ALBANY, N.Y. — A national television audience wanted excitement and entertainment, which is just what New Hampshire brought to the table against Cornell on Friday night.
The Wildcats were just on a bit of a tape delay, that’s all.
The underdog Wildcats riddled the Big Red’s stalwart defense and Hobey Baker-candidate goaltender with six goals in the game’s final 26 minutes, routing Cornell, 6-2, in front of 4,073 at Albany’s Times-Union Center.
Juniors Paul Thompson and Mike Sislo each scored twice for the Wildcats, as did senior and fellow Hobey candidate Bobby Butler. Senior Brian Foster made 24 stops for UNH (18-13-7), which advances to the NCAA quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
“It was a great effort by our team, led by our captains and of course Brian [Foster],” praised triumphant coach Dick Umile. “It was a great team effort.”
Juniors Tyler Roeszler and Dan Nicholls scored for Cornell (21-9-4), which couldn’t hold a 1-0 lead nearly as well as they had all year long. Ben Scrivens looked positively mortal in net, allowing five goals on 37 shots.
“They were obviously the better hockey team,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer.
“For the life of me, I can’t figure out why we didn’t bring it tonight,” lamented senior forward Colin Greening.
The game commenced with the ice rising ahead of Scrivens. New Hampshire utilized good team speed and a strong transition game to keep the Big Red on their heels, but the defense generally held firm in the Grade-’A’ scoring areas. Each side threw some big hits and played the body effectively, but the WCHA officiating crew kept play moving and left the whistles pocketed.
Through over 19 minutes of action, the Wildcats outshot the Red 12-3, but shot number four was a big one. Roeszler picked a rebound off of Foster’s feet with under a minute to go, following a no-angle Joe Devin flip that bounced off the goalie’s glove. The winger danced the puck across the edge of the crease and roofed it over Foster for the game’s first goal.
Despite a 20-minute shot tally of 14-5, UNH found itself on the undesirable end of the score at the first horn.
Sislo nearly drew the game even two minutes into the second, finding himself and the puck in the same place at the same time with Scrivens sliding across the crease. The quick snap shot arrived just as Scrivens did though, and Cornell held on. It was the first of a number of near-misses and near-chances for the Wildcats in the frame, though the Cornell defense, rarely described as a bend-but-don’t-break unit, did its best impersonation thereof and kept the Wildcats hungry.
New Hampshire finally broke through at 16:47, as Butler scored a goal that necessitated a five-minute review. What first appeared to be a post-pinging far-side wrister was ultimately overturned, as the replay showed that the puck snuck through Scrivens’ net just inside the iron.
Sislo, who had been buzzing the net all night, finally potted a goal of his own only 26 seconds later. Flying down the right-wing seam, he took a cross-ice feed from Greg Burke and thudded a wrist shot high off Scrivens’ left shoulder for UNH’s second goal.
“Getting out of the period at 1-1 would’ve been awesome,” said Schafer, whose squad committed lethal turnovers all night long. “We just couldn’t help ourselves but to look down the middle [for a pass]. Any team’s fast if you give ‘em the puck while they’re skating at you. It was a frustrating way to end our season.”
“We knew that once we got one in, they were gonna start coming,” said Butler of his team’s scoring abilities. “Once we [scored], we just piled on.”
In a near mirror-image of the first period, Cornell’s 11 second-stanza shots proved meaningless, as the Wildcats scored on two of their five shots-on-goal in the set.
The Wildcats picked up where they left off fewer than three minutes into the third, as Thompson whipped a 15-foot riser high over Scrivens’ glove. It was the first time in six games that the Cornell senior surrendered three goals in an outing.
Butler then stuck the fork in the Big Red with 13:24 to play, running away with a Thompson pass on an uncontested breakaway. Scrivens committed early, going to the paddle-down form before Butler suddenly deked to the forehand and ripped the puck over the goalie’s glove. Sislo followed suit, becoming UNH’s second multi-goal scorer of the game at 15:14 when he zipped one by Cornell’s defeated netminder to the delight of the hundreds of Wildcats fans in attendance.
It was the latest insult in a disastrous game for Scrivens, who saw his team-record 268:17 shutout streak positively eviscerated by the quick-strike Wildcats.
“We left him hanging out to dry,” said Schafer, who said he couldn’t adequately review a goalie’s play without seeing the film first. “All I can tell you is that he’s one of the best goaltenders I’ve ever coached.
“We had to press, and the more we pressed, the more they scored.”
Nicholls finally buried one for the Big Red with 2:11 to play, but the goal was little more than a score-sheet adjustment for the deflated Ithacans. Thompson ended the scoring with 33 seconds left to play, sliding home an empty-netter.
The East Regional’s No. 3 seed New Hampshire will take on No. 4 RIT in tomorrow’s unlikely regional championship match. The puck drops at 6:30, and will be televised live on ESPNU.