’t get the shutout in the end, but it was exactly what we needed to do on the road, and it teaches guys important lessons,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “You can’t just sit back. You have to go after it if you want the win.”
Almost all of the scoring came in final minute of the game, as sophomore assistant captain Colin Greening’s empty netter doubled the 1-0 lead that Scrivens and the Cornell defense had so desperately protected.
The Big Red earned the lead with less than five minutes to play in the first frame on a strong forechecking effort by Greening. After a flip deep behind the Bulldog net, Greening raced in and separated the defender from the puck, which squirted out to impact freshman Riley Nash.
Nash scooped up the loose puck and fired a shot to the right side of the net through goaltender Billy Blase’s pads before he could react to the play.
“Riley’s been playing awesome,” Schafer said. “He had a couple of great chances in the third and his whole line is playing well. We’re not just young, we’re young in skilled positions too, so it’s a good win for them.”
After the score, the Big Red retreated into a predictable defensive shell, allowing the Bulldogs to take countless shots from the perimeter while protecting Scrivens and the quality scoring area.
At the same time, Yale seemed content to fire low percentage shots on net in the hopes of kickstarting an otherwise stagnant offense. Backman’s return to the lineup added a considerable amount of skill to the top, but the Bulldogs could not solve Scrivens even though they outshot CU by a considerable margin, as much as two-to-one, for most of the game.
“In the last ten minutes of the second period we played to protect the lead, which I thought was a mistake. We got pinned in our own end, and it didn’t really end up costing us, but it was a valuable lesson for a young team that when you get a lead you have to keep coming,” said Schafer.
Taking its foot off of the gas in the second period nearly cost Cornell the lead, but the Big Red responded with a dominant effort coming out of the locker room for the third, keeping Yale penned deep in their own zone for almost the entire first five minutes of the final period.
“When we came out in the third we started playing again. We weren’t just advancing the puck. We were carrying the puck and making plays,” Schafer said.
Despite the effort, neither team could score until the final minute. With just 35 seconds remaining, Yale pulled Blase in favor of the extra attacker, but Greening was able to break up a pass in the neutral zone right in front of his bench, and the lanky leader fired a long shot into the empty net for a 2-0 lead.
Backman’s reply turned some heads as the Ingalls Rink crowd headed toward the exits, but the 3180 in attendance was comprised almost equally of Cornellians, who were delighted to see Big Red build on last Saturday’s victory over Quinnipiac to even their record at 2-2.
For Schafer, evening the record is a product of consistent effort, not only in the offensive zone, but also from Scrivens. The Big Red came into the season returning two experienced goaltenders, but a lackluster 2006-07 season left the job up for grabs.
“This is back-to-back games that he’s played very well. It’s exactly what we wanted, for one of those guys to take charge, and that’s what Ben did here tonight,” said Schafer.
Scrivens finished with 24 saves on 25 shots, improving his record to 2-1 on the young season.
He and Cornell will aim to extend their two-game winning streak as they head up the shoreline to face Brown on Saturday while Yale will hope to use Backman’s return and the late goal to gain momentum as it hosts Colgate.