Allston, MA – It is a rivalry dating back to 1910 with 157 previous meetings and it lived up to the hype on Friday night as the Harvard University Crimson hosted the Cornell University Big Red in front of 3,095 at Bright-Landry Hockey Center. Harvard, on the strength of two Sean Farrell goals, eeked out a 3-2 victory after falling behind 2-0 early in the second period. Junior goalie Mitchell Gibson stopped 36 of 38 Big Red shots to backstop the Crimson to their first victory over Cornell at home in five years.
“Those are the nights you look forward to,” said Gibson. “Great team win, awesome environment, one of the reason’s you play college hockey is for an atmosphere like that.”
The Crimson power-play had the game’s first crack at the man advantage when Cornell defenseman Cody Haiskanen was called for Tripping just thirty seconds into the game. The Crimson peppered Big Red goalie Joe Howe (19 saves) but were unable to take advantage of the extra skater.
The home team carried the play in the early going but once the visiting Big Red found their groove it was all Cornell. The Crimson had outshot the Big Red 8-0 to open the game but midway through Cornell was hammering the Crimson net. Gibson had some big saves to keep the score knotted.
An Interference call on Crimson defenseman Henry Thrun gave Cornell their first power-play of the night at 15:48. They capitalized at 16:56 when junior forward Matt Stienburg backhanded a rebound past Gibson for the 1-0 lead. Stienburg’s power-play goal was assisted by defensemen Sam Malinski and Tim Rego.
A scrum at the Crimson goal resulted in Harvard’s Jack Bar and Cornell’s Brenden Locke being sent off for Hitting After the Whistle at 18:28 while the Crimson came out of it with an additional penalty on junior Austin Wong for Roughing. The Big Red continued to test Gibson and the Crimson as the first period wound down.
Harvard killed off the remaining time on Wong’s carried-over penalty but almost twenty seconds after doing so they gave up a goal to Cornell’s Malinski. The junior from Lakeville, Mn. fired a shot from the blue line that went wide of Gibson but caromed back off of Gibson’s back and into the Crimson net for the 2-0 Cornell lead. Rego and Ben Berard assisted on Malinski’s first goal of the year.
Farrell, a first-year phenom from Hopkinton, Ma., gave the Crimson the spark they needed at 6:13 when he beat Howe with a wrist shot from the slot to cut the deficit to 2-1. Matthew Coronato and Gibson assisted on Farrell’s fourth of the year. Coronato’s pass from the defensive zone sprung Farrell into the Cornell zone for a one-on-one race with a Big Red defender before Farrell fired off the shot for his first goal of the game.
Casey Dornbach tied the game for the Crimson at 11:27 when he beat Howe with a shot to the right of Cornell’s net. Alex Laferriere had a slapshot from the slot turned away by Howe, Nick Abruzzese chased down the rebound in the corner, dished to Laferriere as he was drifting towards the same corner. Laferriere spun a pass across the goalmouth to a wide-open Dornbach for the tying goal. The goal was Dornbach’s first of the year and his 20th career.
Gibson made the save of the night with the Big Red on the power-play after a Marshall Rifai Interference call at 15:17. Senior forward Locke fired a cross-ice pass to a wide-open Mitchell at the right face-off dot. Gibson had to slide across his crease to make the glove save on what appeared to be a sure-fire goal for the visiting Big Red.
“It was just a step behind,” said Gibson of his read on the Mitchell shot. “It is saves like that where you know they have two one-timer options on the sides on their power-play. They were looking to shoot. I just knew I was a step behind and had to reach there with whatever I could.”
“When I looked in my glove it was there, so I was happy with it,” added Gibson with a smile.
Harvard had two power-play chances early in the third period. The first just thirty-six ticks into the period when defenseman Mitchell was sent off for Hooking. Harvard continued to have some solid looks but Howe was up to the task. The Big Red penalty kill had a short-handed chance when freshman Ondrej Psenicka stole the puck from Harvard defenseman Thrun at the red line and raced in on Gibson for a breakaway bid. Gibson turned away the wrist shot and Psenicka’s rebound attempt.
Defenseman Hank Kempf was called for Interference at 3:28 giving the Crimson their fifth and final power-play opportunity of the game. This one was costly. Fifty seconds later Farrell struck again to give the Crimson the 3-2 lead when he fired an Abruzzese pass past Howe from the bottom of the left circle. The goal was immediately waved off by the official positioned on the far-side goal line but upon review, the goal stood. The net was dislodged but the officials determined that the puck was going to go in regardless.
Harvard defenseman Bar was sent off for his second time at 5:14 of the third for Tripping but Gibson and the Crimson were stout in their penalty kill limiting Cornell to two shots on the man advantage.
The pace was frantic over the last five minutes of action as the majority Cornell crowd cheered on their Big Red. Gibson turned back 10 shots in the final frame. He had help from his post on a shot by Berard that hit the far post with Howe pulled for the extra skater with 10 seconds left in the game. When the final buzzer sounded the goalie led his team’s celebration into the corner to cheer with the Crimson student section.
“I really wanted to thank them for what they did for us tonight,” said Gibson of his beeline to the “Crimzone” student section. “We don’t get big crowds all the time, not like Cornell’s crowd. The students really made a big push to come out to our game, that’s one of the reasons we won tonight.”
“I’m pissed off we blew the lead and blew a game out on the road,” said Cornell Head Coach Mike Schafer. “I said to our guys it’s not about shots on goal, it’s not about carrying the play, it’s not about doing this, doing that, it’s about winning. I said to our guys afterward we have to learn how to win. We made some mistakes in the details of our game, turn some pucks over in the second period, didn’t pay attention to some of the details that we were pretty good at in the first period.”
“I think we’re a young team that learned a lot from a game like tonight,” said Crimson coach Ted Donato. “I give Cornell a lot of credit. I thought for a lot of the game they carried the play. They were tough on us and they’re such a sound defensive team that facing a two-goal challenge sometimes can feel like a lot more.”
“We stick with it, we made some plays, and for us, it was nice to come out on top in a game where it exposed a lot a lot of things that we need to work on,” added Donato.
“That was a big one, obviously it’s early, kind of figuring some things out still, we have some things to work on,” said senior co-captain Dornbach. “I think for many reasons and the morale in the room and a couple of other things. I’m proud of the group battling back. I think that was a huge start.”
“I was really proud of how everyone stayed calm. We did our best to prepare for what they (Cornell) bring typically. That moment we went down 2-0 there was not a lot of panic even with young guys. I think that’s a testament to the group we have and it was just a lot of fun to do what we did tonight,” added Dornabach.
Cornell travels to Hanover, NH to take on Dartmouth (1-1-0 ECAC play) while the Crimson host Colgate (0-1 in conference action, 5-5 overall) at Bright-Landry. Both games start at 7:00 pm and stream live on ESPN+.