The long road home for the Cornell Big Red took them through the Capital District. On Friday night the Big Red cruised to a 6-0 win over Union, on Saturday, it was a little tougher, but in the end the Big Red — which next week plays its first home games since Thanksgiving weekend — defeated the Rensselaer Engineers, 3-2.
The Big Red scored three times in the second period, twice on the power play, to take a 3-1 lead and held on, allowing the Engineers only 15 shots on goal.
Trailing 1-0, the Big Red scored early in the second period as Stephen Baby took a pass from Jeremy Downs and snapped a quick backhander towards Nathan Marsters. Marsters didn’t see it and it slipped past him to tie the game, 1-1.
The Big Red capitalized on their fifth power play of the game to take the lead, 2-1. Baby scored his second of the game, taking the puck from the half-boards, moving to the middle, and ripping a snapshot that got through a screen and Marsters.
The Big Red made it a two-goal lead when Baby did the exact same thing, except he took a slapshot. Baby’s shot was tipped by Ryan Vesce over Marsters’ shoulder and at the end of two periods it was 3-1 Cornell.
“They frustrated us on the power play and then our guys figured that out, that’s what makes that unit so special,” said Big Red coach Mike Schafer about Baby, Vesce, Matt Moulson, Matt McRae and Doug Murray. “You take something away and they’ll eventually figure out who is open and they stuck with it and did a great job of executing and that was the difference in the game.”
In Cornell’s last four games, three were 3-2 victories. In those three one-goal games, Baby accounted for eight of the team’s nine goals.
The Engineers sandwiched the second period with a goal in the first and the third periods. In the first, Nick Economakos capitalized on a Big Red turnover in the corner. Ben Barr scooped up the turnover and quickly fed Economakos and he one-timed the pass off the glove of David LeNeveu.
In the third period a Brad Farynuk dump-in took an odd carom off the boards and came right to Kirk MacDonald who quickly shoveled it past a surprised LeNeveu.
“I thought that in the second period on the penalty kill we got away from the execution,” said Engineer coach Dan Fridgen. “You stick to the game plan in the first period and you stick to the game plan in the third period, it would have been a 2-0 game.”
“They came out and we made a mistake early and they found the back of the net,” said Schafer. “We generated a lot of chances in the first period and I thought Marsters played well. We had some opportunities and give Marsters a lot of credit.”
The momentum in the second period could easily have changed. With the game tied at 1-1 and the Big Red on the power play, a Big Red pass was redirected and Mark Yurkewecz found himself on a shorthanded breakaway. He deked LeNeveu on the backhand and then went to the forehand, but LeNeveu followed him and the shot hit LeNeveu’s right pad and kept the game tied.
“It was huge, but that’s David though,” said Schafer. “He was real frustrated at the bounce in the third, the puck hits a crack on the door and comes out, as a team we were frustrated we gave up that kind of goal.”
The Big Red played with 11 forwards, as Chris Abbott sat out with an injury sustained on Friday. Shane Hynes sat out for the second straight night with the aftereffects of a stomach bug that struck a number of players last week.
“It was a real good win for us without being 100 percent healthy,” said Schafer. “I thought RPI played real well, they did a good job for the game.”
The Engineers (8-14-2, 2-6-2 ECAC, 11th) travel to Vermont and Dartmouth next weekend. Despite the loss, the Engineers gave Cornell a good run, falling short.
“I thought we came out real good, with intensity, moved our feet and got good shots,” said Fridgen. “You’re talking about the fourth-ranked team in the nation and I thought we elevated our play and it was good to see and we’ll continue to grow.”
Meanwhile the Big Red (14-3-0, 9-1-0, 2nd) finally get to play at Lynah Rink next weekend when they host Clarkson and St. Lawrence.
“Oh, two months on the road, I told our guys afterwards that it seems like it’s been forever since we’ve played at home,” said Schafer. “We’re real excited to get back to Lynah and with five of the next six at home after eight on the road, it’s real nice.”