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College Hockey:
‘Awesome’ duo of D’Agostino, Iles leads Cornell past Harvard

— It was a day too late to cite true lunacy as the culprit, but Friday’s 11/11/11 Cornell-Harvard match may as well have been played at center ring in the circus.

A night after November’s full moon, the Ivy archrivals tilted against each other in manic mayhem, with the Big Red emerging triumphant by a score of 4-2.

Junior defender Nick D’Agostino scored two power-play goals in the same first-period minute to pace Cornell (2-2-0, 2-1-0 ECAC), following an early goal by rookie Cole Bardreau and prior to a late game-sealer by junior John Esposito.

Sophomore Andy Iles made 18 saves for his second win of the season.

“It was a good road win for us early in the season. We’re getting better as a hockey team,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “But we have a long ways to go.”

Junior Marshall Everson and classmate Alex Fallstrom each scored power-play goals for the Crimson (0-2-1, 0-2-1), sophomore Raphael Girard stopped 15 of 18 first-period shots, and freshman Steve Michalek made seven saves of his own in relief.

Harvard scored twice on six power-play opportunities.

“I’m obviously disappointed,” lamented Crimson head coach Ted Donato. “Give Cornell credit – they executed on their power plays early on. Disappointed for our guys. I thought our guys worked very hard, stayed with a tough situation early and really battled back and made it a game. They had some chances there. I’m disappointed in the end result, but quite honestly, I was proud of the way our guys worked.”

The contest was marked for oddity before the national anthem was even performed, as a handful of Harvard fans chucked more than a dozen pieces of grilled chicken over the boards as the visitors took the ice. The offending ticketholders were summarily removed, but the animus between the benches wasn’t diminished one bit.

Both schools’ bands occupied the south side of the arena, and it was the candy-striped Carnelians who tuned up first.

Bardreau beat Girard five minutes into the action to kick off the chaos, skating left to right across the top of the crease and burying his own rebound to the delight of the Big Red roadies.

Two minutes after that, Crimson forward David Valek drove Cornell defender Sean Whitney into the half-boards while fighting for a puck. Whitney hit the deck after taking the brunt of the hit in his lower back and he stayed down until the whistle.

A melee promptly ensued to Iles’ right corner where the hit had occurred. Valek somehow evaded prosecution when all was said and done, but amidst the donnybrook, top Crimson offensive threat Alex Killorn was assessed a major and a game misconduct for grabbing the face mask.

Harvard’s Alex Fallstrom took a tripping minor 90 seconds later and the Big Red seized the opportunity. Rookie blueliner Joakim Ryan and D’Agostino swapped spots on the points during a cycle, allowing the latter a seam through which he fired a rocket over Girard’s glove. Just 56 seconds later – on the same shift – D’Agostino picked the same corner from the same spot on the ice to extend Cornell’s lead to 3-0.

“He played awesome,” Schafer said of D’Agostino. “He played what I thought was one of his better games and he’s really learning how to turn it up and be a leader. He did a tremendous job.”

The contest seemed to be slipping rapidly from Harvard’s fumbling grasp, but the Crimson managed to dodge a few more dangerous situations while creating a handful of their own before the period expired. Neither team billowed the twine in the second half of the frame, as the teams took to their locker rooms with the score 3-0 and Cornell blasting the hosts, 18-3, in the shot department.

Donato elected to switch Girard for Michalek after the intermission, and while it didn’t pay immediate dividends on the scoreboard, the Crimson did ultimately break through Iles 6:16 into the period.

Winger Marshall Everson ticked a long Danny Biega wristshot past the ‘keeper on the power play, breathing life into what had been a stale offensive game by Harvard to that point.

With 6:19 to play in the second stanza, Iles effectively picked a Fallstrom one-timer right off the scoresheet with a deft flick of the mitt. The clutch save preserved the two-goal cushion for the time being, but the Ithacans couldn’t keep out of the box as the period continued.

D’Agostino was whistled for a minor with 55 seconds on the clock – Cornell’s fifth straight infraction – and Fallstrom capitalized for the Crimson with a low-angle rebound goal at 19:49 of the frame.

“Talk about learning a lesson. We came out in the first and got the 3-0 lead, then … didn’t put ‘em away, didn’t keep the foot on the gas pedal,” said Schafer. “You go with the flow, and that’s something we talked about between periods: focus on the things you can control. You can’t control officiating, you can’t control bad bounces, you can’t control their attitude, and we got back to that in the third.”

The home side bounced back with a 10-4 advantage in shots-on-goal in the second period and went two-for-three on the power play. Another quirk in a quirky game occurred midway through the period when a puck ricocheted into the Cornell bench, but the clock kept running for approximately eight seconds. The error was never rectified.

The third period was played with a great deal of tenacity, but the the defining moment of the frame was when Iles stoned freshman Colin Blackwell point-blank on the doorstep. The Red transitioned into a two-on-one with Brian Ferlin and Esposito, with the latter releasing a riser over Michalek’s glove for the clincher.

“I thought he was solid,” said Schafer of Iles. “Tonight, again, they scored two goals, and the first one … was going wide, their kid tipped it in to give them some life. He did a lot of good things on our penalty kill tonight, and just the two goals – one was a tip, and one was a rebound. He did an awesome job tonight.”

The evening culminated with as odd a sight as one could expect, as both teams remained on the ice after the handshake line to stick-salute their respective fans.

Harvard seeks its first win of the season Saturday night against Colgate, while Cornell continues north to tangle with Dartmouth.

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