It came down to the power play Friday night, and Harvard’s turned out to be better than Cornell’s.
Jon Pelle scored two of the Crimson’s three power-play goals, and goalie Kyle Richter made 31 saves to lead third-seeded Harvard past fifth-seeded Cornell, 3-1, in the second ECAC Hockey tournament semifinal at the Times Union Center.
The 16th-ranked Crimson
(17-12-4) will face second-seeded and 15th-ranked Princeton (20-13) in the championship game at 7 p.m. tonight. The teams split the season series.
Cornell (18-4-4), ranked 20th in the country, takes on Central New York rival Colgate in the 4 p.m. consolation game.
Both the Crimson and Big Red had good power plays coming into the game. Harvard was 27 of 142 (19 percent), and Cornell was 35 of 171 (20.5 percent). The Big Red’s power-play was instrumental in helping them sweep Union in last weekend’s quarterfinals, scoring a man advantage goal in each game in the third period to snap 2-2 ties.
But Harvard coach Ted Donato didn’t think the power play would be a factor in Friday’s game. The two teams combined for just two power-play goals in their two regular-season games, both won by Harvard.
“Not a lot of people would have guessed that the game would come down to just special teams,” Donato said. “I thought we were able to get on the power play with our speed. They took a few penalties trying to contain us. I thought our power play stepped up.”
The Crimson went 3-for-6 on the power play against the Big Red, converting twice in the second period.
Dave Watters scored the first one, with Brendon Nash serving a holding penalty. Stationed to the left of goalie Ben Scrivens, Watters deflected a Brian McCafferty drive from the high slot into the net at 3:35.
Nearly 90 seconds later, Pelle got his first power-play tally as Patrick Kennedy was in the box for charging. Pelle was at the bottom of the left circle, and didn’t have much of an angle to get the puck past Scrivens. But Scrivens lowered his right shoulder, and Pelle fired it into that opening.
“I didn’t see much there,” Pelle said. “I just wanted to put it on net. Fortunately, I just found a hole there.”
Pelle sealed the win late in the third period. Shortly after Michael Kennedy was penalized for slashing Matt McCollem on a breakaway, Pelle tipped an Alex Biega drive past Scrivens.
Meanwhile, Cornell was 1-for-4 on the power play. The Big Red had the same number of power-play shots on goal as the Crimson, eight.
But Richter, the Ken Dryden Award winner as the league’s top goalie, stopped seven shots.
“The special teams is obviously a big thing, especially in the past series against Cornell, where the power play has been a big factor,” said Richter, who made 76 saves on 79 shots against the Big Red this season in leading the Crimson to three victories over Cornell. “Our defensemen and our forwards did a good job in limiting their chances in key scoring areas, and kept the shots to the outside. And when there was a good scoring chance, they were there to help me out if there were any rebounds.”
The only power-play Cornell scored came nearly two minutes after Pelle’s first goal. With Biega in the penalty box for contact to the head/roughing, Raymond Sawada got Richter and defensemen Chad Morin and David MacDonald to overcommit on him. That left
Topher Scott open on the right side, and he put the puck into an open net.
“It wasn’t so much our power play,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “I thought [the difference] was giving up three [goals] short-handed. Our power play generated chances right to the very end. Give Kyle Richter some credit. He came up with big save after big save.”
Cornell 0 1 0 — 1
Harvard 0 2 1 — 3
First Period — None. Penalties — P. Kennedy, Cor (hitting from behind), 2:02; Barlow, Cor (roughing), 5:59; Watters, Har (interference), 14:48.
Second Period — 1, Harvard, Watters 6 (McCafferty, Fraser), 3:35 (pp). 2, Harvard, Pelle 12 (Rogers, Taylor), 5:02 (pp). 3, Cornell, Scott 10 (Sawada, M. Kennedy), 6:57 (pp). Penalties — B. Nash, Cor (holding), 2:28; P. Kennedy, Cor (charging), 4:31; A. Biega, Har (contact to head-roughing), 6:43; Krantz, Cor (holding), 15:52.
Third Period — 4, Harvard, Pelle 13 (A. Biega, Taylor), 17:24 (pp). Penalties — M. Kennedy, Cor (slashing), 17:03 (pp); Fraser, Har (tripping), 17:37.
Shots on Goal — Cornell 10-6-16 — 32. Harvard 8-13-12 — 33.
Power-play opportunities — Cornell 1 of 4; Harvard 3 of 6.
Goalies — Cornell, Scrivens 18-12-3 (33 shots-30 saves). Harvard, Richter 17-12-4 (32-31).
A — 5,074. T — 2:22.
Referee – Peter Feola. Assistant referees — Dave Brown, Bill Bredin.
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