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#3 Denver clinches Frozen Four spot with victory over #12 Cornell

  • / Updated:
  • Kyle Evans 

Sam Harris’ power-play goal with 4.8 seconds left in the second period proved to be a game-winning marker for No. 3-ranked Denver, who clinched its third Frozen Four appearance in the last five years, with a 2-1 victory over the No. 12-ranked Cornell men’s hockey team in the Springfield Regional final at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, Mass., on Saturday afternoon.

Sophomore forward Nick DeSantis scored the lone marker for Cornell, which concludes the 2023-24 season with a 22-7-6 overall record. Senior forward Gabriel Seger and junior forward Kyle Penney aided DeSantis in scoring his eighth goal of the season. Junior goaltender Ian Shane stopped 16 shots in the setback.

Along with Harris, Miko Matikka scored his 20th goal of the season for Denver (30-9-3), as Pioneers goaltender Matt Davis stopped 24-of-25 shots in the victory.

DeSantis drew first blood with a goal six minutes into the first period, capitalizing on a loose puck on the edge of the goalmouth following a pair of missed Cornell shots.

While Cornell was on the power play, Denver was able to generate a breakaway following an offensive zone turnover. The shot attempt by Jared Wright was stopped by Shane with his left pad to keep the Big Red’s lead intact.

Denver eventually found the back of Cornell’s net late in the first period when Matikka benefited from McKade Webster, who chipped the puck toward the high slot, leading to the first-year goal from the native of Helsinki, Finland.

During a late power play in the second period, Denver took the lead as a wrist shot from the middle of the right faceoff circle was deflected by Sam Harris at the top of the goal crease, trickling between Shane’s legs and slowly crossed the goal line.

Cornell had plethora of scoring chances late in the third period, but were unable to capitalize. Freshman forward Jonathan Castagna has a one-timed shot with under four minutes to play go wide of the net and another one-timer by freshman forward Ryan Walsh was stopped by Davis’ right-pad in a sprawling save to keep the Pioneers ahead.

Following the contest, junior forward Sullivan Mack, who had two goals in Cornell’s 3-1 victory over Maine on Thursday, and freshman defenseman Ben Robertson were named to the All-Tournament Team.

Most Outstanding Player: Matt Davis (Denver)
Goaltender: Matt Davis (Denver)
Defenseman: Boston Buckberger (Denver)
Defenseman: Ben Robertson (Cornell)
Forward: Tristan Broz (Denver)
Forward: Sullivan Mack (Cornell)
Forward: Miko Matikka (Denver)

• Saturday was the 14th all-time meeting between Cornell and Denver, as the Pioneers increased their series lead to 8-6, and have won four of the last six (4-2-0) and five of the previous eight (5-3-0) against the Big Red.

• It was the sixth meeting in the NCAA Tournament between the two programs. Cornell’s two-game win streak over Denver in the national tournament was snapped as the Pioneers registered its first postseason win over the Big Red since posting a 4-2 victory on March 21, 1986, before claiming the total-goal series by a 7-6 margin.

• Seger’s assist on DeSantis’ goal was his 30th of the season, marking the fifth time since 1990-91 that a Cornell player has had a 30-assist season, joining Doug Derraugh (36 in 1990-91), Ryan Hughes (34 in 1990-91), Kyle Knopp (32 in 1998-99), and Stephen Bâby (33 in 2002-03).

Since 1990-91
• 36, Doug Derraugh (1990-91)
• 34, Ryan Hughes (1990-91)
• 33, Stephen Bâby (2002-03)
• 32, Kyle Knopp (1998-99)
• 30, Gabriel Seger (2023-24)

• With his assist, Seger (14-30—44) joined Ryan Vesce (19-26—45 in 2002-03) as the lone two players under Mike Schafer ’86 to have at least 44 points. The Big Red duo are the only two players with at least 44 points in a season dating back to 1990-91 when Doug Derraugh (30-36—66), Ryan Hughes (18-34—52), and Trent Andison (22-26—48) all accomplished the feat.