Headed To The Box
If an observer merely glanced at the boxscore, he or she would be hard pressed to believe that this was a semifinal battle between the supposedly best and fourth-best teams in the country. Both New Hampshire and Cornell were neck-in-neck, not on the scoreboard, but in trying to see who could take a penalty at the worst possible time.
“When you get on a roll five-on-five, a penalty or power play can kill your momentum either way,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “I’m disappointed a lack of discipline cost up the last three minutes in the game.”
In all, Cornell received six power plays and UNH four, but each team only managed one goal apiece on the power play. Entering the game, the Big Red had a 23-percent conversion rate on the power play, and UNH was an even better 24 percent.
“We made life a lot more difficult for ourselves by taking unnecessary penalties,” said UNH coach Dick Umile.
Groin Pull? Headshot
UNH goaltender Mike Ayers claimed he “just got his bell rung” when he laid down on the ice at the end of the second period after stretching out awkwardly to try and deny Sam Paolini’s backhand from the doorstep that hit the post.
No one knew for sure what Ayers injured, but Bâby really did ring his bell in the final seconds of the game. With seemingly the whole short side open in close during a scramble in front of the net, Ayers slid over and Bâby lifted a shot right into his helmet.
“I tried to go to the top part of the net and I didn’t see him coming across,” said the incredulous Cornell captain that his last second shot did not tie the game.
Ayers had more clarity: “I knew that with all the commotion in front of the net that he couldn’t go far side. I just went as hard as I could to the near side and it hit my helmet.”
The turning point in the semifinal was the negation of Shane Palahicky’s deft deflection in the first period by the video replay judge, WCHA Director of Officiating Greg Shepherd.
Cornell fans will find little solace in the official explanation:
Batting the puck above the height of four feet with the stick is prohibited…The play was ruled a goal on the ice. However replays showed conclusively that the puck was directed into the net by a high stick.
One Cornell fan in attendance was NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.
“I was about 400 miles away, so I figured I’d stop in,” Bettman said. “It’s a lot of fun. It’s always great to see well-played hockey at any level. And this is a wonderful tournament.”
A member of the Cornell class of 1974, he held an impromptu press conference between the second and third periods, at which he announced the sale of the Buffalo Sabres to New York billionaire Tom Golisano had been approved by the NHL Board of Governors.
“As you know, I’m a Cornell alum, and the game’s not going the way I’d like, but there’s the whole third period to go,” Bettman said.