After overtime controversy, Clarkson knocks off Cornell on Klack’s winner to secure ECAC Hockey crown

Clarkson is the 2019 ECAC Hockey playoff champion after defeating Cornell 3-2 in overtime (photo: Clarkson Athletics).

LAKE PLACID, N.Y. — For the second year in a row, Clarkson found itself in overtime in the ECAC Hockey championship game.

This time, it ended differently for the Golden Knights.

Chris Klack scored 14:36 into the extra period to send Clarkson to a 3-2 win over Cornell Saturday before 5,713 at the Herb Brooks Arena.

It was the first time the Golden Knights had won the Whitelaw Cup since 2007 and came a year after Clarkson lost to Princeton 2-1 in overtime.

Junior Devin Brosseau was named the tournament MVP after scoring twice and assisting on the game winner. Jake Kielly had 29 saves for the third-seeded Golden Knights, who head into the NCAA tournament on an 11-game unbeaten streak.

“We remember how it felt,” Brosseau said of losing to the Tigers last season. “We said we’d fall over before we’d lose again. We found our way in overtime and we were moving pucks real well. It’s just a great feeling. “

It’s the second time this season that the Golden Knights have denied Cornell a chance at a title. Clarkson rallied for a 2-2 tie on the final night of the regular season to force the Big Red to settle for a split of the regular-season title with Quinnipiac and the No. 2 seed in the conference tournament.

Brosseau setup the game winning goal by carrying the puck around the back of the net before throwing it out in front to a waiting Klack, who beat Cornell backup goalie Austin McGrath.

McGrath was in net after Matthew Galajda (23 saves) left with an injury earlier in the overtime period.

“I just tried to get to the net front, and it was an easy goal for me,” Klack said.

The game had extra meaning for each teams’ coaches. Clarkson’s Casey Jones played at Cornell from 1986 to 1990, when current Big Red coach Mike Schafer was an assistant. Jones also served two separate stints on Cornell’s coaching staff, including spending 2008 to 2011 as an associate head coach with Schafer and current Clarkson assistant Brent Brekke.

“To be completely honest with you, in the business, he’s my best friend,” Jones said. “He’s the guy I lean on the most. If I was going to lose, I’d pick him. I have the utmost respect for him. What he does is he holds his players to a high standard on and off the ice. We’ve been doing that at Clarkson, a lot of what he does, in terms of developing young men outside of hockey.”

As for Schafer, he credited Jones and Brekke with running Clarkson’s program the right way.

“He’s turned it around, he leads it with class,” Schafer said of Jones. “Their teams play hard the right way. He’s recruits the right way. That’s the problem with a lot of college hockey coaches right now; they don’t possess those sort of skills. I couldn’t be prouder of Casey, Brent, and Clarkson.”

Both teams entered the night having already clinched an NCAA tournament bid. The bracket will be announced Sunday at 7 p.m. The Big Red and Golden Knights will be joined in the national tournament by Harvard and Quinnipiac, giving ECAC Hockey four teams in the tournament for the first time since 1984.

However, the injuries that plagued Cornell for much of the season struck the Big Red again Saturday.

Schafer said that junior forward Jeff Malott was out for seven-to-eight months after colliding with Clarkson’s Nico Sturm late in the first period. Malott was helped off the ice and given an interference penalty on the play.

Galajda left with a knee injury after an odd sequence in overtime. The Big Red goalie had the net pushed on top of him from behind, but the officials failed to whistle the play dead, and Galajda was injured attempting to lift the net off his back. He stayed in the game for several minutes, but was replaced by McGrath for the final 3:47 of the game.

“So the million-dollar question is, ‘Do I want to coach in the NCAAs or do I not want to coach in the NCAAs?’” Schafer said when asked about the play. “Why does the official want to keep the net on in that situation and cost our starting goaltending a knee injury? They messed up the call and the kid got hurt for no reason. The goalie is down on his knees, the thing is caught on the back of his neck and yet they can’t blow the whistle. I just think that’s unacceptable from an official standpoint. It’s great sportsmanship; our guy is trying to help him, the Clarkson kid is trying to help him.

“The only guys who aren’t helping him was the officials. They were the ones not doing their job.”

Cornell took a 1-0 lead when Noah Bauld finished off a two-on-one feed from Brenden Locke, firing a shot past Kielly at 7:29.

But Brosseau scored twice on the power play to send the Golden Knights into the first intermission with a 2-1 lead.

His first goal came off a rocket from the right circle, tying the game at 12:26. The junior gave Clarkson the lead moments later when Connor McCarthy threaded a pass from the left point to Brosseau on the right post for an easy tap-in.

Cornell controlled play for the latter part of the third and tied the game when Tristan Mullin redirected a shot past Kielly at 14:19.

Sturm hit a post for Clarkson early in the overtime, and then Kielly dove to cover a shot by Bauld 3:04 into the extra period, setting the stage for Klack’s game-winner.

“Right from the day we lost last year, we were one a mission,” Jones said. “And for it to come to fruition tonight was pretty special.”