Former walk-on leads Cornell to OT glory
– Mission accomplished.
From the minute
Tyler Kolarik’s goal gave Harvard a double-overtime victory
in the 2002 ECAC Tournament championship game, the Cornell Big
Red have been waiting for this day. They wouldn’t disappoint.
Paolini, a walk-on who battled his way onto the team, capped a
dramatic Cornell comeback with the overtime game-winner that earned
the Big Red the ECAC title for the first time since their back-to-back
championships in 1996 and 1997.
been disheartened from last year to this year,” said Cornell
coach Mike Schafer, “and we’ve carried that will and
focus for 365 days.”
“The loss was definitely the driving force
going into this year. It’s always Harvard and us and we
felt we had to win the ECAC title to prove something. I know that
loss changed my hunger for a championship.
“We had 13 guys stay [on campus] this summer.
It’s unbelievable that so many guys stayed and dedicated
themselves. We mentioned that before overtime too: ‘Remember
all the hard laps and runs up the hill.’”
second goal of the game was the outcome of all that work. The
Rochester, N.Y., native left Harvard defenseman Kenny Smith in
his wake with a great blueline fake that sprung the winger down
the left side. His slapshot from the faceoff circle eluded Harvard
netminder Dov Grumet-Morris.
The tally was also Paolini’s eighth career
goal, and team-leading 16th career point, against Harvard.
“Maybe I could score more against teams
that aren’t Harvard,” he said, “but they are
our biggest rivals. Who better to score against?”
“I think I’ll have to start telling
him that each opponent we play is Harvard,” added Schafer.
In the last
matchup between the two teams, the Crimson were whistled for two
quick penalties and allowed three goals in the first 10 minutes
of an eventual loss. To a man, each player claimed to have learned
their lesson, yet Harvard gave Cornell the man advantage just
57 seconds into this game.
Paolini scored less than a minute later –
on Cornell’s first shot of the game – to put the Big
Red up 1-0. The lead held until the third period when the Crimson
mounted a rally that was finished off by a goal from Kolarik,
who returned to the lineup from a separated shoulder ready to
frustrate Cornell once again.
“I couldn’t believe we gave up the
lead,” said Schafer. “We’ve done that only once
this year, in a loss to Maine down in Florida.”
The Big Red,
however, pressed on and pulled their goaltender, David LeNeveu,
for an extra attacker with 1:17 left to play. Harvard had a chance
to put away Cornell with 38 seconds left, but Brett Nowak’s
shot hit a rough patch of ice and hooked a few feet from near-certain
victory for an icing call instead.
Murray, M. Wheelihan
Snizek, N. Szymanski
Offers, P. Summerfelt
Yann Danis, 59:55, 40 saves, 3 GA
Dan Yacey, 60:00, 26 saves, 2 GA
B 6/12; D 7/14
Plays: B 0-6; D 0-5
Vesce won the ensuing faceoff back to defenseman Mark McRae, who
ripped an unchallenged shot through traffic from between the circles
that eluded Grumet-Morris and sent the game into overtime.
For Paolini, the game,
not to mention the winning goal, was a dream come true, especially
after how he started his career at Cornell.
“I wanted to
come to Cornell for three reasons,” he explained. “For
the location, for the atmosphere and for the coaching staff. I
wasn’t guaranteed anything.”
“He talked his
way onto the team,” said Schafer. “We told him that
if he worked hard, we’d keep him.”
Paolini admits that
he had a lot to overcome, but credits his father for providing
a great deal of emotional support, especially early on.
play much my freshman year,” he explained, “but my
father was always there for me. He’s definitely my mentor.”
The younger Paolini’s
dedication to developing as a player and his struggles to make
himself an integral part of the second-best team in the country
is something he takes for granted.
“I felt I had
to prove myself and I still do. I have to prove something with
each game. This makes me feel that everything I did was worthwhile
and that I made the right decision to come here.”
Tournament Three Stars
Tyler Kolarik, Harvard Returned
from a separated shoulder and tallied a goal and an assist
in the title game. Last season’s Tournament MVP, when
he scored the winner with a cast on his wrist, it’s
a shame – and a scary thought – that he has yet
to play a championship game 100% healthy.
Kent Gillings, Dartmouth Followed
up his goal in the semis with a pair in the Consolation Game.
It was a fitting end to his college career, during which he
and his classmates helped elevate the Big Green to its first
20-win season in nearly 60 years.
Sam Paolini, Cornell His
two goals in the championship game, including the OT winner,
was a great example of what dedication and hard work will
get you. He’s a good kid who deserved the moment and
earned his place in history.
AND HEARD AT PEPSI ARENA
defeated Brown in the Consolation Game, 4-2, with sophomore netminder
Dan Yacey earning his first collegiate win.
earned its first 20-win season since 1947-48, when that sextet
John Melanson, who officiated the Consolation Game, announced
his retirement after 21 years as an official.
Yann Danis set the ECAC record for most career saves in tournament
play (340), while also setting the Brown mark for most career
was the fifth overtime championship game in ECAC tournament history
and the second between Cornell and Harvard, with each team splitting
the outcomes over the last two seasons.
combined weekend attendance of 15,232 was the highest two-day
total for the ECAC tournament since 1992, when the games were
held at the Boston Garden.
has now captured 10 ECAC tournament titles, while Harvard has
been runner-up on seven occasions.
Dominic Moore extended his point-scoring streak to 12 games with
his goal in the title game. Over those dozen contests, only twice
has been held to a single point.
is 3-0 on this season against Harvard.
Introductions: It was quite a show put on by the Pepsi Arena’s
crew for the introduction of the starting lineups in the Cornell-Harvard
game. They turned the lights out, illuminated the ice with the
four teams’ logos and followed each player with a spotlight.
Think NHL All-Star Game meets NBA intros. Nicely done and it served
to charge up the crowd even further.
Norton, Jim Fiske and Sports Information Staffs: Each year, Norton
and Fiske, fountains of hockey information and genuinely nice
men, update the ECAC Tournament Record Book for our benefit. They
combine with the dedicated sports information staffs of each team
to provide us with the kind of information that makes all of us
sound much smarter than we really are.
Team Voters: Ok, we’ll forgive Sam Paolini’s omission
since the voting was completed during the third period of the
championship game. However, the select group of media members
that voted for this squad blew it when they placed Stephen Bâby
(one assist) on the team over Dartmouth’s Kent Gillings
and his three goals over the weekend.
Harvard Fans: Yes, we gave them a minus yesterday, but, trust
me, they earned the sequel. The Pep Band, which at least provided
some noise in the semifinals, was nowhere to be found in the biggest
game of the season. There’s no excuse for that and even
less of an explanation.