Editor’s Note: This story was written by and republished with the permission of the Big Red Sports Network, which provides excellent Cornell sports coverage throughout the year for alumni, parents, students and fans everywhere.
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Cornell men’s hockey came into this weekend 1-3 on their ECAC season and with just four goals to their name. They had struggled on power plays, and suffered suspensions to Coach Schafer, Holden Anderson, and Matt Buckles. Luckily, that’s only four games. The ECAC season has many more games to be played, and Cornell took the opportunity this weekend to remind everyone, especially themselves, that their struggles wouldn’t continue for long.
The first game of the weekend was against Yale, a team that could consider themselves just as formidable as the Big Red, and this even match-up was as advertised. The scoring began in the first period as Yale’s John Hayden slapped a power play goal against the formidable Mitch Gillam. But Cornell responded in kind, and they responded in a way they had failed to do previously in the season: power play conversions. Reece Wilcox tied up the bout with a long and powerful shot from the center about eight minutes into the first, and Ryan Bliss scored his first collegiate goal on an excellent sequence set up by Jeff Kubiak to allow Bliss to shoot with an open lane up the middle.
Yale then responded to tie the game at two early in the third after Ryan Obuchowski tapped in a goal off of Cornell goalie Mitch Gillam’s skate. All that did, though, was set up a dramatic late-game goal from Christian Hilbrich, his first goal of the season. Jake Weidner began the push as he broke away across center ice; the puck was then lost, Cole Bardeau regained possession, and then passed it to Hilbrich who shot it past Yale’s goalie Alex Lyon. The excellence of that play can be seen here:
In the second game of the weekend against the struggling Brown (0-6 in ECAC play), the Big Red completely dominated. Coach Schafer took a chance with freshman goalie Hayden Stewart as he gave him the start, and the team also reloaded as Matt Buckles and Holden Anderson returned from suspensions. There was not one point in this game where the Big Red were not firmly in control, and many felt that the game was over by the end of the first period. Joel Lowry scored the first goal just 4:29 into the first as an excellent shot from Holden Anderson was deflected into the net. About half way into the first, Dwyer Tschantz scored a goal on a tap into the net off a shot from Ryan Bliss off the left side. And once Cornell scored their third goal via a Hilbrich goal as a laser of a shot by Jake Weidner deflected off of his skate, everyone in the crowd knew what the outcome of this one would be.
That was the last goal of the first period, and it was the final minutes Brown goalie Tyler Steele would see as he was replaced by Tim Ernst. Ernst allowed one goal in the second period off the stick of Matt Buckles but other than that, though, Ernst settled the game down. Both teams tired and the defenses settled in, and the score remained at 4-0 in favor of Cornell. Cornell dominated on face-offs and control of the puck in general, and Hayden Stewart was absolutely stellar in his second collegiate start as he earned not only his first win, but also his first shutout. Many were worried about how the team would replace Andy Iles, but now it looks like they have two competent goalies.
Cornell now goes to 3-4-1 on the season overall, 3-3 in ECAC play, and sits at six points, just four points off first place in the ECAC. It’s certainly a long season, but Cornell has to be encouraged by the play we saw this weekend; if they continue to play this way, they’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Ivy League and in the ECAC at large.