CANTON, N.Y. — The men's hockey team scored three goals in the first period, then senior forward Jake Weidner scored early in the third to quash a St. Lawrence rally and give the Big Red a huge 4-2 victory on Friday night at Appleton Arena.
"It was a very similar type of game," said Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom '77 Head Coach of Men's Hockey at Cornell, referring to when the Big Red topped the Saints in January. "But it's a big win for us."
Senior goaltender Mitch Gillam finished with 27 saves, including a handful of key stops after the Saints scored twice to answer the Big Red's early three-goal lead. With the win, Cornell (17-6-3, 12-4-3) moves ahead of St. Lawrence (15-10-6, 11-5-3) into sole possession of third place in the ECAC Hockey standings with three games remaining in the regular season.
Union (29 points) and Harvard (28) both also won on Friday to stay clear of Cornell (27), but the Big Red is now two points ahead of the Saints (25) for third place with the potential tiebreaker in hand.
The Saints entered the game having scored first in 22 of its 29 games, and it had a 28-14 advantage in goals in the first period. But Cornell, just as it did in the teams' first meeting of the season on Jan. 21, jumped out to a multiple-goal lead.
Senior forward Eric Freschi was turned away from point-blank range 8:26 into the game, and Gillam responded with a save on Ben Masella's shot on a three-on-one break the other away just 10 seconds later.
A very strong Cornell penalty kill set the tone in the opening half of the first, with the Big Red not even allowing the Saints to set up in the offensive zone until more than a minute had elapsed in their second power play.
With the teams back to five-on-five, Cornell's offense got going. Freshman defenseman Yanni Kaldis weaved through the neutral zone to start a rush that led to a drop pass from junior forward Trevor Yates to senior forward Matt Buckles, and his wrist shot from the right circle beat St. Lawrence goaltender Kyle Hayton on the glove side to open the scoring at the 13:37 mark. It was his fifth goal in the last seven games.
The Big Red doubled the lead just 30 seconds later. Senior defenseman Patrick McCarron sent a puck from the right point that hit traffic in front, then senior forward Jeff Kubiak won his battle with a defender for the rebound and poked the puck into the path of sophomore forward Beau Starrett. He snapped a shot under the crossbar over Hayton's blocker for his third goal of the year.
"The whole game's about getting momentum, right from the start," said Starrett, who has five points in three games while playing on a line with Kubiak and sophomore forward Anthony Angello. "After we score the first goal, the next shift is always a huge shift. Teams are always going to come back after the give up the first goal."
Sophomore forward Mitch Vanderlaan then redirected McCarron's shot from the top of the right circle past Hayton with just 3.6 seconds left in the first period for his team-leading 11th goal of the season, and Cornell enjoyed a 3-0 lead for just the third time this year.
But just as when the Big Red opened a multiple-goal lead on the Saints when the teams first met Jan. 21, St. Lawrence came storming back.
Masella backhanded a shot from the slot through traffic and in to get SLU on the board at the 10:06 mark of the second period. Cornell had an opportunity on a two-on-one less than a minute later, but couldn't get off a shot — then St. Lawrence counters and drew a penalty going the other way. Joe Sullivan shoveled a backhander over Gillam's glove at 12:01 and it was suddenly just a one-goal game.
"We've scored early, and we've been scored on (early). … But we've really built an identity that it doesn't really matter, it's about how we play," Schafer said. "If we get scored on or get off to a good start or if we take a little vacation like we did in the second (period) for a while, they've been a very resilient group for the majority of the year."
Gillam made a pair of huge saves late in the period to keep it that way. Michael Ederer ripped a shot high and wide from the slot that bounced hard off the glass, and Gillam alertly scrambled back into position to stop Ederer's second chance. With 1:15 left in the frame, he splayed his left pad out to stop Adam Gilmour's one-timed shot as he steamed down the slot.
Weidner then took the wind out St. Lawrence's sails 3:04 into the third period. After a scramble in front of Hayton's crease, the goalie swept the puck behind the net. Weidner picked it up and moved into the corner. With Vanderlaan tied up with a defender on top of the crease creating traffic, Weidner zipped a shot from the bad angle over Hayton's shoulders.
"A lot of times this year, things have gone our way going into the third," Starrett said. "But we've been in this position before. We knew what it took to compete for the last 20 minutes of the game. And a lot of it came from our captains — Jake Weidner, again, with that goal in the third period (and) Patrick McCarron with those huge blocked shots."
Cornell is now unbeaten in six straight games (5-0-1) heading into a 7 p.m. Saturday game at Clarkson. The Big Red has not swept the road trip through the league's North Country teams since Jan. 16-17, 2009.
Cornell Gets Win Over St. Lawrence
Posted: Feb 17, 2017