Dartmouth has been riding high periodically throughout the season. Its highest moments included its impressive beginning to the season and a win over in-state rival New Hampshire. However, the Big Green was unable to record a win in the regular season against Cornell. Cornell earned a win and a tie against its fellow Ivy-League opponent known as an oversized color.
The clash between Cornell and Dartmouth produced no goals in the first period. Sophomore forward Joel Lowry broke the deadlock less than one minute into the second frame. Cornell continued to generate great offense as it had in the weeks before. It was not until Madison Dias scored his first collegiate goal that the balance of the game tilted entirely toward Cornell. Dias's was an unassisted blast from the point that beat cleanly Morris. Cornell did not look back.
The type of offense that one could expect of this Cornell team in the first half of the season was put on display by the end of the second period. A great offensive chance generated by Ryan who has continued to heed Schafer's advice and contribute on offense led to a gorgeous drop pass from Hilbrich that landed on the stick of Miller who effortlessly put the puck behind Morris when the Big Green netminder committed right to block Hilbrich. Was Cornell's offense back?
The scoring for the Big Red was not complete. Dartmouth solved Iles in the final minutes of the second period. Sikura had put the Big Green on the board, but Cornell was not done. Cornell continued to dominate the game. However, the goal differential was cut to one less than two minutes into the final frame.
Dartmouth's Bligh deflected a cross-ice pass from Neiley into Cornell's net with his stick well above the goal post. Iles demanded a review for a high stick. The review was granted, but if one consults the review feed, there was no angle available for official review for the one directly above the goal. So, there was effectively no review available that would show if Bligh's stick was above the plane of his shoulder. It appears easily to be a high stick. The Dartmouth radio announcers acknowledged such and were profusely grateful that the appropriate view was not available.
Cornell continued to control the flow and pace of the game as time wound down. McCarron found the back of the net with an empty net goal that sealed the fate of the team from Hanover and snapped Cornell's seven-game losing streak. Cornell scored four goals against a team that was averaging an allowance of less than two per game.
Saturday was The Game. The rivalry of the Ivy League. The rivalry of the ECAC. This edition took upon a tenor very different from seasons past and even from earlier in the season as Cornell and the Crimson, the traditional powers of the post-Divorce ECAC, are fighting to secure home ice going into the 2013 ECAC Tournament.
Cornell picked up against its most hated foe where it left off against Dartmouth. Cornell's Miller scored a second goal on the weekend just over two minutes into the game. The goal was not as pretty as the one that he had scored the day before, but a dirty goal put Cornell on the board to the raucous applause of the Lynah Faithful at Lynah East.
A Harvard offense that had found its confidence after the loss of key players who were ensnared in a cheating controversy at the United States's oldest college struck back. The Crimson had scored 11 goals in the two games preceding Saturday's rivalry clash. The Harvard offense that embarrassed Cornell at Lynah Rink on national television was back with a vengeance before this game.
The Crimson's Fallstrom struck at one of the worst times psychologically for Cornell. He tickled the twine with a power-play goal with only 26 seconds remaining in the first frame. The Crimson had knotted the game right before both teams would exit the ice for the intermission.
Harvard would score again within nine minutes. Everson beat Iles and Harvard took the lead. The balance of play for the following four or five minutes was heavily in Harvard's favor. Cornell's defense and Iles stood strong, but Cornell had difficulty regaining the zone and seemed tepid about challenging Girard in Harvard's zone.
The torpidity gave way slowly and Cornell's confidence led the Big Red to controlling the remainder of the game. This turnaround seemed microcosmic of the season to date. A bad break or an unexpected change in momentum led to Cornell having to fight its way back into the game. The team doubled down and fought its way back into the game. It did not give up. Its effort as it has been for most of the season was indefatigable. That is why this game was fun to watch and that is why this season has become a joy to watch: the team does not quit.
This era's Crimson Killer, Nick D'Agostino, righted the cosmic wrong that was his not tallying a point against Harvard earlier in the season. A beautiful pass from behind the net from Ferlin connected with D'Agostino at the left face-off circle and the nemesis of the Cantabs put the puck away behind Girard. The senior captain tied the game and put victory within the ready grasp of Cornell.
Enter Andy O'Brien. Any fan or member of the Faithful who witnessed his performance at the Quinnipiac game at Lynah Rink realizes his calls against Cornell have begun to raise eyebrows. O'Brien called three of the four penalties against Cornell in that game. That in itself may not be sufficient to draw the ire of the Lynah Faithful, but on at least three occasions he kept the puck in Cornell's defensive zone when the Bobcats were unable to do so with their own efforts. Some involuntary interference with the play of the game is expected by some officials, but this occurred on what appeared to have been more than a coincidental basis including pinning the puck against the back boards when Cornell was about to clear the puck successfully on penalty kills. WAFT shrugged it off as mere happenstance and bad luck. Then, last Saturday happened.
The would-have-been goal is shown below in the video. The video shows that D'Agostino streaks down the left side of the ice, takes a shot on Girard, Girard makes a left pad save, but the puck rests clearly beside his left pad uncovered and Ferlin collects the rebound and deposits it into an empty net. Leaving aside Biega's clear demonstration of character with shoving Ferlin (Danny Biega, ladies and gentlemen, a Senior CLASS Award Finalist), the goal was disallowed because O'Brien whistled the play dead as the puck laid on the ice, unsmothered, before Ferlin put it in the net.
The whistle was blown before it crossed the goal line. That cannot be challenged reasonably after watching the video. It was clear to all the Faithful in attendance and in the video that the whistle was suspiciously premature considering that the puck is clearly visible on the ice when an extremely early whistle blew the play dead on a near-guaranteed goal for Cornell. A game that should have ended in 3-2 Cornell victory was pushed into overtime 7:43 later and the game ended in a draw.
Another fanbase in the ECAC has grown to recognize one official as snatching defeat or disappointment from the clutches of victory for its preferred team. For Rensselaer, it is Kotyra.
For Cornell, it seems that Andy O'Brien has begun to place himself in an analogous position. Would Cornell have won the Quinnipiac game had O'Brien not intervened? That's unlikely. However, his blown call against Harvard is not only suspicious, especially in light of his officiating of the game one week before, it changed the result of the game. O'Brien has developed a penchants for interjecting himself into game play and blowing calls that cost Cornell dearly on Saturday.
The lesson of the game is not the fact that Cornell should have won the game against Harvard. As crucial as that is to understanding the game in context, the most important takeaway from the weekend is that even with two blown calls that cost Cornell one goal against and one goal for, the team battled and created the good luck that it has been lacking during the losing streak to claim three out of four possible points over the weekend. The team has not lost the will to fight and if anything appears more dedicated to battling for each accomplishment.
Iles has not allowed more than two goals in three games. His save percentage has normalized around a respectable 0.913 over last weekend. Despite this number not being overwhelming, his product on the ice has been impressive as he has risen to thwart some of the most potent chances from Cornell's opposition. Harvard redoubled its efforts in the last three minutes of regulation and Iles rose to the challenge. He stonewalled two odd-man rushes that would have tilted the game in the Crimson's favor.
Cornell's penalty kill has continued to dominate in the fashion that it has over recent weeks. Cornell killed 83.3% of the power-play opportunities of Dartmouth and Harvard. It seems that Cornell's penalty kill has begun to remain consistent at killing 82-85% of penalties over any given weekend. The lone blemish on that trend is the allowance of four goals on five-minute majors in the North Country. Cornell has been consistent in its penalty killing since then and has continued to play disciplined hockey drawing few penalties.
The question on everyone's mind is whether last weekend marks the turning point in this season after which Cornell will not look back and will continue rolling as we know that this team can. The tie against Harvard leaves this team with a chip on its shoulder. I think for the time being that may be good. The players of Cornell's 97th team have tasted victory again and they like it. I think the best answer to the question of whether Cornell has begun rolling is this:
There's a game Friday; I'd watch.