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Matt Stienburg’s hat trick powers Cornell past St. Lawrence

The Cornell men’s hockey team had its hands full Friday at St. Lawrence before junior forward Matt Stienburg scored the last three goals of the game over the final 20 minutes to give Cornell a 4-1 victory at Appleton Arena.

Box score

Stienburg’s first collegiate hat trick was the third through just 10 games this season for Cornell (9-1, 6-1 ECAC Hockey), which improved the nation’s best winning percentage to .900 while also taking sole possession of first place in the league. He also assisted on junior forward Ben Berard’s goal to tie the game at 1 in the second period, factoring into all four of the Big Red’s unanswered goals against the defending ECAC Hockey champions.

It’s been quite a start to the season for Stienburg, who extended his scoring streak to nine straight games – a first for the program since Topher Scott ’08 from Nov. 4 to Dec. 2, 2006. With 17 points, Stienburg is already closing in on doubling his total of 10 points from his first season with Cornell in 2019-20.

“He came right out of prep school and we had a hell of a team where he wasn’t getting a whole lot of ice time in key spots,” said Mike Schafer ’86, the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Hockey. “I think the fact that now he’s on the power play and a consistent penalty-killer, he’s over the boards a lot. The ice time, he deserves it. He’s mature and really coming along as a player.”

Stienburg scored the go-ahead goal just 55 seconds into the third period after relentless forechecking from senior forward Max Andreev created a turnover in the Saints’ zone. Junior defenseman Sebastian Dirven then sent the puck from the outside hash mark near the left wall toward goal for Stienburg to tip in.

Armed with its first lead, Cornell dominated the rest of the game – starting with Stienburg’s second goal on a point shot by junior defenseman Travis Mitchell that was tipped wide by Andreev, only to carom back toward the edge of the crease for Stienburg to jam into the net. St. Lawrence (3-7-4, 2-3-2) mustered little in the way of offensive chances before Stienburg finished off the hat trick, sprawling to sweep the puck into an empty net after junior defenseman Sam Malinski’s flip from 200 feet away. Mitchell also drew an assist, his career-high third of the game.

The finish was a far cry from that start, with the teams slogging through a scoreless first period that produced just a total of nine shots on goal.

“There wasn’t much space on the ice for the first 20 minutes or so. It was just a grind of a game,” Schafer said. “I thought we got our legs under us about a halfway through the second period, playing better and moving puck quicker.”

For just the second time this year, Cornell conceded the game’s first goal. It came just 29 seconds into the second period on a tip-in by Justin Paul, giving St. Lawrence its first power-play goal in ECAC Hockey play this year. The Big Red eventually clawed its way back, knotting the score when Berard chipped a backhand on a rebound over the glove of St. Lawrence goalie Emil Zetterquist at the 12:01 mark.

From there, Cornell was on the front foot for the rest of the game.

“We got back to pursuing pucks and being above (St. Lawrence forwards) and getting our sticks down, just a little (bit) more hungry and more sense of urgency,” Schafer said. “Hockey’s not a very complicated game – I think if you don’t bring urgency and you don’t bring competitiveness, there’s just a fine line with (finding) that edge. A lot of guys tried to find that tonight, and we had enough guys that found it and we were able to get the win.”

Senior Nate McDonald made 19 saves to earn the victory, improving to 5-0 in his first five collegiate starts.

“I thought he did a solid job again tonight,” Schafer added. “I thought he was better at controlling his rebounds. He just had a great week of practice. He was just dialed in all week in practice and focused, and I thought he elevated himself this week as a goaltender.”

Cornell remains in the North Country for one more day, wrapping up the fall semester portion of its schedule a little further up Route 11 in Potsdam against host Clarkson at 7 p.m. Saturday.