ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. — Cornell coach Mike Schafer made his disdain for the ECAC consolation game perfectly clear Friday night following a 6-1 loss to Harvard in the semifinals.
But he also made it clear for the necessity of a quick turnaround if the Big Red hoped to make the NCAA tournament, even if it meant overcoming the disappointment in not making it to the league title game.
Second-seeded Cornell, back-boned by Andy Iles’ 25 saves, did just that, blanking No. 4 Colgate 3-0 in the ECAC consolation game Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall. They’ll now await a likely selection as an at-large team to the NCAA tournament.
“Obviously after [last night], there was a lot of disappointment,” Big Red forward Sean Collins said. “Guys did a good job forgetting about it and moving on and I thought we had a really good effort.”
After falling behind 2-0 to Harvard early, the Big Red took the lead in the fleeting seconds of the opening period Saturday.
Following a faceoff in the Raiders’ zone, Cornell raced down the ice and converted when Collins took a Locke Jillson pass and slapped a one-timer past Colgate’s Alex Evin at 19:35.
“To go into the locker room with a 1-0 lead was huge,” Collins said.
Schafer credited his team for making a quick turnaround after looking listless at times against the Crimson Friday.
“There was a lot of pressure coming in knowing we had to win coming into the tournament,” Schafer said, although Cornell would still have had a good chance of advancing had it tied Colgate (19-17-3).
After giving up a season-high six goals the night before, Iles and Cornell muzzled what was a potent Raiders offense entering the weekend.
Iles made several key saves early, denying Austin Smith from close in on the left post during a Raiders’ power play, and taking a Kurtis Bartliff shot off his facemask later in the first period.
Smith, the nation’s leading goal-scorer, was held to a lone assist in losses to Union and Cornell on the weekend. The top line of Chris Wagner, Joe Wilson and Smith had just five shots on the night, although Smith and Wagner nearly connected on a second period two-on-one breakaway that Wagner ended with a deke that couldn’t beat Iles.
“The statistics speak volumes,” Colgate head coach Don Vaughan said of Smith’s nation-best 36 goals. “These aren’t secondary assists. People sometimes lose sight of the fact that the award is more than on-ice talent and I think Austin Smith embodies all of the other qualities that the Hobey Baker Award stands for. Great player, and I hope that the committee gives him consideration because he deserves it.”
The Big Red took a 2-0 lead when Dustin Mowrey banged in a Greg Miller shot past Evin at 13:34 in the second.
Cornell (18-8-7) just missed on the rush later in the period, but went up 3-0 when John McCarron stole the puck in the low slot and backhanded it for his fifth goal of the season at 17:48.
Colgate’s Matt Firman laid a high hit on the Big Red’s Madison Dias as time expired in the final period. Firman was slapped with a five-minute major for contact to the head and a game misconduct as tempers flared post-whistle.
“Matt Firman is not a dirty player,” Vaughan said. “I talked to him afterwards and he said ‘Yeah, I meant to hit him,’ but he was following through and there was no intent go after [Dias].”
This marked the second year in a row the Raiders have failed to win a game during the league’s championship weekend, while the Big Red are back in the NCAA tournament after missing out last season.
“The guys really responded tonight,” Schafer said. “I’m very happy to move on to next weekend and represent the ECAC in the NCAAs.”