Call it the Martin Brodeur syndrome. When a goaltender plays for as good a defensive team as Cornell, it is easy to dismiss his statistics as merely a product of the team’s system, not his own play.
Big Red goaltender David McKee set yet another record at Friday afternoon with his ninth conference shutout of the season. Without a doubt, though, he earned this one.
Vermont flew out of the gates with 13 first-period shots, while the Big Red committed uncharacteristic turnovers. McKee stood equal to the test, including stopping center Chris Smart when he walked out of the corner untouched with just over two minutes to go in the period. He preserved his team’s 1-0 lead and allowed them to refocus in the intermission, as the vaunted Big Red defense reemerged in the second period and pretty much had the clamps on for the rest of the game.
He also made several quality saves on Catamount scorers Jamie Sifers and Scott Mifsud.
“To get a shutout this deep in the postseason was something that I wanted to do and was pretty good for me,” McKee said.
McKee ensured the shutout with about eight minutes left in the third period, gloving a Vermont tip in front of the net.
“If you look at the shutout, he really earned it,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “Down the stretch, he made a great glove save on a tip which is why he is deserving of the Hobey Baker Award.”
The shutout gives McKee seven in his last 12 games.
Power Play Smoking
Cornell took command of the game on the power play in the second period. After a penalty-free first period, the Big Red had an opportunity 4:13 into the second with the man-advantage. Vermont failed to clear the puck once during the two minutes as Charlie Cook and Matt Moulson kept working the puck at the points, trying to setup Moulson’s shot. Catamount goaltender Joe Fallon had to make several tough saves in front with the much larger Big Red skaters clogging the middle, looking for rebounds.
Moulson, though, made sure that he got a second crack at the man advantage. Flying down the left wing, he faked Sifers at the blueline while the star UVM defender got caught in between playing the puck and the man, and had to take a penalty at 9:44.
Twelve seconds into the man advantage, Moulson wristed a shot that fluttered off Fallon’s skate and into the back of the net for a 2-0 lead.
“Day in and day out we work on the power play in practice and our confidence is real high,” Moulson said. “Our shots seem to always get through and we get a couple of lucky bounces like the goal that I scored. It has really improved since the beginning of the season.”
Moulson entered the game tied for ninth in the nation in power-play goals.
The strong power play complements an equally tough penalty kill. Vermont went 0-for-4 on the power play, making 28 straight penalty kills for Cornell. The Big Red last yielded a goal while shorthanded on Feb. 12 against Yale.
Flurry of Offense
Although they weren’t the quickest four goals in ECAC tournament history, the scoring onslaught at the end of the third period of the Colgate-Harvard game was impressive nonethless. The Crimson and the Raiders potted four goals in two minutes and thirty-eight seconds, and transformed a sluggish third period with an exciting finish.
“Our season was on the line,” said senior defenseman Joey Mormina. “We didn’t need to talk about it [in the locker room], we knew we had to step up.”
Mormina did an impressive job of meeting that challenge. More impressive than the speed of the scoring was the manner in which Colgate answered each of Harvard’s goals. Mormina, who scored both of Colgate’s third-period goals, evened the game at 2 only 45 seconds after Charlie Johnson had given Harvard a lead.
When an impressive individual effort by Tom Cavanagh resulted in a controversial goal at 18:03 of the third and a 3-2 Harvard lead, Mormina and the Raiders again responded, this time a mere 36 seconds later. With an intense forecheck that held the puck in the Harvard zone, Colgate forced a turnover along the boards, Darryl McKinnon found Morina between the faceoff circles and Morina in turn found the back of the net to tie the game at 3-3.
And although his squad eventually fell in overtime, Colgate coach Don Vaughan felt Friday’s comeback was one of the best he has seen.
“The way we came back — I’ve been part of a lot of teams but, this [comeback] was really special,” he said. “They went up twice late and we battled back both times.
The flurry of third-period scoring produced a number of replay reviews, but none was more controversial than the third Harvard goal.
The play began near center ice when the Harvard assistant captain chased down a loose puck, poked it past the Colgate defense, and then skated hard around them and towards the Raiders’ netminder, Steve Silverthorn. Cavanagh was followed closely and the end result was a pileup around Silverthorn that dislodged the Colgate net. Clearly the puck crossed the line and went in, but the question was whether the net had been dislodged before the puck crossed the line.
Chip MacDonald, the assistant referee, was in position and indicated that the goal should count. But referee Alex Dell went to video review for the third time to decide the matter. And while a number of Colgate fans might not have been happy with the result, Vaughan thought that the use of review was not at all controversial.
“Alex Dell did the absolute right thing [in calling for a review],” Vaughan said. “He got the thumbs up [from the linesman MacDonald] but he wanted to make certain, so he went to the phone.”
The class of Harvard seniors is one of the most accomplished in league history. Entering Saturday’s final against Cornell, the Crimson has compiled a 16-1-0 record in ECAC tournament play and has taken part in some of the longest games in ECAC tournament history.
As freshmen, the Harvard seniors outlasted the Brown Bears and goaltender Yann Danis over 94:41 minutes to post a 2-1 win in the deciding game of their playoff series. The next weekend in Lake Placid, the Crimson defeated Clarkson 3-2 in 75:19 in the ECAC semifinals and then stunned Cornell 4-3 in double overtime (96:11).
Friday’s double-overtime win over Colgate in 96:01 is the fourth-longest game in ECAC tournament history, bumping the win over Brown in 2002 down to No. 5.
A lucky recipient of the Crimson’s penchant for long playoff performances is its next opponent, the Big Red of Cornell. At the postgame press conference after his team’s 3-0 defeat of Vermont, Schafer was asked whether he’d prefer to play Harvard or Colgate.
“[We’re] just glad to be in the championship game,” Schafer said. “Harvard and Colgate, they’re both great hockey teams — it’ll be a real battle tomorrow night; the only thing I can hope for would be about a five- or six-overtime game, maximum.”
Five or six might have been too much to hope for, but Schafer can take solace in the fact that his team must have been in bed long before the Crimson, who didn’t exit the arena until nearly 12:30 a.m.