All season long, the Cornell hockey team prided itself on sticking to its game plan, getting solid goaltending from Ben Scrivens and not making silly turnovers.
But against third-seeded New Hampshire Friday night in the NCAA hockey tournament East Regional semifinals, everything fell apart for the second-seeded Big Red.
Bobby Butler and Mike Sislo scored goals 26 seconds apart late in the second period, and 12th-ranked New Hampshire scored four times in the third period to upset sixth-ranked Cornell, 6-2, at the Times Union Center.
The Wildcats (18-13-7) will face fourth-seeded Rochester Institute of Technology in tonight’s regional final at 6:30. RIT stunned top-seeded Denver, 2-1, in the first semifinal.
“When you turn pucks over in the neutral zone against teams, they’re going to capitalize and they’re going to come back at you,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said. “We did that tonight.”
Cornell (21-9-4), the ECAC Hockey tournament champion, came into the game having not allowed a goal in three straight games. They did it by not turning the puck over, and putting Scrivens into tough situations. Meanwhile, UNH had been shutout in its last two games, and had lost to Cornell, 5-2, at home Jan. 3.
The Big Red had a 1-0 lead on a first-period goal by Tyler Roeszler, and it appeared they would take that edge into the second intermission.
But uncharacteristic Big Red turnovers late in the second period turned the tide, and the Wildcats turned them into goals.
First, Butler scored with 3:13 left when he intercepted a clearing attempt from behind the Cornell net and beat Scrivens over his left shoulder with a shot from the slot. Or so it seemed.
The puck came out the left side of the net and into the left-wing corner. However, play continued for another 44 seconds before the officials could watch the video and declare a good goal. It ended Scrivens’ ECACH-record shutout streak at 267 minutes, 11 seconds, and snapped UNH’s scoring drought at 173:41.
“That was a big turn of events, putting the puck in the net,” Butler said.
Another turnover helped Sislo break the tie with 26 seconds later, beating Scrivens to the short side.
“One big thing is we had great stick positioning tonight,” Sislo said in comparing the difference with the earlier loss to Cornell. “There were a lot of times when they tried to make passes where we had our sticks in the lanes and were knocking down pucks. We were able to transition and get some offense off that.”
Paul Thompson made the prospects of a Cornell comeback bleaker when he beat Scrivens from the right circle 2:52 into the third period. Butler scored his second of the game, and 29th of the season, on a breakaway at 6:36. Sislo made it 5-1 with 4:46 to go.
“It’s certainly surprising with the way we’ve been playing,” Cornell forward Colin Greening said. “One of the things we’ve been talking about is how well we’ve been playing the last four games. It happens. Someone’s got to win, and someone’s got to lose.”
Dan Nicholls got Cornell’s second goal with 2:11 left, but Thompson scored his second of the game into an empty net with 33 seconds remaining.
“The harder we pressed in the third, the more we gave up,”
Schafer said. “The more we gave up, the more they scored. It was a difficult night. It’s a frustrating way to end our season.”
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Categories: College Sports