Allston, MA– The Ivy League’s best rivalry took the ice at Madison Square Garden with Harvard claiming the win over Cornell. To make matters worse, the Big Red lost star goaltender Matt Galajda to injury that night in New York. Galajda’s absence came when Cornell was already missing five critical members of their team. They gathered a shorter lineup for a two-game trip east. First, they squandered chances to win at Thompson Arena and fell 3-2 to Dartmouth College. In the process, Bob Gaudet became the winningest coach in Big Green hockey history.
Cornell regrouped and traveled to Bright-Landry to face their biggest rivals a week after their New York encounter. Without their starting goaltender, five potent skaters, and riding a frustrating two-game losing streak, Cornell made their coach, Mike Schafer, proud with a gritty performance worthy of addition to the ECAC’s best running competition.
Harvard opened the game strong. They controlled the chances for the first half of the frame and capitalized on their best opportunity when Tristan Mullin took a tripping minor. Harvard’s elite power play found twine on a Jack Rathbone blast from the point. After the period’s midpoint, the Crimson waned while the Big Red waxed. Cornell pressured Michael Lackey and evened the shot counter at 10 apiece while Harvard clung to their 1-0 lead at intermission.
The second period was Cornell at their best. The Big Red controlled board battles, faceoffs, the checking game, and outshot Harvard 19-4. The shots were mainly in tight, greasy areas of the ice. Lackey held his own but couldn’t stop the Cornell special teams. First, Jacob Olson took a cross-checking minor. Nineteen seconds into the power play, Cam Donaldson potted his fifth goal of the year to tie the game. Only five minutes later, Cornell capitalized on a Jack Badini boarding minor. Mainstay Tristan Mullin potted a bouncer for the 2-1 lead.
Harvard had the better play in the third period but failed to crack Cornell’s defense. The Crimson outshot CU 10-1, but Cornell played calm defensively and kept Harvard from many golden chances. The defensive game plan worked, and Cornell rode their program’s strengths to a 2-1 victory.
Sophomore Austin McGrath made his second career start in Cornell’s net and recorded his first victory in Galajda’s absence with 23 saves on 24 shots faced.
Head Coach Mike Schafer spoke highly of his team’s physical edge over Harvard.
“For me, it’s one of the grittiest wins I’ve been a part of as Head Coach in 24 years,’ Schafer said. “To see these guys with two top centers out, Mitch Vanderlaan played on one leg tonight and I didn’t think he’d even play after getting injured on the first shift in last night’s game. With the short lineup tonight, I told them it’s the most proud I’ve been of a team. We had some guys that played tonight that if we had any other players, they probably wouldn’t have played.”
The win bumps Cornell to 6-5 and 4-2 in ECAC play. The Big Red return to Ithaca to sit for exams and take their Christmas break. They do not resume play until the first weekend of 2019, when they travel to Princeton and Quinnipiac. Puck drops at Hobey Baker Rink on Friday, January 4th, and at Frank Perrotti Jr. Arena on Saturday, January 5th, both at 7 pm.
Harvard falls to 4-4-2 overall and 2-3-2 in ECAC play. Head Coach Ted Donato expressed marked disappointment in his team’s effort and performance.
“I didn’t think we played very well,’ Donato said. “I think we started the game excellent, the first 12-14 minutes. Then I thought we were kind of careless with the puck and let them back in the game. The second period, I thought we didn’t play with a lot of poise and took unnecessary penalties. We have a tough time handling some successes within a game. The first ten minutes, things were going good, but then we started to get away from that. We know we need to play better to beat a good team like that.”
Captain Michael Floodstrand echoed his coach’s sentiments. “Last week, we used our strengths, this week we didn’t, and they took advantage.”
On this being the senior class’s last game against Cornell at home, “Definitely not the way we wanted to go out,” Floodstrand said. “It’s good knowing we’ve got them at their rink in January. They’ve got a home crowd pretty much whenever we play them, so to that point it doesn’t make that much of a difference. But it would’ve been nice.”
Bright-Landry seated 3,095 fans for the game, the vast majority of them from the visiting Big Red visiting the rink they know as Lynah East.
Harvard has one more regular season game to conclude the 2018 calendar year. On Tuesday, December 4th, they travel to Bentley Arena to play the Bentley Falcons. Puck drop is at 7:05 pm ET