CANTON – The reason No. 12 Cornell is nationally ranked and vying for the ECAC regular season title is because it takes advantage of mistakes.
St. Lawrence made a costly turnover just 30 seconds into overtime that led to a Cornell odd-man rush and ended with Sean Collins cleaning up a rebound for a 4-3 Big Red triumph on senior night Saturday at Appleton Arena.
“We realize how close we were to winning this game,” SLU associate head coach Mike Hurlbut said. “We took a shift off and they didn’t take a shift off.”
If it weren’t for a reversed St. Lawrence goal call, the game would have never made it to overtime. Chris Martin had just pulled SLU within 2-1 when Cornell’s John McCarron took a slashing penalty at 7 minutes, 29 seconds of the second.
Less than 30 seconds into, St. Lawrence’s high-powered power play thought it scored. The referee called it a goal on the ice, but upon Cornell’s protest decided to review it.
“They felt it was clear on the video that the puck was directed in off Jeremy (Wick’s) forearm,” Hurlbut said. “They had a better view than we did.”
Cornell (14-6-7 overall, 11-3-6 ECAC) killed off the rest of the penalty and St. Lawrence (13-16-3, 9-10-1) didn’t get another power-play opportunity.
“That was huge,” said Cornell assistant coach Ben Syer, who filled in while head coach Mike Schafer attended a family function.
“It was frustrating that the puck went in because we thought we were doing our job,” he added. “At the end of the day, when they called it off, it gave the boys a chance to finish the kill.”
The Saints still managed the tying goal when Jacob Drewiske tipped in Riley Austin’s initial shot from the point.
“That was one of the best second periods we’ve had all season,” Drewiske said. “It was one of the best second periods against Cornell in a long time. I think if it’s a puck bounce here or there, it’s a different outcome.”
Locke Jillson gave the lead back to Cornell at 17:52 of the second and the Big Red took a 3-2 edge into the third period.
Justin Baker tied it again after swiping a puck inside Cornell’s zone and beating goalie Andy Iles alone in the slot.
The Saints spent four minutes of the third period killing penalties and were outshot 12-3 without giving away another goal or having a power play. Goalie Matt Weninger finished with 26 saves.
“We don’t blame the refs whatsoever, but it would have been nice to get a few more power plays,” Drewiske said. “Our power play has been hot. I think when (the officials) watch the film in the next few days they’ll realize that they missed some calls.”
The loss ended SLU’s five-game winning streak and further tightened the already crowded ECAC standings. The Big Red is two points back of first-place Union heading into the final weekend, while St. Lawrence is currently tied for seventh with Yale and just two points up on ninth-place Dartmouth.
The top eight places get a home playoff series.
“We’ve been playing playoff hockey for a while now,” Drewiske said. “There’s desperation in our games. Desperation is a beautiful thing if you can harness it the right way.”
Cornell already clinched a home bye after tying Clarkson, 1-1, on Friday.
But escaping the north country trip with three points was particularly gratifying. The Big Red hadn’t won at Appleton Arena since 2005.
“It’s known in the league that it’s hard to come away with one win, let alone three points,” Syer said. “Obviously winning a game in Appleton is pretty nice.”