In the first semifinal Friday, between Vermont and Harvard, the Crimson clogged the neutral zone effectively in the first period, and held the Catamounts' scoring sensations Martin St. Louis and Eric Perrin in check until late in the period, when they both assisted on a goal by JC Ruid to tie the score at 1. The action opened up a bit more in the second, with UVM captain St. Louis in particular having a number of scoring opportunities, two of which he converted. But the Crimson were busy with their own offense, and the game entered the third period tied at 3. Harvard scored the only goal of the stanza while holding the Cats to a handful of shots, and won the game 4-3, stunning the thousands of Vermont supporters in attendance.
The nitecap saw Cornell put on a clinic on shorthanded play and outstanding goaltending, as they held Clarkson scoreless on seven power play opportunities, including over a minute of 5-on-3, and scored a shorthanded goal, as Big Red Sophomore Jason Elliott registered his second career shutout, blanking the Knights 3-0 to advance to play their nemeses the Crimson in the championship game.
The consolation game, which pitted the two schools who'd figured to meet for the title, was Vermont's opportunity to make amends; St. Louis and Perrin each had a goal and two assists and Catamount goalie Tim Thomas stopped 37 shots in UVM's 3-1 victory.
The championship game pitted a Cornell squad at the end of a dream season and supported by rabidly enthusiastic fans against a Harvard team who had lost seven straight before upsetting St. Lawrence and Vermont in impressive fashion, and whose only supporters in the rink seemed to be their band and the leftover UVM fans with a bone to pick with Cornell. The two teams spent much of the game doing what had got them there in the first place. Harvard shocked the crowd by scoring under a minute into the game on their first shot on goal, and Elliott looked shaky for most of the period before settling down. The Crimson's neutral zone play frustrated the Red for much of the early going, and Harvard had a number of scoring opportunities with a man in front of the net. But then Cornell's forechecking took over, and they managed to solve Crimson netminder Trip Tracy for two goals to take the lead. A third Cornell goal was waved off by a penalty, and the Red never managed to get the insurance goal that would let their fans breathe easily, but Elliot and the Big Red penalty kill, perfect again that night, kept Harvard at bay to notch the 2-1 victory. The win gave Cornell their eighth ECAC title, their first since 1986, and completed a sweep in their three games this year against Harvard. Elliot won the tournament MVP hands down; his whose two-game, one-goal performance was the first ever by a single goalie, having only been accomplished once before by the tandem of Tracy and Aaron Israel in 1994.
There were also ECAC awards given out for the regular season at Thursday night's Awards Banquet. Eric Perrin of Vermont won player of the year, and Cornell's Kyle Knopp took the Rookie of the Year honor. The Coach of the Year Award was given for the second time to Joe Marsh, whose St. Lawrence Saints went from last year's eighth place finish to spend much of this season battling Vermont for the lead before ending up third, a mere four points back. Of course, in light of the postseason, first-year Cornell Coach Mike Schafer's claim looks even stronger; his Big Red finished ninth last year, and now they are ECAC Champions. Be sure to check out the Mr. Squishy Show web site for my full report on the ECACs.
Next weekend sees the start of the NCAA Hockey Tournament, and thanks to Cornell's victory this weekend, the ECAC will have three teams in the tournament. The vagaries of the selection process have placed all three in the East Regional in Albany, NY. On Friday Cornell takes on CCHA regular season champ Lake Superior State, with the winner to face Vermont on Saturday. Clarkson's Friday game is with Western Michigan of the CCHA, and if they win they'll go on to play Hockey East regular season title-holders and defending NCAA champions Boston University Saturday.
With the ECAC hockey report, this is Joe P------k, Mr. Squishy sports.