ITHACA, N.Y. — Cornell battled back from 2-0 down on the strength of two goals from captain John McCarron to salvage a 2-2 tie with Rensselaer Friday night at Lynah Rink.
Rensselaer staked itself to a two-goal lead when their struggling offense exploded for a pair of goals in just a 33-second span midway through the second period.
A strong cycle in the right corner of the offensive zone ended up in the Big Red cage when Drew Melanson fed a pass to the right faceoff dot for Lou Nanne, who walked in on Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam untouched and fired a wrist shot high past the glove side, giving the Engineers the lead.
“We’re not a flashy rush team,” said RPI coach Seth Appert. “We had some good offensive zone chances and we can kind of lean on teams. I thought both of our goals came from relentless offensive pressure and creating turnovers.”
That relentlessness that Appert mentioned continued just half a minute after the Nanne tally when the Engineers took advantage of a failed clearing attempt from the Big Red.
Milos Bubela halted an attempted clear from a Big Red defenseman, with Zach Schroeder picking up the loose puck. Schroeder fed Viktor Liljegren in the high slot, who came in all alone and beat Gillam high to the blocker.
“In the second period, we made some big mistakes on the side walls in our own end,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “We paid the price off of broken plays and not getting the puck out [and] they capitalized on both of those chances.”
The Engineers carried the two-goal lead into the third period. A Cornell team ranked 54th in the country in total offense with just under two goals per game, needed a quick strike to get back into the game, and they would get just that from the captain.
While on the power play, Jake Weidner threw a saucer pass across the blue line to Cole Bardreau at the left point. With John McCarron perched in the high slot, Bardreau fed his classmate, who then opened up his body and ripped a wrist shot over the right shoulder of RPI goalie Jason Kasdorf.
The following 16 minutes of play were contested tightly, as the Big Red and Engineers traded blows in front of the pinked-out crowd in support of breast cancer awareness, but an inability to clear the zone led to Cornell’s break.
“Ideally, we would have gotten through that shift in 30 or 40 seconds,” said Appert. “I think they were out there for 2:08 and we had chances to clear, we got the puck on our stick. That’s where the guys have to realize that in those moments, you’re going to get one chance to get it out.”
The Big Red did not let the Engineers convert on a clearance as multiple saves at the blue line held RPI from completing a line change. Finally, Jacob MacDonald took a hard shot that was blocked, but the rebound came to the stick of McCarron, who did no wrong in completing the Big Red comeback with just 33 seconds to play.
“He’s suffered through a tough time throughout the course of the year,” said Schafer about his captain, who did not score his first goal of the year until Jan. 31 against Colgate. “He’s always done well in terms of big shot blocks, huge hits and he’s been a good leader. To get two tonight will only boost his confidence.”
After the game-tying goal, another five minutes of evenly played action led to the tied score, as both sides fired three shots on net during the extra session. This late in the season, with teams firing on all cylinders and in desperate needs of points in the tight ECAC standings, Appert summed it up best when he said, “I thought it was just a really good hockey game, both teams played their tails off.”