The loss dropped Harvard (5-4-1, 4-4-1 ECAC) into a tie for fourth place in the ECAC and sounded a sour note at the start of a eight-day stretch that sees the Crimson skate at No. 2 Boston College on Wednesday and in Bright Hockey Center against No. 9 Massachusetts Saturday.
Cornell 1, Harvard 0
Winless on its home ice of Lynah Rink this season and coming off a tough tie with Brown, the Big Red (4-2-5, 4-0-2) and the Crimson were deadlocked for the first forty minutes on Saturday night, largely on the strength of superb goaltending on both sides.
Cornell freshman goaltender David McKee, following in the steps of last year’s Dryden Award-winning netminder David LeNeveu, stymied the Crimson, stopping all 21 shots he faced.
Across the ice, the Crimson’s crease was covered exceptionally well by junior goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris. Playing perhaps his finest game in a Harvard sweater, Grumet-Morris stopped all but one of the 24 shots directed at him.
So, with two poised goalies negating any attempts at offense, the game headed into the third period knotted at zero.
“You just had the feeling going into the third that the next goal was going to win it,” Cornell coach Mike Schafer said.
Schafer’s words were entirely accurate, although Harvard coach Mark Mazzoleni saw another reason for the Crimson’s loss in the last 20 minutes.
“Both goaltenders played outstanding,” he said. “The difference was they beat us on the specialty teams.”
Mazzoleni’s indictment held on both ends of the ice. The game’s only goal came when Cornell was on the man-advantage, playing up because junior center Brendan Bernakevitch had been whistled off for interference 4:48 into the third. The Big Red wasted little time, converting 21 seconds into the power play when a hard shot from point-blank range off the stick of Shane Hynes found its way past both the confusion in front of the crease and Grumet-Morris, sliding into the back of the net and giving Cornell a 1-0 lead.
That was the game’s only score, in large part because of the Crimson’s own failure when playing up a man. Harvard had a half-dozen power plays on the night, and it came up empty all six times.
That failure to convert was the difference, in Mazzoleni’s mind.
“When you don’t win the specialty-team battle, many times you lose the game,” Mazzoleni said. “We didn’t win the specialty-team battle, and it cost us the game.”
Harvard’s loss meant that another fine performance from Grumet-Morris was wasted. Improving on his previous night’s success against Colgate, Grumet-Morris stopped a number of close chances, including an odd-man break by Big Red winger Cam Abbott midway through the third period.
Despite its lack of offensive fireworks, the game was another classic contest in the repertoire of great games in this historic rivalry.