HAMDEN, Conn. — The Cornell men's hockey team made one last statement on the road Saturday night before a home-heavy finish to the regular season, never trailing in a 2-1 victory over Quinnipiac at High Point Solutions Arena. Senior forward Jeff Kubiak and junior forward Alex Rauter scored the goals, and senior goaltender Mitch Gillam made a handful of key saves in a frenetic final five minutes for Cornell (11-4-1, 6-2-1 ECAC Hockey).
"You appreciate Quinnipiac over the course of time," coach Mike Schafer said. "What we did to them (tonight) was what they've done to us for a lot of years. Jake Weidner had the huge block toward the end of the game. He has a huge black mark on his back. … The difference was once the game was on the line, we got some blocks and big saves. They're a good hockey team and they're tough to beat here."
Cornell, ranked 19th in last week's USCHO.com national poll, got off to a good start with the 'JAM' line keeping the puck in the Quinnipiac zone for the first minute or so. The Big Red then struck first blood at the 2:42 mark, with Gillam pulled in favor of an extra attacker on a delayed Bobcats power play. Sophomore defenseman Brendan Smith snapped a shot from the point that missed to the short side that caromed hard off the end boards and out the far side. Kubiak pounced on the opportunity and jammed the puck in a split second before the net came dislodged.
But the Big Red faltered on the ensuing power play, and #15/15 Quinnipiac (13-10-2, 8-6-1) immediately earned a chance on the man advantage. It took less than a minute to equalize, with Craig Martin thumping a one-timer from the top of the right circle past the catching glove of a screened Gillam.
The Bobcats held a territorial advantage for the next several minutes with Gillam's best save to keep the game even coming off his blocker on Derek's Smith shot from in tight at the 11:10 mark. Cornell then appeared to take the lead a minute later on what would have been Kubiak's second goal of the night, though the officials ultimately waved off the goal because the puck was directed into the net with Kubiak's hand.
The play still essentially turned the tide of the game in favor of the visitors, who carried that momentum into a second period that they dominated. Cornell killed off one partial and one full Quinnipiac power play in the middle stanza and held a 14-4 advantage in shots on goal. The Big Red also produced another go-ahead goal with a second remaining on a power play of its own. Senior forward Matt Buckles forced the puck to the net from the left corner, and junior forward Alex Rauter poked home the rebound at the 11:32 mark. The goal is Rauter's sixth of the year, which ranks second on the team.
MIH: With one second left on the power play, Cornell takes a 2-1 lead! Buckles jam play from corner; Rauter pokes it in. pic.twitter.com/BrA3uDzV3K— CornellSportsGameday (@CUBigRedGameday) January 15, 2017
It was much of the same in the third period before the Big Red ran into penalty trouble. Sophomore defenseman Matt Nuttle came up big with a pair of blocked shots on the first Quinnipiac power play during the final frame, then senior captain Jake Weidner took a slap shot off the back of his shoulder on the next. That power play was actually a six-on-four with 5:23 remaining when the Bobcats pulled goaltender Andrew Shortridge.
But Cornell held off Quinnipiac in its 11th visit to High Point Solutions Arena in the last five years.
The Big Red has played just four home games to date — by far a national low, with Harvard and Boston College's seven home games ranked next-fewest. The win capped Cornell's four-point weekend after a 5-1 rout of Princeton on Friday night.
"We did what we had to do to get a win," Schafer said. "I thought we played well for good stretches."