Two of the best ECAC teams squared in this matchup that featured two teams who have size, can skate and are physical. This matchup also features two of the top netminders in Cornell’s David McKee and Harvard’s Dov-Grumet Morris (PHI).
The game would start out with both teams flying, with perhaps Harvard (being the home team) having just a bit more jump. Harvard would be the first team to get a power play chance, thanks to towering freshman defenseman Ryan O’Byrne (MON) being assessed a slashing call at the 2:25 mark. The Harvard power play would go to work. While the Crimson passing around the perimeter was excellent, they failed to score with the man advantage, due to Cornell’s excellent penalty-kill and the Crimson just trying to score the “pretty” goal. The torrid pace of the game continued for much of the opening period, until at around the 8:30 mark there was a delay due to the scoreboard clock going out. It allowed the Big Red’s potent top line of senior Ryan Vesce as well as sophomore Matt Moulson (PIT) and freshman Byron Bitz (BOS) to remain on the ice for a shift when play resumed a few minutes later. At the 10:23 mark, Cornell would draw first blood on a terrific effort by Moulson. It began with some nice play along the boards by junior defenseman Charlie Cook. Cook retrieves the puck from the boards then passes it off to Moulson in the left face-off circle. He shows tremendous patience with the puck, waiting until there was a shooting lane open. Moulson then proceeded to fire it through some traffic and the puck appeared to have deflected off of a Crimson defender before finding its way behind Crimson netminder Dov Grumet-Morris (PHI) for the score. Cook would draw the lone assist on Moulson’s first goal of the night. At the 14:57 mark, Harvard sophomore defenceman Tom Walsh (SJ) would be assessed a tripping call and the Big Red power play would get to work. At the 15:28 mark, sophomore Shane Hynes (ANA) would put Cornell up 2-0 on a goal that was again the result of a deflected shot. Matt Moulson fires off a shot from near the blueline again through traffic in front of the Harvard net. Hynes provided enough of a screen that he was able to deflect the low shot past Grumet-Morris without the netminder seeing it before it was already in. Moulson and Cook would draw the assists on Hynes’ power play goal. As the period progressed, Cornell was winning more of both the physical and territorial battles.
The middle stanza opened terribly for the Crimson. At the 51 second mark, Crimson captain defenseman Kenny Smith (EDM) was assessed a cross checking call, again putting the Cornell on the power play. At the 1:53 mark, the Big Red would make Smith and Harvard pay dearly for that call. It begins on what looked like a broken play for Cornell. Thanks to some excellent puck support on Cornell’s part, they managed to get things back on track again. Vesce gains puck possession in the Harvard zone and makes a nice pass to Hynes in the slot area, who then scores a highlight reel goal. Hynes just slides a no-look, low backhander that finds it way 5-hole on Grumet-Morris. Vesce and Cook would be credited with the assists. This put Cornell up 3-0. The Crimson, however weren’t about to go quietly. At the 4:54 mark, Harvard would score a highlight reel goal of their own. It begins with a turnover by Cornell senior defenseman Ben Wallace behind the Cornell net. There to retrieve it was center Tyler Kolarik (CBJ). Kolarik spots fellow linemate Tim Pettit in the slot area and passes off to him. As the puck makes its way towards Pettit he is then knocked down by a Harvard defender. Pettit then receives the puck and fires it past McKee from his knees for the score. Kolarik and fellow linemate Tom Cavanagh (SJ) would be credited with the assists. This made the score 3-1 Cornell. Just over a mnute later at the 5:55 mark, Cornell would restore their 3-goal lead. It begins when Harvard fails to keep in a pass to the point in the offensive zone. It leads to a two-on-one with Moulson and Bitz skating into the Harvard zone. Bitz takes the initial shot by attempting to tuck it behind Grumet-Morris, who makes a very nice save on it. With a loose rebound, Moulson, who was slightly trailing the play comes in and puts it over an out of position Grumet-Morris for the score. Bitz and Vesce would be credited with the assists on Moulson’s second goal of the game. At the 18:36 mark Harvard would answer. The play begins with a great battle along the boards between Hynes and Harvard junior forward Brendan Bernakevitch. Thanks to some hard work and some determination, Bernakevitch wins the puck battle and manages to get a nice pass off to team captain Kenny Smith. Smith proceeds to fire a low shot that beats McKee for the goal, cutting the Cornell lead to 4-2. Bernakevitch and senior Rob Fried (FLA) would be credited on Smith’s first goal of the season. After Smith’s goal, Harvard really began to pickup their defensive game and started to win some of the territorial battles.
The final period, saw the Crimson come out with some energy. However, they were also creating some bad turnovers in the process. The energy and jump would pay for Harvard at the 4:21 mark when they would close the goal-scoring gap again. The play starts with an excellent pass by Cavanagh to Walsh (two San Jose Sharks prospects getting together on a goal). Bernakevitch does a nice job of creating traffic and headaches in front of the Cornell net. After receiving the puck, Walsh proceeds to fire a rocket from the point at the net that gets deflected by a Cornell player in front before making its way behind McKee for the score. Cavanagh and junior defenseman Ryan Lannon (PIT) would be credited with the assists on Walsh’s goal. This made the score 4-3 Cornell. Harvard continues to cause problems for the Cornell defence. At about the 6-minute mark, Kolarik wins a great battle along the boards that results in a outstanding scoring chance, only to be stymied by McKee. However, the resilient and patient Cornell team would climb back to take charge of the game again for once and for all. The Big Red begin getting scoring opportunities by going back to what was working for them earlier in the match, which was winning the physical and territorial battles. At the 9:02 mark, that hard work would pay off in a very big way. It begins with a 2-on-0 play with Moulson and Bitz going in alone on Grumet-Morris. Grumet-Morris does an excellent job of staying with the play and again shuts the door on Bitz’s scoring attempt. A rebound is given up that gets bounced off the backboards. Moulson is there to retrieve, who then proceeds to flip it up and over a sprawling Grumet-Morris to complete the hat trick. Bitz would be credited with the lone assist on the goal. This made the score 5-3 Cornell. From there, the Big Red would never look back. Cornell was itching to score some more goals. This was evident by the fact that the Big Red defence was getting more active in jumping into plays to create more offensive chances. Harvard made late surge, peppering McKee with shots, but he stood his ground and managed to get some help from his defence.
What won the game for Cornell was their overwhelming dominance for much of the game in the physical department. Cornell players were hitting hard and often. Harvard, who also possesses some physical players on their team, was not using their size or physicality to their advantage the way Cornell was. This game featured some excellent battles nonetheless. Two of note were the battles between Harvard defenseman Noah Welch (PIT) on Byron Bitz and the 5’11” Stephen Mendes (Harvard’s version of the “little ball of hate”) going up against the 6’5” intimidating defenseman Ryan O’Byrne. Both were hard-fought battles and in the case of the Mendes/O’Byrne matchup, got really heated at times.
Both goaltenders played very well, but Grumet-Morris was the far busier netminder. Despite the loss, he was excellent for Harvard. He made some excellent saves down low and was great in stopping many of Cornell’s odd-man rushes. He possesses terrific lateral movement and didn’t give up many rebounds. The Pettit-Kolarik-Cavanagh was again showing why they are one of the most exciting lines in NCAA hockey to watch. The line was quite effective tonight, having a hand in 2 of Harvard’s 3 goals tonight. The player of the game for Harvard though was the excellent play of defenseman Tom Walsh (SJ). What San Jose fans will love about Walsh is his play along the boards, and how well he sees the ice. Walsh is a real grinder and doesn’t seem to mind the physical play one bit.
For Cornell, it was the Matt Moulson show tonight. He was absolutely sensational. Along with Ryan Vesce and Byron Bitz (who also had a terrific game), they rival Harvard’s Cavanagh line quite as far as offensive deadliness is concerned and tonight won that battle. One of the things that makes Moulson such a dynamic player (in addition to his size [6’1/205]) is his great skating ability and his relentless puck pursuit. He’ll battle hard for not only puck possession to create turnovers. If he’s not scoring them, then Moulson is likely making the plays to set them up for his teammates and tonight was no exception.
A very entertaining game overall. Sadly, these two teams will not hook up again this season, unless it is either in the ECAC Conference playoffs or the Frozen Four Tournament. Cornell won both meetings this season. Earlier at Lynah Rink, Cornell shutout Harvard1-0.
I thought Moulson had a strong game and works well with Vesce. I also like the Abbot line, as they brought a lot of energy the non Abbot is a hitting machine from the 3 games I've seen of Cornell this year. I also liked #7 on defense for Cornell. McKee looked shaky in net at times, imo.
For Havard, Cavanagh stood out as he seemed to generate a lot of offense. Cornell just seemed to have more jump, which makes sense after coming off beating two very good teams in Noter Dame and Ohio State.