No. 7 Cornell took the lead 42 seconds into the game, tallied two more times in the next four-and-a-half minutes, and never lost control during a 6-1 domination of Western Michigan.
The Big Red extended their winning streak to five games thanks to multiple-point efforts from seven different players and 20 saves from sophomore goaltender Dave LeNeveu. The top scoring line of freshman left wing Matt Moulson, junior center Ryan Vesce, and senior right wing Stephen Baby recorded two points from each player on the evening, while the line of Cam Abbott, Chris Abbott, and Greg Hornby tallied five points combined.
“We’ve always prided ourselves on depth,” said Cornell head coach Mike Schafer. “Moulson had two tonight; Cam Abbott, another freshman, had one,;Shane Palahicky, another winger, had one; so we do spread it around. I think if you are going to be a good team you have to depend on people getting goals from everywhere. You can’t depend on three or four guys because if they have a bad night, you’re going to lose. I thought (WMU) played well in different spurts of the game too, so we’re thankful to have balanced scoring from that aspect.”
The nation’s top-ranked defense at 1.33 goals-per-game smothered the potent Bronco attack, including only allowing three shots in the first period. Mike Mantua made 17 saves in defeat for WMU.
The loss for the Broncos, just the fourth in their last 19 non-conference games, ended a four-game winning streak.
“We spotted them three goals in the first seven minutes;” said WMU head coach Jim Culhane. “And with the way they play and the goaltending they have, it’s tough for us to bounce back after that. We battled much harder in the second period and made it 3-1, but the one that really takes the wind out of your sails is the (Cam Abbott) goal to make it 4-1.”
Moulson took a pass from Vesce and one-timed a shot from the top of the crease past Mantua 42 seconds into the first period to shock the crowd of 2,985 at Lawson Ice Arena and give Cornell an early 1-0 lead.
WMU penalties continued to hamper the Broncos and freshman defenseman Andrew Dwyer’s penalty for cross-checking at 5:05 of the first period set up Cornell’s second tally. Senior defenseman Mark McRae deflected a shot off a WMU defenseman from the top of the right faceoff circle past Mantua to put the Big Red up 2-0 at 5:22.
The Abbott twins hooked up less than a minute later to give Cornell an overwhelming 3-0 lead. Cam took a pass from Chris and fired a shot through traffic in the crease between the pads of Mantua at 6:21 to give Cornell a 3-0 lead.
Cornell’s physical presence deep in the offensive zone was a main concern for Culhane.
“What I see, tonight, is that they were much more stronger, physically, on the cycle. They were able to beat us down low, make some plays, and that was our concern coming in. That’s how a lot of their goals were generated tonight. We need to try to make some adjustments on that tomorrow, but the big thing is that we move our feet to get to those loose pucks first.”
After receiving the wake up call from Culhane during the first intermission, the Broncos regrouped to outshoot the Big Red 8-2 in the second period, highlighted by Dana Lattery’s goal at 10:19. In his first contest after a six-game layoff because of a broken hand, the junior captain took advantage of a LeNeveu miscue in the slot by putting a shot from a tough angle along the goal line to cut the Cornell lead to two goals at 3-1.
Cornell killed the Bronco momentum following the Lattery goal when senior forward Shane Palahicky deflected a pass from Cam Abbott in the crease past Mantua to give the Big Red a 4-1 advantage at 15:22 of the second period.
The Big Red added two more goals in the third period to give the game its final score of 6-1. Baby found an open Vesce in the slot, who scored on a one-timer at 9:32, and Moulson roofed a backhander past Mantua at 18:15.
“We can play better, there’s no question about that,” said Culhane. “It wasn’t one of our better efforts. As I said to the team afterward, the things we did well over the last four games to make ourselves successful, we didn’t do tonight…we didn’t win a lot of individual battles, they got to more loose pucks than we did, they were able to generate things more because of puck possession. I don’t think we did a very good job of getting the puck to the net; we only generated 20-some shots on net, and we only gave up 22, but we didn’t generate much to get some quality chances on the goalie.”
Schafer gave credit to his goaltender following the game.
“I think he was very strong down-low and very strong controlling his rebounds. (WMU) does a great job forcing the puck to the net for tips, screens, and deflections, and I know Dave would want that goal back. He’s very upset with the way he handled that, but that’s a learning experience for him and part of his game that needs to get better. But those kinds of mistakes didn’t hurt us tonight, and knowing Dave, that won’t happen again.”