Cornell Cruises to Victory

ITHACA, N.Y. – Senior forward Sean Collins scored twice in the first period, then assisted on freshman linemate John McCarron's goal in the second period to spur a four-goal outburst over the first 28 minutes and send the men's hockey team to a 4-2 victory over Yale on Saturday night at sold-out Lynah Rink. With the victory, the Big Red has clinched the Ivy League title outright for the first time since the 2004-05 season.
 
Senior forward Locke Jillson scored Cornell's other goal shorthanded to chase Bulldogs starting goalie Jeff Malcolm, then McCarron's goal 2 minutes, 16 seconds later gave the hosts a 4-0 lead over the three-time defending Ivy champions. Only a pair of late goals blemished a stellar outing from Big Red sophomore goalie Andy Iles, who finished the game with 32 saves.
 
Thirteenth-ranked Cornell (13-6-6, 10-3-5 ECAC Hockey) may have taken the lead early, but there were a handful of quality scoring chances before the game was even a couple of minutes old. Yale’s Brian O’Neill took advantage of a fortuitous bounce for a breakaway just 28 seconds into the game, but Iles stayed low to the ice to make the save. Less than a minute later, Cornell freshman forward Brian Ferlin set up senior linemate Greg Miller for a one-timer from prime range only to be foiled by Malcolm’s glove. Yale (10-13-2, 7-10-1) then answered back with Kevin Limbert rolling off the left-wing halfwall and into the slot, forcing Iles to make another quality save.
 
All things considered, Collins’ first goal came on much less ominous play at the 3:58 mark. McCarron forced the puck to the net from the left circle, and Malcolm failed to direct the rebound away from danger. Collins outmuscled his defender to the goal mouth and banged home the rebound before the net was jarred loose from its moorings. Freshman Joel Lowry also assisted on the play – his first of three helpers on the night.
 
Collins struck again with 3:11 left in the opening period on another innocuous-looking play. Freshman defenseman Joakim Ryan sent a pass up the left wing that Lowry redirected around a defender and up the wall at the red line. Collins rushed onto it and went wide on his defender entering the zone, then cut toward the net before beating Malcolm with a shot to the near post.
 
Yale’s vaunted power play – ranked seventh in the nation heading into the weekend – had no chances in the first period, but eight opportunities thereafter. The Bulldogs produced as much on their man-advantage situations (1-for-8) as did the Big Red, thanks to Jillson’s shorthanded goal. Freshman forward Cole Bardreau came up ice toward the end of his shift, but alertly gained the Yale zone with the defense sagging. His pass sent Jillson up the right wing, and Jillson blasted a shot from the outside of the circle over Malcolm’s glove to give Cornell a three-goal lead at the 5:39 mark. The goal gives the Big Red five shorthanded goals on the season – a program high since the 2005-06 season, when it had six.
 
McCarron then wrapped up the home side’s scoring less than two minutes later with his second collegiate goal. He was able to bang in a second rebound after linemates Lowry and Collins were thwarted from close range by relief goalie Connor Wilson – making his collegiate debut. It was the first time the Big Red held a four-goal lead since a pair of 4-0 shutouts over visiting Princeton and Quinnipiac, Nov. 18-19.
 
But Iles had plenty of work to do. He made a save with his right arm on Antoine Laganiere’s breakaway at 8:58 of the second period, then smothered a chance from Andrew Miller on a power-play rush about three minutes later.
 
The Bulldogs maintained their intensity through the third period, where it held a 15-2 advantage in shots on goal. Iles aggressively cut down the angle to negate a Kenny Agostino shot from the left circle 6:21 into the final frame, then stoned Laganiere from short-range again less than a minute and a half later.
 
Yale finally got on the board with 4:14 remaining on a busted four-on-two rush. Defenseman Nick Jaskowiak converted his own rebound after a behind-the-net pass from Josh Balch to break Iles’ bid for a sixth shutout this season. The Bulldogs then had three power plays in the game’s final minute and a half, leading to O’Neill’s goal in the final minute. But the result was never in question, and all that was left to do for the Big Red was gather at center ice for the presentation of the Ivy League champions’ plaque.
 
With first-place Union idle on Saturday, the win allowed the Big Red to creep within one point of the Dutchmen for first place in ECAC Hockey with four games remaining for all of the league’s 12 teams. Cornell has now assured itself of finishing in the top half of the standings head into its final road trip of the regular season next weekend with a trip to the North Country. Cornell visits Clarkson on Friday, Feb. 17 before making the short jaunt up the road to St. Lawrence for a game on Saturday, Feb. 18. Both games are scheduled to start at 7 p.m.
 
A win over Clarkson would clinch a first-round bye for Cornell in the ECAC Hockey Championship playoffs. The Big Red still controls its own destiny – four wins over its final four regular-season games would lock up the Cleary Cup and the top seed heading into the postseason. Union on visits Lynah Rink on Friday, Feb. 24 – the Big Red’s next home game.
 
Notes: The Big Red is tied with Union for fewest losses in the nation. … Collins has five goals in his last five games and 15 points in his last 13 games. He has tied Miller for the team lead in goals with 11. … Collins and Lowry became the fourth and fifth Big Red players to record three points in a game this season. Ryan (Oct. 29 vs. Mercyhurst), Brian Ferlin (Nov. 4) and Miller (Friday) are the others. … The Big Red has lost just twice in its last 13 games (6-2-5). … Saturday marked the 800th game since the Big Red has last converted a penalty shot. .. Defenseman Braden Birch returned to the lineup after a two-game absence due to injury.