Cornell (6-5-0, 4-2-0 ECAC) outlasted a late push from Harvard (4-4-2, 2-3-2) to emerge with a 2-1 victory after going 2-for-4 on the power play. In fact, all three tallies in the game came on 5-on-4s. Despite the best efforts of senior net-minder Michael Lackey, the Crimson fell short after Friday’s decisive win, losing out on what would have been its first four-point weekend of the season. This loss is the home team’s last conference clash of the season, and comes just a week after it played spoiler to a Big Red-leaning crowd at Madison Square Garden.
“I thought we came out pretty strong,” co-captain Michael Floodstrand said. “[But] I think we kind of took our foot off the pedal a little bit late in the first, got dominated in the second…. Against a good team like that, they can just shut it down.”
The Crimson has had starting trouble often this year, but began the contest with jump. Instead, it was in the second period that the team faltered. Cornell piled on 19 shots to Harvard’s four in the middle frame after falling behind 1-0 in the first.
“The second period, I didn’t think we played with a lot of poise,” said head coach Ted Donato ’91. “Took a couple of unnecessary penalties, we got beat back at the front of our net…. They were more determined, certainly, in the second period than we were, and that was the difference in the game.”
In the third period the tables turned somewhat in terms of pressure, as the Crimson outshot the Big Red 10-1 and prevented the visitors from getting a shot on net until over 13 minutes into the frame. Harvard also saw two man-advantage opportunities, the second coming with less than four minutes left in regulation. But it could not convert on either, and pulling Lackey for the extra attacker also proved fruitless.
The Crimson’s lone goal came at the 5:30 mark of the first period, on its very first power play attempt. As the second unit set up, junior forward Colton Kerfoot swept a pass to rookie defenseman Jack Rathbone at the left point. With Harvard skaters screening the Cornell goalie, Rathbone fired a shot that went right through the crowd and to the back of the net. The freshman’s tally extends the man-advantage unit’s streak of eight straight games with a conversion, and keeps its efficiency at the top of the NCAA.
“I’m not as concerned about the [lone] goal as I am about our overall effort,” coach Donato said. “You’re not going to win a lot of games with 24 shots. We got the goal early, but we...can’t look in the mirror and say that we played our best or that we deserved to win.”
The Big Red, for its part, turned around its game after last week’s loss. The team has been plagued by the injury bug already this season, with several key contributors unable to dress against the Crimson. One big absence was sophomore goaltender Matt Galajda, who did not play at all this weekend after an injury sustained at Madison Square Garden. Instead, rookie Austin McGrath stepped up between the pipes — and played to his first win, stopping 23 of 24 attempts thrown his way.
“I thought he was good,” coach Donato said. “I think he gave us a chance to win the game, and that’s ultimately what you need from your goalie. I thought he made some saves in the second to keep the game at 2-1.”
The Crimson will close out its 2018 play with a game at Bentley next week before hosting the Chinese National Development Team in late December. A win on Saturday could have had ranking implications for Harvard — and certainly for Cornell — in addition to boosting the team’s confidence heading into its winter hiatus, but the team will need to look ahead for a satisfying closeout to the year.
—Staff writer Stuti Telidevara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @StutiTelidevara.