Cornell Drops Sereis Opener to Clarkson

ITHACA, N.Y. — Trevor Yates and Mitch Vanderlaan scored power-play goals early in the second period, but it turned out to be the only respite for the Cornell men's hockey team on Friday night in a 6-2 loss to Clarkson in Game 1 of an ECAC Hockey Championship quarterfinal series at Lynah Rink.
Brett Gervais scored twice with two assists and Nic Pierog had two goals and an assist for the sixth-seeded Golden Knights. Game 2 will be played at 7 p.m. Saturday, with the season potentially at stake for third-seeded Cornell (18-7-5) if Clarkson (18-14-5) can pull off another upset. Game 3, if necessary, would be back at 4 p.m. Sunday at Lynah Rink.
While any team in the league would gladly take the first-round bye earned by the top four teams through the regular season, there is one particularly notable down side — the possibility of needing some time to get reacclimated with game speed. Some teams don't have an issue with it, but the Big Red did on this night.
If the goal was to survive the first 10 minutes of the game to shake off the rust, Cornell came pretty close. While it didn't generate any shots on goal until a power play in the game's 14th minute, Clarkson didn't have much in the way of Grade-A chances early on. But as has been the case in the regular-season series between the Big Red and Golden Knights — featuring a pair of 3-3 deadlocks — Clarkson made the most of the opportunities it was able to generate.
It started with Sheldon Rempal's goal at the 7:53 mark. He was set up by a feed from Devin Brosseau after multiple Big Red defenders were drawn to Nico Sturm along the wall coming out of the corner to Gillam's right.
But the angst really started to reach palpable levels about a minute and a half later. After a failed clear led to wild shot wide of the far post, Jordan Boucher collected the puck near the left point. He snapped a shot toward goal, where Pierog was left unattended toward the bottom of the left circle to deflect the puck past Gillam and give the visitors a daunting 2-0 lead.
The balance of the first period left little in the way of encouragement for the Big Red, which was outshot 13-2 in the opening frame despite having the only two power plays. Clarkson even generated a two-man breakaway while short-handed with 2:10 left in the first with Kelly Summers feeding Sam Vigneault, but Gillam flashed the left pad to make a game-saving stop.
The second period started in similar fashion, but junior forward-turned-defenseman Alex Rauter sprawled to break up a Clarkson two-on-one 1:40 into the period. Cornell countered with a two-on-two the other way and drew a penalty. Senior Patrick McCarron took a shot from the left point that was stopped by Clarkson's Jake Kielly, but Yates worked his way free on top of the crease to bang in the rebound for his 12th goal of the year and eight on the man advantage.
Less than a minute later, senior captain Jake Weidner kept the building abuzz by leveling a Clarkson player on the forecheck. The hit's effect may have lingered throughout the shift, with the same Clarkson player taking a penalty for a high hit about 30 seconds later. Vanderlaan cashed in on the ensuing power play, and the Big Red suddenly pulled even at 2 before the second period was even 5 minutes old.
The Big Red momentarily had the Knights reeling, but the game evened out as the second period progressed. The teams went to a four-on-four late in the frame, and Cornell got exposed for another two-on-one. This time, Clarkson's Troy Josephs looked to pass only to snap a quick shot past Gillam to the near post with 43.4 seconds left before the intermission to restore the Knights' lead.
Gillam did his best to keep the home side in it, making a save on Pierog's short-handed breakaway 70 seconds into the third. But Gervais' first goal doubled the lead a couple minutes later. The final score was then inflated by an empty-net goal and five-on-three tally with 9.5 seconds left.