Cornell got used to blowing out teams early in the season — even good teams like Boston University — to the tune of a 50-15 goal differential. But for the fifth straight time, the fifth-ranked Big Red found themselves in a one-goal game. As good teams do, however, they found a way to win.
Senior captain Stephen Baby had a three-point night, including the game-winning goal, as Cornell defeated Clarkson, 3-2, on Sunday night at Cheel Arena. The win gave Cornell a weekend sweep of its North Country trip, though both were struggles.
“Three and a half weeks off doesn’t help you a whole lot,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer of his team’s break for the holidays and exams, which ended last week with two one-goal losses to Top 10 teams at the Florida Everblades Classic. “I thought we played well in Florida, but when you go on the road, it’s tough to win. It doesn’t matter where you play or the records of anybody.”
Three of the five one-goal games have been wins, and four were decided by 3-2 scores, including both on the weekend. Todd Marr, starting his fourth straight game in place of Dave LeNeveu, who earned a silver medal with Team Canada at the World Junior Championships, stopped 27 shots for his second win, as Cornell improved to 12-3 (7-1 ECAC). Clarkson slipped to 6-11-1 (3-3-1).
After outscoring teams 20-5 in the first period over the first 10 games of the season, Cornell has just one first-period goal in the last five games. And again on Sunday, the first period was scoreless, for both teams, despite a 14-6 shot advantage for Clarkson.
The Golden Knights broke through early in the second period, with a power-play goal by freshman Jeff Genovy. But just 61 seconds later, Cornell freshman Dan Pegoraro tied the game with his second of the season, a rebound goal.
Clarkson took a 2-1 lead, as Randy Jones came in on a 2-on-1 and fed a perfect saucer pass to Joe Carosa. Carosa buried his first of the season.
Cornell coach Mike Schafer — in part because, as a televised game, there were extra timeouts — shortened his bench at that point to try to get things going again.
“Some guys are still fighting things,” Schafer said. “There’s a big difference between being able to hold a puck for a extra half second and make a play, than it is to rush it. And we rushed a lot of plays tonight.”
The Big Red eventually re-tied it, as Baby scored the first of his two goals. It came after he tried to center a pass in the slot, and after a couple of deflection, he knocked it into an empty side of the cage.
“I looked for [Ryan] Vesce, and a defenseman got a shinpad on it, and it bounced to Travis [Bell],” said Baby. “He fired it on net, and I was lucky to be in the right spot and bury the rebound.”
Much like Saturday night, Cornell allowed just three shots in the third period, and Baby scored the game winner on a short angle shot that he squeezed between the post and the pads of goalie Mike Walsh.
“I was rolling out of the corner, and [Matt] Moulson was there,” said Baby. “I was just looking to throw it there and hope for a rebound.”
From there, the Big Red clamped down, and allowed no good scoring chances in the final 10 minutes of the game.
“I was happy we found a way to win,” said Schafer. “We had a lot of guys that didn’t play very well and didn’t execute for a large part of the game, so we had to shorten our bench. … But some of the guys that did play well carried our team.
“And I thought their goaltender [Mike Walsh] played real well. I thought he made some huge saves for them as the game wore on.”
Baby had five points on the weekend, following up his two-point effort on Saturday at St. Lawrence.
“They definitely weren’t easy games,” Baby said. “I don’t think either night we played really well, but to come up here and get four points is good for us.”
Cornell is off until Jan. 17-18, when it plays road games at Union and RPI.
“Now we have another two weeks off here,” said Schafer. “We have to get our act together and get back to some basics and refine things for the stretch drive.”
Said Baby, “I think after that long break it’s taken us a little time to get back at it, and hopefully with two weeks of straight practice now, hopefully we can get back in the pattern of where we were rolling over teams and dominating.”