Harvard scored three unanswered goals and the Cornell men’s hockey team’s last gasp came up empty after junior forward Ben Berard’s deflected shot hit the post with 10 seconds left in the third period, marking the bitter end of a 3-2 loss to the Crimson on Friday night at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
Junior defenseman Sam Malinski helped set up junior forward Matt Stienburg’s power-play goal in the first period, then scored his first his of the season on a fortuitous bounce early in the second period for 15th-ranked Cornell (2-1, 0-1 ECAC Hockey, 0-1 Ivy League), but Mitchell Gibson made 36 saves to set the stage for the home side’s comeback.
Sean Farrell and Casey Dornbach scored goals a little more than five minutes apart in the second period to draw 13th-ranked Harvard (3-0, 2-0, 2-0) even, then Farrell potted the winner on the power play early in the third.
“It’s not about shots on goal, it’s not about carrying the play, it’s not about doing this or doing that – it’s about winning,” said Mike Schafer ’86, the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Hockey. “I said to our guys afterward, we have to learn how to win. We made some mistakes in details of our game and turned some pucks over in the second period and didn’t pay attention to the details that we were pretty good at in the first period.”
That first period was particularly encouraging not because of the start, but because of the response to the start. The Crimson came out on its front foot with all eight of the game’s first shots on goal, but freshman Joe Howe stopped them all and the Big Red returned the favor with the next eight. After that, Stienburg struck on the man advantage for a second straight game – converting his own rebound on a save of his redirection on Malinski’s shot from the left circle – to stake the Big Red to a 1-0 lead.
“For our guys – it’s their first road game – they got a little antsy,” Schafer said of Harvard’s quick start. “But I was really happy with how they kind of stiffened up and got back at it.”
Cornell’s lead doubled in unusual fashion just 47 seconds into the second. After some possession in the offensive zone, Malinski took a shot from the center point that went wide to Gibson’s right. But the puck caromed off the lively boards at Bright-Landry, and it deflected in off the right skate of Gibson as he retreated toward the post.
After the early resilience and some early puck luck, the Big Red seemed primed to be off to the races. The Crimson turned the puck over at the offensive blue line about five minutes later to lead junior forward Jack Malone away on a three-on-two. His shot from the top of the left circle was blockered away by Gibson, then Matthew Coronato gathered the puck in the corner and picked out Farrell for a breakaway. In a matter of seconds, a Big Red lead that looked like it could have possibly ballooned to three was instead cut to a skinny one – and it gave the Crimson a spark.
That translated to a tying goal a little more than five minutes later. An attempted clear out of the Cornell zone by a defenseman was cut down at the left point by Harvard. With the Big Red snuffed out the original threat, the Crimson kept possession in the zone and eventually set up a goal by Casey Dornbach to tie the game.
“We made some mistakes tonight in allowing their forwards to get behind us and not picking up guys quickly,” Schafer said. “Even plays where they didn’t score, we lost some guys down by our net.”
Still, the Big Red had some quality chances to regain the lead that needed big stops by Gibson. The first came on a power play with 3:35 remaining in the second on a beautiful dot-to-dot pass from senior Brenden Locke to set up a one-timer from junior Travis Mitchell. It was nearly identical to a play that led to a Mitchell goal against Gibson in the Big Red’s visit to Bright-Landry two years ago – but this time, Gibson snared the shot with his glove.
Freshman forward Ondrej Psenicka then threatened again early in the third period by forcing a neutral-zone turnover to lead to a shorthanded breakaway, but a move to his forehand was stopped by Gibson’s left pad.
The winner came on Harvard’s third consecutive power play in a span of just a shade over five minutes. Farrell swiveled out from the goal line to Howe’s left and flipped a shot off the far post. As he tried to push off the far post, Howe inadvertently kicked the net off its moorings – thus Farrell’s conversion on the rebound was initially waved off by the goal-side referee. But after a video review, the call was overturned and Harvard led for the first time.
“He said the net was off, but that he was going to score no matter what – even with the net off,” Schafer said of the referee’s explanation.
Cornell’s last gasp came with Howe pulled in favor of an extra attacker. Berard took a shot from the right circle that bounced off a defender’s leg and beat Gibson to the far side – but the puck hit the post squarely and was cleared away.
“We’ll learn from our mistakes here tonight and make some adjustments to our lineup for tomorrow night. We’ll get ready to get back it go tomorrow,” Schafer said.
The Big Red plays Dartmouth (1-2, 0-2, 0-1) at 7 p.m. Saturday. The game is scheduled to be broadcast on ESPN+.