Red Hot Start, Big Red Finish
by Gregg Paul/CHN Correspondent
GREEN BAY, Wis. Colorado College's game against Cornell was a complete microcosm of its season.
"Great start. Struggled in the middle. Still hanging in there early in the third, and in the end we wore down completely", said a dejected coach Scott Owens.
Colorado College looked to be well on its way to victory in the first period, capitalizing on two power plays to take a 2-0 lead into the first intermission. The Tigers outshot Cornell 11-1 and looked to be in total control of the game.
Yet there is a reason they play a full 60 minutes, and unfortunately for Colorado College, it had to find out the hard way the repercussions when you don't.
"We were a very fortunate hockey team," said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. "To go down 2-0 against a very good hockey team and claw our way back in the course of the game, we feel very fortunate to get out of this game with a 3-2 win."
Normally in an NCAA tournament game, you see both teams start the game with a feeling out process. A series of mini-attacks and defensive counters, and looking toward exposing the weaknesses of the other team. This game never had that, as CC got out of the gates quickly with its high-powered attack.
"I was very surprised," said Schafer. "We didn't get the chance to feel them out. We put ourselves behind the eight ball right off the bat. We had a bad penalty that put us down 5-on-3. You can take penalties, but you can't put your team down 5-on-3."
While CC's game was a microcosm of its season, Cornell's performance was classic Big Red in many ways. Though falling behind 2-0 is not in the textbook, wearing down the opposition is from Page 1 of the Schafer guide.
You would never know it was headed this way. In the first period, it looked like the kinds of things that plagued Cornell during portions of the season — less-than-standard defense, bad penalties, below-Schafer-standard special teams — were out in full, ugly force again. But once Cornell calmed the game down, it was classic, and by the third period, the Big Red were in control.
Matt Moulson, the senior winger and team captain, knotted the game at two when he picked the pocket of Tigers defenseman Jack Hillen behind the CC cage. Moulson then completed the wraparound as the startled Tigers netminder, Matt Zaba, never reacted quick enough to the play.
Jon Gleed scored the eventual game winner — his first goal of the season — midway through the third period, when he picked up a rebound on his backhand at the left-wing circle. Gleed then ripped a wicked backhand shot high over Zaba's glove hand just inside the far post.
"Every person that scores his first goal of the year seems to be against us," said Schafer. "It was nice to see the opposite."
Colorado College tried to mount a comeback, but it was apparently running on fumes. The Tigers recorded 11 shots on goal in the first period in grabbing their lead, then only managed 11 shots on goal combined in the second and third periods.
"They wore us down with their size," said Tigers coach Scott Owens. "Everything took two or three times more to get the puck away from them."
The Tigers were hoping for another power-play opportunity to get them back in the game. But their power play, which had performed flawlessly in the first period, was never given another chance the rest of the game.
"It's not because the officiating wasn't good," said Owens. "It was because they smartened up and they didn't get themselves in any bad positions."
Cornell finally figured it out, after it allowed five power-play goals to Harvard in last week's ECAC Tournament final.
There's a reason the Big Red have now been to the "Elite Eight" four times in the past five years.
The game marked a disappointing end for the dynamic duo of Marty Sertich and Brett Sterling. They combined for 180 and 183 total points respectively, but could only muster three points on this evening. Ordinarily not a bad effort, but in this game it just wasn't enough.