Cornell, Models of Efficiency in Getting 12th ECAC Crown
Scrivens Earns Third Straight Shutout, With Help All Around
by Eben Novy-Williams/CHN Reporter
ALBANY, N.Y. Any fans who came to the Times-Union Center this weekend in hopes of seeing Cornell surrender a goal, left the 2010 ECAC Hockey tournament on Saturday evening feeling very disappointed. The Big Red defeated Brown 3-0 in Friday’s first semifinal, and followed that with a 3-0 win over Union in the finals on Saturday, eliminating any doubt as to which team is the toast of the conference.
“This was a solid team effort from goal line to goal line,” Cornell head coach Mike Schafer said. “It is so satisfying to see this group of seniors be so committed for four years and finally get rewarded with a championship.”
Cornell hadn't won the title since 2005, despite making two NCAA appearances since then, a long time for a program that's won 12 ECAC titles overall.
Senior goaltender Ben Scrivens will get most of the credit for Cornell’s two shutouts this week – and rightfully so – but the Big Red’s tournament-record 230:30 consecutive shutout minutes are as much a credit to the team’s skaters as it is to its goaltender. The Cornell forwards dictated play in the attacking zone, the Big Red defensemen stood tall at the blue line and Scrivens, who made 55 saves in two games, cleaned up the rest.
In other words, it was classic Cornell.
“We play defense by committee,” said Scrivens, who was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player. “All I can do is be ready and make sure that I take care of my end of the bargain. These guys are definitely going to take care of their end; playing defense, scoring goals, and once we get up, shutting the door. I’ll take a little bit of the credit, but the majority of the credit goes to the defense.”
Unlike Friday night’s game against Brown, Cornell wasted no time establishing rhythm in Saturday night’s title game showdown versus Union. The Big Red came out hard from the game’s first whistle and dictated play for the rest of the game. Cornell opened the scoring on a power-play goal from junior forward Joe Devin 15 minutes, nine seconds into the game. The Big Red added another power-play goal from sophomore defenseman Sean Whitney with 2:35 remaining in the second, and finished the game with an empty-net goal from junior forward Patrick Kennedy.
The real story of the game, however, was the Big Red defense, and it starts at the top. Schafer loves to say that offense is the best defense, and his forwards proved it today. By dominating the possession game, Cornell kept the puck far from Scrivens for most of the contest’s 60 minutes.
“It’s something that we [forwards] take a lot of pride in, and something that we have worked hard at,” senior forward and captain Blake Gallagher said. “If we can keep the puck 200 feet from our net, that’s the safest place for it to be. We work on the cycle every day in practice, trying to use our big bodies to fend off defenders.”
When the Dutchmen did reach the Cornell defensive third, the Big Red defenders were quick to pressure the puck. Cornell blocked 16 shots – eight in the third period alone – and worked hard to prevent open looks for Union’s offense.
“[The Dutchmen] are dangerous in transition and I thought our guys did a great job all night long on the back check, picking up sticks,” said Schafer, whose fifth conference title ties St. Lawrence’s Joe Marsh for most all time. “We thwarted a lot of opportunities with guys just hustling between the blue line and the circles.”
The shots that did get through were quickly smothered by Scrivens. The 6-foot-2, 192-pound senior stopped 23 shots against Brown and 32 more in the finals, including 13 when they mattered most: in the third period against Union.
“Ben did a tremendous job,” Schafer said. “We have been fortunate to have such strong goaltending. Without that you don’t win championships.”
“[Cornell] has the best goaltender in the country,” Union head coach Nate Leaman said. “Scrivens is a huge difference maker back there.”
Earlier this week, Scrivens was awarded the Ken Dryden Award as the conference’s best goaltender, and is one of 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award. He is currently ranked first in the country in both save percentage (.937) and goals against average (1.78) and was a first team All-ECAC and All-Ivy selection.
This year’s talented senior class – which includes Scrivens and 100-point forwards Blake Gallagher and Colin Greening – avoids becoming the second straight class to graduate without a title; a punishable offense in Ithaca. With the monkey off its back, the team can celebrate this weekend and then begin focusing on the rest of the year — which will include an NCAA appearance next week.
“We’ve come up short the last couple of years here [in Albany],” Scrivens said, “but it’s exciting to see where all of the pieces fall together.”