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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The biggest game of the year didn’t disappoint.
After the loud and boisterous sold-out Lynah Rink crowd started the game by showering Harvard’s players with every kind of fish imaginable, Eric Freschi provided the biggest moment of the game. With 40 seconds left, the sophomore forward took a pass from Cole Bardreau and blasted a shot past Crimson goalie Steve Michalek, sending the Lynah Faithful into a hysteric frenzy, and giving the Big Red (8-8-2, 6-5 ECAC) a stunning 3-2 upset victory.
Coming into the game ranked #4 in the country, Harvard (11-4-2, 7-4-2 ECAC) looked sluggish much of the game. Their explosive offensive was mostly contained by the Cornell defense, which is allowing the second fewest goals per game in the country. Even though they outshot the Big Red 8-6 in the first period, they were often contained by the bigger, more physical Cornell players. Both teams had a few good chances in the opening period, but the first twenty minutes ended 0-0.
But then the craziness ensued.
After the scoreless first, there were three goals in the first 6:23 of the second period, and even though five penalties were committed in period, none of the goals were scored on the power play. Harvard struck first, when Jimmy Vesey backhanded a rebound past Mitch Gillam to make it 1-0. 18 seconds later, the Crimson were given a power play, and there a was a feeling that the game was going to get out of hand, as one of the top power play units in the NCAA was about to enter the ice. However, the Big Red killed it off, and immediately turned the tables. Ten seconds after the Harvard power play ended, Cole Bardreau led an odd-man rush, and with a screen in front of the net, beat Michalek glove-side to tie the game. The scoring wasn’t finished, as less than two minutes later, Christian Hilbrich took a pass from the sideboards from Dwyer Tschantz, and fired a backhand past Michalek to make it 2-1, igniting a raucous cheer from the Lynah crowd. The Big Red however were unable to capitalize on three power plays, and even had to rely on Mitch Gillam, who saved 21 of 23 shots, to make several saves on breakaway opportunities that could’ve resulted in shorthanded goals.
Cornell ended the second period with a shocking 25-14 shot advantage. With the Big Red struggling to generate offense the whole season, and with the Crimson containing one of the highest scoring offensive units in the countries, Cornell was the team that kept possession of puck and had the most chances. However, even with their physical play wearing down the visitors, the Big Red was the team that looked gassed in the third period, allowing the Crimson to have more chances in the final period.
This was seen six minutes in, when Eddie Ellis deflected a shot past Gillam to tie the score, igniting the Harvard bench while taking some energy out of the Lynah Faithful. With both teams not generating many chances for the rest of the period, it seemed like the game would head to overtime for the second straight season.
But Freschi had other ideas.
After creating almost no scoring chances the entire third period, a Christian Hilbrich forecheck eventually led to Cole Bardreau carrying the puck toward the net with only one defender in front of him. It looked as if he was going to try a deke, but instead dropped it off to Freschi, who fired a wrist shot under Michalek’s blocker, igniting the raucous celebration. The ending brought Cornell fans memories of last year’s Harvard game at Lynah, when Joel Lowry scored in the last minute of overtime to win the game on senior night.
Cornell will finish off their weekend tomorrow at 7:00 pm at Lynah Rink, as they host the Dartmouth Big Green (6-8-4, 3-6-2 ECAC)