By Joe Schlobotnik
Day Two of the Syracuse Invitational Tournament, held tonight at the Onondaga County War Memorial in Syracuse, NY, once again pitted Hockey East against the ECAC, with Colgate taking on Providence in the consolation game and Cornell playing Merrimack for the title.
The Red Raiders came out like a team with a mission in the early contest, making up for the previous evening's performance with double-digit shots in each period against a Providence team still showing the effects of last night's marathon session with Cornell. Perhaps the strangest sight was Friar goalie Dan Dennis still between the pipes. We were imagining how that must have made his backup Mark Kane feel; Dennis plays 95 minutes Friday night and tosses his proverbial cookies during the game (the reporter for the Syracuse Post-Standard put it best when he said Dennis "literally left everything he had on the ice"), and coach Paul Pooley still didn't start Kane in the consolation game? Perhaps he was trying to build his starter's confidence, but you'd think Dennis, after playing a one and a half post-vomit 20-minute overtimes, could have sat the game out with no loss of face. All of the Cornell fans near me showed their appreciation for Dennis's determination in playing the second game. Colgate, for their part, did change goalies, starting Junior Dan Brenzavich in net.
Providence spent much of the first period on the penalty kill, with three consecutive penalties, and Colgate took the lead on a 5-on-3 goal from the point by Jack McIntosh at the 6:22 mark. They added another at 13:33 of the first to take a 2-0 lead into the locker room. Providence drew to within one in the second, with Stefan Brannare beating Brenzavich high to the glove side on a power play. Brenzavich had a rough period, as he lost his stick a minute or so later, then got called for tripping at 13:02. Brenzavich was also not given the traditional goalie advantage in the other direction as an apparent slash directed at him a few minutes later went uncalled. I only saw him go down out of the corner of my eye, but those next to me said a Providence player got his stick up under Brenzavich's pads. Not only did Dupree (who had been a lines--er, assistant referee the night before; Gallagher, who reffed the late game, was an assistant for this game, wearing a jersey with no name on it) not call it, he apparently lectured the Colgate netminder during the next stoppage about taking a dive.
But Colgate began to take over soon thereafter, going up 3-2 at 15:37 of the second and putting the game out of reach with a couple of nice goals in the third. At 5:16, Todd Murphy fired a shot through traffic from the right point, and Andy McDonald knocked home the rebound. Poor Dave Debusschere, part of the tangle in front of the net, not only went off with an injury on the play, but lost his assist on a scoring correction. Murphy also took part in the next goal, feeding Darryl Campbell from behind the net to put the Red Raiders up 5-1 at 6:19. Providence called its timeout just as we were reaching for our keys to tell them to start the bus, and the Friars did manage a goal a minute later, but could not score again despite two more power plays. Dennis was pulled at around 18:30 to set up a 6-on-4 on the power play, but then Mike Harder got the short-handed empty-netter to make it 6-2 Colgate.
Between games we had an hour or so to kill in the Cornell hospitality room, but this time there was no hot food, only lots of cheese, veggies with dip, chips and the like. But Mom and I had a nice chat with a couple of Ithacans who've been going to Cornell games for 12 years or so. For the final, Mom decided we'd have a lot more fun standing with the instrumentless Cornell bandies, who had taken in the first game to occupying the opposing goal line on the empty side of the arena. The group continued to make an impression during this game, starting with O Canada. (As an aside, it was nice that the tournament had both national anthem performed, but there was no Canadian flag in the arena, just two US ones at one end. So I ended up looking at the maple leaf in the LaBatt's ad at the other end of the rink.) About halfway through the Canadian anthem, the PA system gave out. We had all been singing along anyway, and so we all just belted it out as loud as we could for the rest of the song. The Cornell section across the ice went wild. The Star Spangled Banner was a bit trickier, since we had to read the singer's lips to figure out where in the song he was, not to mention lowering our voices at "...were so gallantly streaming" so that "And the rockets' RED glare..." would stand out. Unfortunately, the PA did recover a few minutes into the game to resume its presentation of Dave Matthews's greatest hits.
Merrimack goalie Eric Thibeault was shown no mercy, I suspect because Providence's Dan Dennis had earned some sympathy the night before after his unfortunate accident. The best early remark from one of the bandies was "The only good thing about you is your name!" Cornell returned to Junior Jason Elliot for this game, and once again gave up the first goal, on a Merrimack powerplay. (I believe last night's Providence game was only the second time all year that Cornell has scored first.) But that would not end up mattering, as Cornell tied it up later in the period, and added two pretty goals in the second. Darren Tymchyshyn put on a beautiful display, skating the puck in from the blueline and deking Thibeault completely out of the net before depositing the puck. Doug Steinstra made in 3-1 on a similar if slightly less impressive play. Jamie Papp and Mike Rutter also had a couple of breakaways each in the game, but neither of them found the back of the net.
We were of course wary of the 3-1 lead after the team had given up a similar advantage against Providence, but the Red were playing like a team in command for the second half of the game, and the Hooligans without Horns had time to get down to some serious insults. A few Merrimack fans seemed to take offence to the current addition to the "your mom called" cheer, which was "Hey Eric, your sheep called. It said 'baaa'." I thought it was a hoot myself, but then I was doubtless in a better mood. At any rate, this was at the end of the second, and we soon fled the scene of the crime. In the third, Thibeault began to suffer for the misfortunes of his predecessor, with taunts like "Hey Eric, at least you didn't puke...yet!" These are the Lynah Faithful folks. Consider them offensive if you like, but you can't accuse them of not being enthusiastic.
Getting back to the game itself, it was even more loosely called than the consolation, with no penalties from the mid-first until late in the third, when the Warriors were whistled for their only infraction of the game, part of coincidental minors. Thibeault was pulled at 17:30 or so (after a Merrimack timeout, which as someone pointed out had worked pretty poorly last night when they called it up two goals against Colgate, and promptly let them back into the game), and Jeff Oates managed an empty-netter. The non-band loved this, after they'd been chiding his lack of offensive prowess earlier on. The 4-1 lead made the Merrimack power play which finished the game irrelevant (the Warriors ended up 1-for-3 in man-up situations, while the Red were 0-for-0), and Cornell won the game 4-1 and the Tournament for the first time ever. In fact, this was Cornell's first appearance in the SIT title game, and Merrimack's first in the tourney at all.
Then it was time to hand out the hardware. The announcer, who had previously introduced the "Colgate Big Red", named Cornell skipper Mike Schafer as the coach of Merrimack, bringing a "SIEVE!" chant from the Faithful. (I think this was where I caught Elliot chuckling at us.) As expected, Cornell had about half of the spots on the all-tournament team, including both Steve and Chad Wilson. Jason Elliot's one-goal game earned him all-tournament goalie, while Jean-Marc Pelletier's 52 saves in the triple-overtime semifinal won him tournament MVP. The jacket that went with the prize was a bit small on him. Last night was obviously the game of Pelletier's young career (without his efforts, the Red would have fallen in the second OT), and it shows that Cornell once again has two goaltenders who can get the job done.
So that's the story from Syracuse. Next week Cornell resumes league play at St. Lawrence and Clarkson. I (and my mother) will again be there. SLU seems to be back on track with the return of goalie Clint Owen, and Clarkson is always tough. Any idea if Schafer will be platooning the goalies again?