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Coach Schafer’s Notes for 3/25/2024

CORNELL 6, Dartmouth 3 … Box Score | Game Recap | Video Highlights
CORNELL 3, St. Lawrence 1 … Box Score | Game Recap | Video Highlights

We’re headed to the NCAA Tournament for the second consecutive year and that’s a real plus for a team regularly playing nine freshmen.

Friday night was one of our better comebacks and the 20th win of the season. We scored five goals in the third period, which we haven’t done all season. In the first period, Dartmouth tallied at 15:02 on a laser shot over junior goaltender Ian Shane’s shoulder. Early in the second period (4:15), we tied on a goal by junior forward Ondrej Psenicka who shot the puck between the Big Green goaltender’s legs, after taking a neutral zone pass from freshman forward Jake Kraft. But, it only took just over a minute at 5:25 for Dartmouth to grab the lead again, 2-1. Seven minutes later, John Fusco scored his second goal to make it 3-1. We talked during the second intermission that we needed to step up the power play and get the job done, and they did! We started to steam roll and created more chances.

Just 43 seconds into the third period on a power play carried-over from the second, sophomore forward Dalton Bancroft made it 3-2 with his seventh power-play goal of the season, with assists to senior forward Gabriel Seger and freshman defenseman Ben Robertson. Less than eight minutes later we tied the score, 3-3, with a goal by junior captain Kyle Penney, with assists to Seger and sophomore forward Nick DeSantis. We took the lead, 4-3, at 9:22 of the third on a goal by freshman forward Ryan Walsh with assists to Psenicka and Bancroft. With less than three minutes remaining and the Dartmouth net empty, DeSantis scored twice to send us into the championship game vs. St. Lawrence.

Shane, definitely one of the best goalies in the country, made 27 saves including 11 in the second period. The big Big Green goaltender, at 6-foot-8, stopped 27 shots. We were 1-for-1 on the power play and Dartmouth was 1-for-2.

All season long, our freshman class has contributed to our success. And again, in the championship game, freshman forward Jonathan Castagna who scored two goals was named the 2024 ECAC Men’s Hockey Most Outstanding Player of the weekend. Castagna and all the freshmen in the game did an outstanding job. Nine first-year players in our lineup … I’m so proud of how they have progressed throughout the season.

Early in the first period, we killed off a penalty and scored that crucial first goal. Then we settled in and controlled the game. Castagna scored at 6:15 of the first period and 5:13 of the second, knocking home rebounds on both occasions. Early in the third period, St. Lawrence got on the scoreboard, but we stayed in control. Junior forward Jack O’Leary had a chance to give us a two-goal lead, hitting the post of an empty net with a backhand shot, but with 28 seconds left, hit his mark for a 3-1 victory.

Shane made 31 saves in the nets for us, while the St. Lawrence netminder stopped 26 shots. Both teams were 0-for-2 on the power play.

Obviously it’s great to win the championship … it’s been a long time (2010). The belief in the locker room never ever wavered once throughout the course of the year. We now get to play again on Thursday in the NCAA Regional in Springfield, MA. We’ve got to catch our breath. It’s a little bit of a sprint but we will be ready. It’ll take a little bit to prepare, but it will be fun.

We are ranked 14th and will face #7 Maine at 5:30 pm on Thursday at the MassMutual Center in Springfield, MA. In the first game (2PM), Denver travels East to face UMass-Amherst. We have to be happy playing in Springfield because our loyal fans will have an opportunity to see us play without too much travel. Thanks for all your support this year, home and away, and we look forward to seeing you in Springfield.

Mike Schafer