CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Not only did the Cornell men’s hockey team beat rival Harvard on Saturday night, it beat the Crimson at its own game. Cam Donaldson and Tristan Mullin scored on the man advantage, and the Big Red kept the Crimson’s nation-leading power play to just one goal in securing a 2-1 victory at Bright-Landry Hockey Center.
The victory not only helped 16th-ranked Cornell (6-5; 4-2 ECAC Hockey; 4-1 Ivy League) salvage two key league points on the road, it allows the Big Red to enter a lengthy semester break above .500 while several key contributors recover from injuries.
And not to be forgotten, the effort also avenges a lackluster performance in a 4-1 loss to Harvard just one week prior at The Frozen Apple.
“It was one of the grittiest wins I’ve been a part of as a head coach for a long time, 24 years,” said Mike Schafer, the Jay R. Bloom ’77 Head Coach of Men’s Hockey at Cornell. “To see these guys, with our top two centers out and Mitch Vanderlaan played on one leg today. … Guys that are key contributors to our hockey team that are out. The guys stepped up.”
At the front of the line was sophomore goaltender Austin McGrath, who made 23 saves to earn his first collegiate victory in just his second start. Harvard (4-4-2; 2-3-2 ECAC Hockey; 2-2-2 Ivy League) opened the scoring in appropriate fashion with Jack Rathbone’s power-play goal just 5:30 into the game, but McGrath made a point-blank stop on Nathan Krusko at the 9:51 mark and Rathbone’s open shot from the high slot four minutes later.
“It’s really huge. There’s a little confidence going into break with a big win and getting back to the way we like to play – hard, competing and really gritty,” said McGrath, who made 10 stop in the third period. “So it was big to get in a game like that before we got off for a while.”
Cornell’s power play struggled on two opportunities in the first period, but quickly made amends by capitalizing on both of its chances during a dominant second period in which the Big Red had a 19-4 advantage in shots on goal. Donaldson’s fifth goal of the season tied the game at 7:01, then Mullin’s tenacious pursuit of a rebound about six minutes later pulled the Big Red ahead for good.
The proverbial icing on the cake came in the third period, when the Big Red successfully killed off two more Harvard power plays. The Crimson entered the game converting on 40% of its chances on the man advantage.
“It’s a huge win, obviously. We’re down those guys, but they’ll be back. And at the same time, there are no excuses and other guys have to step up,” Mullin said. “Everyone has to play their role. Tonight just goes to show what can happen when we all step up. And that’s what we needed.”