Cornell Blitzes Quinnipiac In Playoff Debut

Cornell Blitzes Quinnipiac In Playoff Debut

ITHACA, N.Y. — With the nation's best defensive team playing against a resurgent squad finding its stride in the season's home stretch, the wide expectation was for goals to be at a premium in the ECAC Hockey Championship quarterfinal series this weekend at Lynah Rink. What ensued in Game 1 on Friday night was quite the opposite, with Cornell trouncing Quinnipiac, 9-1, in the opener of the best-of-three set in front of a sold-out crowd.
 
Making his return to the lineup after a six-game absence due to injury, junior forward Mitch Vanderlaan scored two of the Big Red's six goals in the second period to turn the game into a rout that conjured up memories of a 10-0 defeat Quinnipiac recorded against Cornell in 2013 as part of another quarterfinal series. Senior forward Alex Rauter and junior forward Beau Starrett also had two goals apiece for Cornell on Friday, and freshman forward Brenden Locke and sophomore defenseman Yanni Kaldis also had four assists apiece.
 
With the win, top-seeded Cornell (24-4-2) will have a chance to complete a two-game sweep of ninth-seeded Quinnipiac (16-17-4) in the best-of-three series at 7 p.m. Saturday, when the teams will meet again in Game 2.
 
"The boys were rolling. Having that bye week last week, we got some conditioning in getting ready for this weekend," Starrett said. "The boys were ready to go and we gotta be ready tomorrow night too."
 
All nine of Cornell's goals Friday were scored in the first 36 minutes of the game, marking the program's highest goal total in a single game since a 10-4 victory over Clarkson on Nov. 20, 1999. The eight-goal margin of victory was the highest for the Big Red since an 8-0 whitewash of Vermont on Nov. 15, 2002.
 
It seemed an improbable outcome, even after Cornell got out to a near-dream start. Honored as ECAC Hockey's Best Defensive Defenseman earlier on Friday, junior Alec McCrea showed his worth at the other end of the rink with a power-play goal just 1 minute, 47 seconds in. It was his first goal since Nov. 25 vs. Boston University at the Red Hot Hockey game at Madison Square Garden in New York. All five of his goals have come on the power play, a team high.
 
Cornell held Quinnipiac without a shot on goal until the midway point of the opening frame, but the Bobcats had the edge in play from there. Tanner MacMaster tipped in a Karlis Cukste point shot on the power play just shy of the 13-minute mark, and the game was tied at 1.
 
What could have easily gone down as an even period was completely altered by a pair of Cornell goals 71 seconds apart inside the final two minutes. A puck dumped into the Quinnipiac zone kicked off the end boards and over the stick of goalie Keith Petruzzelli as he ventured off his right post. That allowed Rauter to jam in the puck and give Cornell the lead for good. Sophomore forward Jeff Malott provided the third goal with a perfect shot high glove after senior forward Jared Fiegl's drop pass.
 
Armed with a little breathing room, Cornell blew the game open in the second. Vanderlaan started the rout just 30 seconds into the middle frame, then Starrett created a turnover with his long reach on the forecheck before tapping in a rebound of Fiegl's shot, and Cornell had a 5-1 lead at the game's midway point. It turned out to be the first of four goals in a span of just 3:10.
 
Next was Vanderlaan's second goal of the night, leading to the removal of Petruzzelli and — with sophomore Andrew Shortridge, who started both regular-season meetings against Cornell, unavailable — the collegiate debut of Josh Mayanja. The Big Red pounced, with Rauter's power-play goal followed less than a minute later by Starrett's second of the night off a pass from junior forward Anthony Angello. Freshman defenseman Cody Haiskanen closed the scoring later with his second of the year and first on home ice.
 
The teams coasted through the third period without incident, both clearly accepting Friday's final result while simultaneously preparing for a completely different game Saturday.
 
"You expect every game to be really tight," Vanderlaan said. "We're anticipating that tomorrow, that it's going to be one of those games that will come right down to the wire. They're going to come back with an edge. We're expecting a tough game tomorrow."

The Big Red's Lineup:
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