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Mack’s two goals lifts #12 Cornell past #6 Maine

Junior forward Sullivan Mack scored the final two goals, including the game-winning marker, to lift the No. 12-ranked Cornell men’s hockey team (22-6-6) to a 3-1 victory over No. 6-ranked Maine (23-12-2) before 5,765 at the MassMutual Center on Thursday night.

Cornell, which extended its win streak to a season-long six games, will face top-seeded and No. 3-ranked Denver in the Springfield Regional final on Saturday at 4 p.m. from the MassMutual Center. Game action will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2 and over the airwaves on WHCU (870 AM, 97.7 FM,

Mack’s classmate, Kyle Penney, scored the game-tying goal for the Big Red in the first period, and fellow junior Ian Shane stopped 31 shots to register his second consecutive 31-save performance.

Harrison Scott netted the lone marker for the Black Bears, which had a 15-save outing by senior goaltender Victor Östman, who appeared between the pipes for the first time since Feb. 17.

Scott gave Maine an early 1-0 lead 5:43 into the contest, wristing a shot from the mid slot on a feed from Donovan Villeneuve-Houle after freshman defenseman George Fegaras’ shot from the top of the left point went wide and wrapped around to the right half-wall in Maine’s defensive end.

The Big Red successfully killed a five-minute major penalty against freshman forward Ryan Walshfor checking from behind despite Maine generating five shots on goal against Shane, including a pair of key saves to keep Cornell’s deficit at one. Junior defenseman Tim Rego (two blocked shots) and Hoyt Stanley (one blocked shot) also aided Shane in keeping Maine off the scoreboard during its five-minute power play.

An aggressive forecheck by senior forward Gabriel Seger kept the puck inside Cornell’s offensive zone, leading to Penney lasering a snapshot over the glove of Östman to tie the game with 6:04 left in the opening period.

Cornell took the lead past the halfway point of the second period as Mack kept the puck inside the Big Red’s offensive zone on a failed clearing attempt by Maine and snapped his shot from the left side of the right faceoff circle to Östman’s low blocker side.

Mack doubled the Big Red’s lead in the third when he deployed a quick toe-drag and wristed a shot past Östman for the second time of the night.

• Thursday was the 18th all-time meeting between Cornell and Maine and was the first since Dec. 29, 2013, when the Big Red defeated the Black Bears in a shootout of the championship game of the 2013 Florida College Classic in Estero, Fla.

• Cornell took the lead in the series with Maine, 8-7-3, claiming its first victory over the Black Bears since Dec. 29, 2004, snapping a four-game winless streak.

• It was the second time Cornell and Maine had met in a postseason contest, and the first NCAA Tournament game played between the programs. The other postseason meeting came on March 10, 1981, at Lynah Rink in the ECAC Hockey quarterfinals, where the Big Red recorded a 7-4 triumph behind a hat trick by sophomore forward Larry Tobin.

• With the win, Cornell has now won its last three games against opponents ranked within the top 10 in the USCHO poll (2-1 vs. No. 5-ranked Boston University at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 25, 2023, and 3-2 overtime win over No. 3-ranked Quinnipiac at Lynah Rink on Jan. 20). It is the longest streak since the Big Red won eight straight contests against top-10 opponents since March 30, 2019 – Feb. 25, 2022.

• The six-game win streak for Cornell is the program’s longest since stringing seven wins together from Nov. 6 to Dec. 3 during the 2021-22 season.

• Mack recorded his first multi-goal game since potting a pair of markers against Brown on Feb. 24, 2023. It is his ninth multi-point game of his collegiate career, six of which have come this season.

• With his assist on Penney’s first-period goal, Seger increased his season totals in assists (29) and points (43). His 29 assists are the most since Stephen Bâby had 33 helpers during the 2002-03 season. The 43 points are the most by a Cornell player since Ryan Vesce (19-26—45) also during the Big Red’s Frozen Four run in 2002-03 and is tied with Brad Chartrand (24-19—43 in 1995-96) for the second-most points in a season under Mike Schafer ’86‘s tenure as Cornell’s head coach.

Mike Schafer ’86 Era (Since 1995-96)
1. Ryan Vesce (19-26—45) — 2002-03
T2. Brad Chartrand (24-19—43) — 1995-96
T2. Gabriel Seger (14-29—43) — 2023-24

Cornell will meet No. 3-ranked Denver (28-9-3) in the Springfield Regional final on Saturday, March 30, at 4 p.m. Game action will be broadcast on ESPN2.

The Big Red upset the Pioneers last year in the Manchester Regional semifinal, 2-0, behind a two-point effort by then-sophomore forward Jack O’LearyBen Berard potted the other Big Red tally, as Shane stopped all 27 shots he faced to record Cornell’s second shutout in the NCAA Tournament, joining Ken Dryden (30 saves against North Dakota on March 16, 1967, in the national semifinals in Syracuse, N.Y.).

Saturday’s meeting will be the first time Cornell has played the same opponent in consecutive NCAA Division I Men’s Hockey Championships since losing to New Hampshire in the 2002 East Regional Final and the 2003 Frozen Four semifinal. It is also the fourth time it has occurred, along with playing North Dakota (1967 and 1968) and Northern Michigan (1980 and 1981).