ITHACA, N.Y. — As advertised, Game 1 wasn’t anything like Game 2 — but the Cornell men’s hockey team still delivered the same result.
Senior forward Alex Rauter scored his third goal of the weekend, then helped create the play leading up junior forward Mitch Vanderlaan’s strike in the third period, and the Big Red completed a two-game sweep of Quinnipiac in an ECAC Hockey Championship quarterfinal series with a 2-0 victory on Saturday night at Lynah Rink.
Freshman goaltender Matthew Galajda made 22 saves for his nation-leading ninth shutout of the season, and top-seeded Cornell (25-4-2) killed off two major penalties in the third period to stave off ninth-seeded Quinnipiac (16-18-4) to advance. The Big Red will next play in the semifinals at 4 p.m. Friday against seventh-seeded Princeton at 1980 Herb Brooks Arena in Lake Placid.
On the heels of a shocking 9-1 loss in Friday’s series opener, the Bobcats began anew in the early stages Saturday. A very physical first period ensued, but the Big Red responded in kind – especially with freshman forward Tristan Mullin flattening Quinnipiac’s Karlis Cuskte on his first shift, igniting the sold-out crowd. Neither team generated much in the way of offensive opportunities, and Cornell actually mustered just one shot on goal in the opening 20 minutes — a bid from junior forward Anthony Angello in the slot.
“I think after coming off of last night, they were going to ramp up their intensity,” Rauter said. “The second period, we knew we wanted to come out a little harder. It was huge that we got that goal.”
That goal was Rauter’s 11th of the season, coming 2 minutes, 1 second into the second. Mullin made a backhand pass across the ice in the neutral zone to spring classmate Kyle Betts streaking up the right wing into the Quinnipiac zone. His shot from the circle was kicked away by Bobcats goalie Keith Petruzzelli, but the rebound came up the middle. Rauter collected as he neared the slot, fighting through a stick check while sliding past would-be shot-blockers before eventually winning his stick battle and placing a shot inside the near post.
Cornell had the rare distinction of killing off two major penalties in the third period, weathering the storm against a Quinnipiac power play that worked at 25.8% efficiency in February. The Big Red played shorthanded for 8:29 of the final 18:40 — including over a minute of a six-on-four disadvantage when Quinnipiac pulled Petruzzelli in favor of an extra attacker — but Galajda only needed to make two saves over those lengthy penalty kills while Cornell ate up eight blocked shots.
In fact, the Big Red has more blocked shots on the night (23) than Quinnipiac had shots on goal (22). As usual, Galajda took care of the rest
“I just tried to battle through traffic and see the puck, but I owe it all to the guys who were blocking shots on the penalty kill,” Galajda said. “They did an amazing job.”
Like Rauter, Vanderlaan splashed the net for the third time in the series with 11:14 to play. Rauter started the play by leaving his feet to win a battle for the puck in the Quinnipiac slot, pushing it to Betts toward the top of the left circle. He then quickly moved the puck back across to Vanderlaan in the right circle, giving the co-captain acres of time and space to pick his spot and zip a shot past Petruzzelli’s left ear.
The victory puts Cornell through the ECAC Hockey Championship weekend for the eighth time in the last 11 years — the highest number in the league over that span. It also marked the first time the Big Red has swept the Bobcats in the five quarterfinal series in which the teams have clashed over the last 12 years, and it handed Quinnipiac its first losing season since the 1995-96 campaign.
“Give Quinnipiac a lot of credit, they did exactly what we thought they were going to do,” said Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Hockey at Cornell. “They played hard, they played physical. They’re a very prideful team, and we knew that was going to happen.”
While the Big Red knows its semifinal date against the upstart Tigers, who completed a sweep of second-seeded Union with a 3-2 win Saturday, the other two quarterfinal series will head to winner-take-all Game 3s on Sunday. Cornell and Princeton will be joined in Lake Placid by Harvard or Dartmouth, and either Clarkson or Colgate.