March 21, 2003
ECAC Semifinals

Cornell's smothering defense leads the way

Other Tournament Coverage

By Juan Martinez

ALBANY, N.Y. – No one Cornell player ever really sticks out over the other. Instead, the Big Red come at opponents like the well-oiled machine they are: wave after wave of stifling team defense.

Friday night, in their 2-0 ECAC semifinal victory over the Brown Bears, it was more of the same. If they weren’t cycling the puck deep in the Brown zone, Cornell was waiting for the Bears at center ice. Either way, there was no escaping the patient and methodical way in which they approached the contest.

Cornell 2,
Brown 0
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

No Scoring
Second Period
1-C Greg Hornby (6) EV
17:54 Cam Abbott, Chris Abbott
Third Period
2-C Travis Bell (1) EV
11:02 Mark McRae, S. Palahicky
B: Yann Danis, 59:02, 27 saves, 2 GA
C: Dave LeNeveu, 60:00, 11 saves, 0 GA
Penalties: B 9/18; C 7/14
Power Plays: B 0-6; C 0-8
Attendance: 6,810

“It was a well-played game,” said Cornell coach Mike Schafer. “We stayed the course and had good offensive chances.”

Both teams had a tough time generating any sustained flow during the first two periods, thanks to a combined 15 penalties and 13 power play opportunities.

Generally, each team rolls all four of its lines, a game plan made more difficult to execute when special teams are on the ice for the majority of the period.

“We didn’t get into a rhythm,” said Bears coach Roger Grillo. “It was difficult to get four lines and all the kids into the game.”

Despite the scattered play, Cornell emerged with the stronger scoring opportunities and completely shut down any plans for a Brown offensive attack.

“I thought we battled hard and played well defensively,” said Grillo, “but I was disappointed with our lack of speed and flow up front. We’re extremely disappointed in the outcome. We thought that if we executed well, we had a chance to win.”

The Bears managed just one shot over the first 20 minutes of play and only five more in the middle frame. The third period wasn’t much better, with another five shots on goal, but they were at least of better quality.

Cornell, meanwhile, fired 27 shots in the game, finally scoring late in the second period when the most energized of its four lines (Cam Abbott-Chris Abbott-Greg Hornby) capitalized on a Brown defensive lapse.

“Our line had a lot of good chances,” explained Hornby, who now has three game-winning goals on the season, and six tallies in all. “We get big goals because we play hard.”

“There was a lot of relief,” said Schafer, “and a lot of tension released on the bench after that first goal. It’s fitting that our warriors scored today.”

With the win, Cornell moves on to play Harvard in the Saturday’s championship game. And while most of the talk around the league has been about a potential Harvard-Cornell rematch from last year’s title game, Schafer said the opponent doesn’t matter.

“We could care less if we play Florida State tomorrow,” joked the Cornell bench boss. “We don’t care who we play. We’ve said all season that we wanted the opportunity to get back to the championship game. It’ll be a faceless opponent.”

Harvard 5,
Dartmouth 3
Team Goal Str
Time Assists

First Period

1-H Dave McCulloch (1) EV
3:23 Unassisted
2-H Charlie Johnson (4) EV
10:57 D. Moore, K. Turano
Second Period
1-D Kent Gillings (11) EV
1:37 M. Murray, T. Byrne
3-H Tim Pettit (17) PP
2:48 B. Nowak
4-H Brendan Bernakevitch (5) PP
7:59 Unassisted
Third Period
2-D Hugh Jessiman (22) EV
13:26 L. Stempniak, M. Ouellette
3-D Mike Murray (9) PS
16:09 Penalty Shot
5-H Rob Flynn (4) EN
19:55 D. Moore
D: Nick Boucher, 27:59, 11 saves, 4 GA; Dan Yacey, 30:42, 12 saves, 0 GA
H: Dov Grumet-Morris, 60:00, 31 saves, 3 GA
Penalties: D 5/10; H 9/18
Power Plays: D 0-6; H 2-2
Attendance: 6,936


Goaltending and defense win championships. That’s not exactly breaking news, but the Dartmouth Big Green got very little of either in the first 30 minutes of their ECAC semifinal and it cost them dearly in a 5-3 loss to the Harvard Crimson.

With netminder Dov Grumet-Morris and five different goal-scorers leading the way, second-seeded Harvard managed to hold off a late Dartmouth run, including a penalty shot goal that pulled the Big Green to within one, and advance to Saturday’s ECAC Championship game.

The Crimson, defending ECAC champs, will play top-seeded Cornell in a match-up fans have been drooling over since the two rivals last met at the end of January. Harvard stunned Cornell in double-overtime in the title game a year ago, but has lost to the Big Red twice already this season.

“Coming into this weekend, a lot of people wanted to see Cornell-Harvard,” said Crimson coach Mark Mazzoleni, “but we had to get by Brown and Dartmouth. We have tremendous respect for the Dartmouth program, they are one of the best teams in our league.”

Even so, Harvard jumped out to leads of 2-0 and 4-1 before Dartmouth could get settled.

“It seemed like any mistake we made,” said Dartmouth coach Bob Gaudet, “ended up in the back of our net. That happens sometimes. But I’m proud of our effort. A lot of teams would have caved in, but there’s a lot of pride in our program.”

Goaltender Nick Boucher, the all-time Dartmouth wins leader, was ineffective, allowing four goals in just 27:59 of play before being replaced by backup Dan Yacey. The Crimson also hit the post twice while Boucher was between the pipes.

On the other side of the ice, Grumet-Morris continued his fine, yet unheralded, play and improved upon his already gaudy statistics – second in the nation in save percentage and third in goals-against average.

Offensively, Harvard took advantage of Dartmouth’s early uneasiness by flexing the muscles of its deep and balanced crop of talent. Nine Crimson forwards and 12 players in all have posted double digits in points.

While most of the big names were kept off the scoreboard, four of the Crimson’s five goals came from players that had combined for 10 all season, including senior defenseman Dave McCulloch’s first of the year. Three of Harvard’s four lines accounted for at least two points each, with the Charlie Johnson-Dominic Moore-Kenny Turano combination registering five.

The Big Green looked like a different team in the final 30 minutes, playing with more emotion and creating better scoring chances than it did in the first period and a half. Their work culminated in senior Mike Murray’s penalty shot goal that made it 4-3 with less than four minutes to go. But that’s as close as Dartmouth would come, their early hole too big to climb out of.

“We may have sat on [our lead] in the third period,” said Mazzoleni. “Once they got the penalty shot, it was a ballgame, everyone knew that. I told our players, it was a lesson learned. We’ll have to be much better tomorrow night.

“Cornell goes in as the favorite, but we’ll play hard. We will have to bring out ‘A’ game and we’re capable of that.”

Tonight's Three Stars
3. Abbott, Abbott and Hornby, Cornell
That’s no law firm, it’s Cornell’s “energy” line of Cam Abbott, Chris Abbott and Greg Hornby. The trio accounted for three points including Hornby’s game-winner. They’ve played well as a unit all season, but if they continue to contribute on the scoreboard, there’s no beating this team.
2. Dan Yacey, Dartmouth
He had played in only three games this season and seven in his two years in Hanover, yet he jumped into the middle of a storm and was very solid. He stabilized Dartmouth, made 11 stops on the night and gave the Big Green every opportunity to be close enough to win the game.
1. Dov Grumet-Morris, Harvard
Made 32 saves, including several critical ones as Dartmouth mounted its comeback. Despite high national rankings, he wasn’t even an Honorable Mention on this year’s All-ECAC teams.


Hulking (6-foot-5) Dartmouth rookie sensation Hugh Jessiman’s heavy hit in the corner on Crimson defenseman Peter Hafner drove the pane of glass into the first row of stands.

Harvard and Cornell will meet for the fourth time in an ECAC Championship game with Cornell holding a 2-1 edge. The Crimson-Big Red rematch will mark only the second time the same two teams have met for the title in back-to-back seasons and the first since Harvard lost to Boston University in 1974 and 1975.

Cornell netminder David LeNeveu tied the record for fewest saves in a period (one, in the first) in a tournament game.

Brown’s Brent Robinson enters Saturday's consolation game with 13 points against Ivy League opponents in just 11 games this year, including both goals in a 2-2 tie vs. Cornell on Valentine’s Day.

LeNeveu’s shutout was his nation-leading ninth on the season and set the record for most ECAC blankings in a season. LeNeveu entered the game leading the country in save percentage (.943) and goals-against average (1.14), and improved on both marks.

Mike Murray’s penalty shot was the seventh in ECAC tournament history.

Dominic Moore’s three assists moved him past Ted Donato and into 11th place on Harvard’s all-time points list (146).

Harvard’s Charlie Johnson extended his point-scoring streak to five straight games with his third goal of the season.

Harvard’s Tyler Kolarik (13-11—24) missed his fourth game in the last five with a shoulder injury.


Brown Penalty Killers: For diving in front of every shot and pass Cornell attempted while on eight different power plays, including a pair of 5-on-3 opportunities. Brown shut down the Big Red advantages to the tune of 0-for-8. Cornell had come into the game connecting on 23.6 percent of its chances.

Dartmouth College: Took a blowout in the making and made a game of it. Had the Big Green connected on any of their five power plays, we may still be watching the two clubs going at it. The final 10 minutes included the most exciting hockey of the night – in either game.

Referee Dan Murphy: For making himself the center of attention by turning the Cornell-Brown game into a showcase for every penalty signal in the rulebook. Here's hoping he took some notes on Scott Hansen’s fine job in the nightcap.

Absentee Harvard Fans: Wasn’t the move from Lake Placid to Albany supposed to make it easier for the New England teams? Despite having its best season in a decade, the Crimson fail to generate much of a fan base when they travel. Harvard fans are missing out on some excellent hockey and, heck, Albany’s only a two-and-a-half hour drive from Cambridge!


With tonight’s win, and Northern Michigan’s loss, Harvard moves one step closer to securing at least an at-large NCAA bid. The winner of Saturday’s ECAC Championship game receives the automatic bid, but Cornell is already assured of making it, and virtually guaranteed a No. 1 seed, based on its success during the regular season.

The Big Red will be looking to avenge last season’s ECAC title game loss to Harvard. It’s been the talk of the season on both campuses, with the Crimson out to prove it was no fluke – and to gain their first win over the Big Red since capturing the title.

The biggest question heading into tomorrow’s late game: Which Harvard team will come out of the locker room? An impressive club when clicking on all cylinders, the Crimson have allowed Cornell to dictate the pace of games this season. If that happens Saturday, it will be Cornell hoisting the trophy.

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