Much like Tuesday's game versus Boston College, the officials stole the show Wednesday against Maine. This time, however, Cornell was on the winning side of the penalty-filled equation. Thirty-two minutes in penalties – 28 of which were man-up situations for one side. Any way one slices it, half a game with special teams on the ice is abnormal. Twenty minutes of the game featured Cornell's penalty killers. One whole period. Cornell fought through everything and gained not only an important victory in the Pairwise Rankings, but also a very important confidence booster for a team lacking in victories over quality opponents.
As one might imagine, special teams was the biggest reason for Cornell's favorable result. Maine enjoyed a whopping ten powerplays and except for a two-men-down goal, Cornell was perfect in killing them. On a majority of Maine's powerplays, Cornell's penalty killers were flawless in even allowing the Black Bears to penetrate the offensive zone and sustain any pressure. Cornell's plethora of penalty killers (six forwards and five defensemen) was the biggest reason for the Big Red's ability to withstand so many man-down situations.
Cornell's powerplay was the best it has been all season, converting three times in four opportunities. The personnel that started the season on the top unit – Charlie Cook, Sasha Pokuluk, Matt Moulson, Shane Hynes, Topher Scott - were reunited and looked nothing like the one that was formerly together. The unit moved the puck extremely well and utilized the one-time pass to Cook on a regular basis. Cornell's first goal came on the powerplay with Daniel Pegoraro subbing for Topher Scott due to an equipment problem. Hynes got a good shot off on the left side and the ensuing rebound came out to the opposite side, where Pegoraro was able to cash in. The third goal came after a Cook one-timer was blocked, only to be picked up by Scott who fed a wide-open Moulson, who in turn put the puck in the open net. The fourth goal came from a rocket of a one-time shot into the top corner of the net. In all, Cornell's offensive scheme made former All-American goaltender Jim Howard look very ordinary.
Maine was able to rally from 2-0 down late in the first period due to a general collapse on Cornell's part. An issue against Boston College, decision making was the key contributor to the collapse. On the first Maine goal, Doug Krantz unnecessarily pinched in the neutral zone in front of the Maine bench, totally taking himself out of the play and Maine would score on the ensuing odd man rush. The second goal came as a result of a terrible icing call against Cornell in the final seconds of the period. Rather than chipping the puck high to center ice or simply holding on the puck, the Cornell player elected to ice the puck. The subsequent faceoff resulted in Maine's second goal.
Entering the second period, it seemed probable that Maine would ride their momentum to an easy victory, but Cornell had other things in mind. Rather than folding the tent, the Big Red came out and played with great energy and conviction, eventually leading to the two Cornell powerplays that would net their third and fourth goals.
After Cornell had taken a commanding 4-2 lead, the game would not see a whole lot more offense as neither team eclipsed their first period shot totals in the second and third periods combined. However, officials seemed to do everything in their power to get Maine the equalizer, starting with a one minute and thirty-eight second two-man advantage for the Black Bears. The third two-man advantage the Big Red had to defend against in the tournament would end unfavorably yet again with Michel Leveille converting on a nifty point shot. Even after that point, the officials would make several borderline calls against the Big Red, including two in the final ten minutes of the third period. There was also an eyebrow-raising call with just over two minutes left in the third period when Raymond Sawada and a Maine player shoved each other after the whistle and both were escorted to the penalty box. The curious call on the play was that referee Paul Simon elected to have the teams play four-on-four, despite the fact that it was an exchange after the whistle, resulting in matching unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which should mean no loss of manpower on the ice. Now generally this would not matter, but with Maine set to pull Jim Howard for an extra attacker, they would have an increased advantage at 5-on-4 than at 6-on-5. That was just one of several questionable calls from the team of officials in the two games Cornell played in Florida.
Regardless, the Big Red prevailed, by battling hard against both Maine and the officials to seal their victory, making it that much sweeter. Winning at this level against stiff competition is never easy and often a team will not only have to get through the opposition, but also the officials. The game against Maine will prove to be a good learning experience for Cornell and another stepping stone in their quest for success.
1. Jon Gleed
He put together probably the best performance by a Cornell defenseman since the days of Doug Murray and Mark McRae. Gleed was nothing short of extraordinary on the penalty kill, blocking well over ten shots and often single-handedly carrying the puck out of the zone. Gleed has taken his game to a whole new level this season. After being promoted to the top pair against Yale, he has continued to quietly improve to the point where he is a legitimate top pair defenseman.
2. Charlie Cook
After slumping for several games, so much so that he was demoted from the first powerplay for the first time since he was promoted to it at the start of last season, Cook found his game on Wednesday. He was promoted back to the first powerplay unit and seemed to be cog that got the unit going, garnering a goal and an assist. Cook did a good job of finding the open ice on the rush and did a better job of setting himself up for the one-time pass on the powerplay.
3. Mitch Carefoot
The value of Carefoot is signified most in games where the Big Red fights tooth and nail. Carefoot saw a ton of ice time on the penalty kill and blocked several shots as well. Carefoot was extremely effective on the forecheck and single-handedly took valuable seconds off the clock each time he was out. He was promoted to a line with Mike Iggulden and Mike Knoepfli, but saw mostly time on the penalty kill due to the amount of penalties the team had to fight off.
Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Downs, Ryan O'Byrne, Sasha Pokuluk