PRINCETON, N.J. — Brett Wilson’s fourth game-winning goal of the season proved to be the difference as No. 17 Princeton edged Cornell, 2-1, before a boisterous overflow crowd of 2,544 at Hobey Baker Memorial Rink.
“It’s always a great atmosphere here,” said Princeton coach Guy Gadowsky. “We’ve had great crowds after Christmas, and people have bought into this. Anyone who comes in contact with our players becomes fans; we have such high-quality guys.”
Princeton (17-10-0, 14-6-0 ECAC), which has won 12 of its last 14 outings overall, has locked up at least second place in the ECAC, with a chance to still overtake No. 11 Clarkson for the top spot when the two teams meet in Potsdam on Friday night. Cornell (13-11-3, 11-8-1 ECAC) can still finish as high as third in the league, but will likely require help from several other schools to do so.
Princeton goaltender Zane Kalemba improved to 15-7-0 on the year with 23 saves; 11 of those stops came in the final 20 minutes. Cornell netminder Ben Scrivens finished with 22 stops on the night, including a dozen in the first period of play, in falling to 13-9-3.
“We had some good chances,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer after his team’s two-game win streak was snapped. “Kalemba played well, but we have to finish our chances. Even on the power play, we had three or four good looks, but you’ve got to score.”
He was pleased with the play of his defense in defeat.
“Ben had a solid night,” added Schafer. “They throw a lot of pucks at the net, and we did a good job clearing rebounds.”
Coupled with a 3-2 win in Ithaca back in November, the Tigers swept the season series between Princeton and Cornell for the first time since the 1994-95 season. All five seniors on the Princeton roster, Mike Moore, Landis Stankievech, Keith Shattenkirk, Erik Pridham and Kyle Hagel, were in the lineup tonight and were the starters for their final home regular-season game, with Hagel dropping back from his customary left wing position to defense.
Cornell had a few offensive chances in the early going, but it was host Princeton who broke through for the game’s opening goal, as Jody Pederson skated down from his point position and put the puck home from the left circle at 11:10 of the first period. Cam Ritchie and Wilson assisted on Pederson’s third score of the season.
The Tigers made it 2-0 on a power play less than six minutes into the second period with Cornell co-captain Raymond Sawada off for high-sticking. Cam MacIntyre centered the puck from the left corner of the Cornell zone, and Wilson was there on the doorstep to slam it through Scrivens’ pads at 5:55. Princeton’s leading scorer Lee Jubinville drew the other assist on Wilsons team-leading 12th goal of the campaign.
“There are people who love to score goals, and people who live to score goals,” said Gadowsky. “Willy will literally do anything to score, and you can see how his eyes just light up when he gets a chance.”
Cornell came within a cross-ice pass of cutting the deficit in half with less than 11 minutes left in the middle session, but co-captain Topher Scott couldn’t tee up the puck at the inner edge of the right circle with open net in front of him.
Scott did set up Cornell’s only goal of the game mere minutes later, as Mike Devin scored his third of the year on a power-play at 10:55 after Princeton captain Mike Moore had been banished for high-sticking.
Devin’s initial blast from the left point was kicked aside by Kalemba, but the puck soon went behind the Princeton net to Sawada, who skated out to his left and fed Scott in the right circle. Scott then dished off to Devin as he skated between the circles, and the freshman blueliner’s one-timer beat Kalemba low and to the stick side.
Princeton looked like they had regained the two-goal advantage in the final minute of the period, after MacIntyre powered to the net off the right half boards and fed Jubinville along the goal line. Jubinville’s shot was stopped by Scrivens at the right post, and MacIntyre seemingly fired in the rebound from the slot, with the puck quickly ricocheting out of the net; but play continued until Cornell iced the puck with 26 seconds left in the period. No goal light went on, and no video review was available to referee Bill Bredin and his crew, who discussed the situation with both benches and team captains. Ultimately no goal was awarded and the score remained unchanged, much to the vocal chagrin of the Princeton supporters in the crowd.
“Give the guys a lot of credit,” said Gadowsky. “3-1 is a big difference from 2-1, but they stayed up after that and showed real mental toughness. I’m glad we won and that it wasn’t a factor.”
Cornell’s Joe Devin had an open shot from the right side of the Princeton zone less than two minutes into the third period, but lost his balance before he could pull the trigger. He nonetheless managed to center the puck in front to Evan Barlow, but Barlow was turned aside by Kalemba’s left pad. The Princeton sophomore then used his right pad to deny Patrick Kennedy at the far post off a cross-ice feed by Riley Nash, and then stopped Devin on a shot from the slot.
“Zane is just so calm that it’s like he’s playing shinny,” said Gadowsky. “He has such a calming effect and is so poised back there.”
Devin then had an opportunity to break in all alone on the right wing, but had the puck knocked away from him in the right circle by a diving Pederson as the Cornell forward sped in on Kalemba.
“Jody made a great play,” said Kalemba. “He got the puck first and didn’t trip the guy. He hustled back, and he’s been great for us all year.”
Cornell finally pulled Scrivens for an extra attacker in the final 90 seconds of regulation, before Kalemba made a glove save on Barlow’s right-wing wrister with 25 seconds remaining.
“Obviously you knew it was a huge game,” said Kalemba. “With 25 seconds left, it was exciting, and I like that pressure.”
Following a Cornell timeout, the Big Red shuttled the puck around the offensive zone until Nash mishandled it at the blue line, allowing Wilson a chance to clear it for an icing with 12 seconds left. Cornell then won the final faceoff and tried to dig the puck off the right-wing boards to set up one last shot, but Jubinville managed to chip it out of the zone and preserve the victory.
Both schools wrap up their regular seasons next week, with Cornell hosting Dartmouth and Harvard, and Princeton visiting Clarkson and St. Lawrence.