PROVIDENCE — Cornell (13-12-3, 11-8-2 ECAC) scored a pair of third period goals to force the game into overtime, but a David Brownschidle goal for Brown (9-14-5, 7-12-2) just 30 seconds into the extra frame claimed the two points for a Bears squad still in the hunt for home ice in the ECAC playoffs. The loss is a severe blow to the Big Red’s quest for a first round bye, as they now sit tied for the last bye with Princeton, but with a date with No. 3 Yale in New Haven on Sunday.
“I thought we played unbelievably solid hockey,” said Brown coach Brendan Whittet. “The resiliency of the team is such that we came back and win a game that we absolutely needed to win.”
“I thought we got what we deserved,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “With the great opportunities we’ve had, tonight with an opportunity to solidify a place and home ice, and to come out and just not play exceptionally well and not be sharp and not compete, it’s frustrating.”
Brown built a 2-0 lead in the first two periods with a pair of goals by senior captain Harry Zolniercyzk, the second of which Whittet called “one of the best goals you’ll see at any level.”
At 8:18 in the second period, the puck trickled past the Cornell blue line toward the faceoff circle. Zolniercyzk turned on the jets and outskated a Cornell defender to the puck before cutting sharply back towards the crease. The Brown captain then leapt off the ice to dodge the other Cornell defenseman who had come careening in. Miraculously, Zolniercyzk was able to maintain control of the puck and keep his balance before blasting a backhand finish past Big Red goalie Andy Iles for a spectacular unassisted goal.
“Just an incredible individual effort,” Whittet said. “It was just pure speed and effort and just an unbelievable goal.”
“There was just a chipped puck out of our zone there,” said Zolniercyzk. “Kind of a race for the puck. I tried to turn the corner and race in. I saw the far [defenseman] coming in from the weak side, and thought he was going to try to lay on a big hit. I kinda let the puck go and dodged out of the way there and met it on the other side.”
Zolniercyzk opened the scoring for Brown with a power-play goal midway through the first frame. Defenseman Dennis Robertson snuck the puck past the Cornell defense to Zolniercyzk, who was facing away from the goal. Zolniercyzk controlled the puck before firing a no-look backhand shot that found its way past Iles for the opening tally.
Brown kept up the pressure on its next power play, but Iles (31 saves on the game) made several nifty stops. The Bears couldn’t break through, but were content to take a one-goal advantage into the locker room after having fallen behind by two goals after the first period in its last three games.
“When you can get a lead, you play much better when you’re in front,” Whittet said. “It gives you a little bit of confidence and a sense that you’re on the right track. It gives you a good feeling and a good vibe on the bench and that’s what we had all night.”
In the second period, Brown kept up its strong defensive play. The Bears’ penalty kill, an area of weakness of late, twice kept the Big Red at bay, while goalie Mike Clemente (31 saves) continued to be a wall in net to preserve the 2-0 lead Zolniercyzk had provided.
With just over nine minutes remaining in the third though, Brown found themselves in a hole after committing two penalties in a 23-second-span, the second of which was a five-minute major and game misconduct on Zolniercyzk for hitting from behind, putting him out for the remainder of regulation. The mistakes were ones that the Bears had avoided all game, but now paid the price for late, as the Big Red was able to capitalize.
With only eight seconds left on five-on-three, Tyler Roeszler was on the receiving end of a Greg Miller pass, and the senior winger put it home from the left side of the crease to cut the deficit to 2-1.
Two minutes later, Cornell evened the score while still on the power play resulting from Zolniercyzk’s infraction. This time it was Sean Collins who lit the lamp, evening the score at 2-2 and eventually sending the game into overtime.
Just 30 seconds into overtime, David Brownschidle ended the game in the extra frame’s first shift. Off an Iles save, the puck came to rest between the faceoff circles. Brownschidle was the quickest one there, firing the shot past Iles as he fell to the ice, where he was instantaneously mobbed by his teammates in celebration.
“It’s tough to drop a couple in the third and let them back into the game,” said Brownschidle. “But it’s the way the game goes sometimes and it was a big win for us.”
Brown can now finish anywhere from seventh to ninth in the ECAC, and with a win over last-place Colgate on Sunday could potentially steal home ice from either Quinnipiac or Clarkson, depending on their results. Cornell needs a win over Yale and a Union win over Princeton to clinch the last remaining bye in the tournament.